Nepal, border with India reopened after five months of embargo
by Christopher Sharma

Yesterday vehicles passed through Raxaul-Birgunj mountain pass without difficulty. It is the thoroughfare for about 70% of all incoming goods. India applied trade bloc since Nepal adopted its first democratic Constitution. The population is at its lowest point. Expert: "People are not interested in political wrangling.  They are just trying to survive ".

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - One of the main border crossings between Nepal and India, the Raxaul-Birgunj, was reopened yesterday after five months of Indian embargo on exported goods. The trucks carrying fuel and food were able to pass customs control, whereas previously they were denied access.

The Nepalese population is on its last legs and does not even have gas for cooking, and experts say that it will be days before the situation returns to normal. Meanwhile, the parties representing the minority madhese, and which have exacerbated the effects of the embargo in recent months, are divided on the reopening of the border.

Nepal has suffered a trade embargo on goods imported from India, about 80% of the total volume, after the approval of the first democratic Constitution. Immediately after the signing, minority groups sparked fierce protests, accusing the central government of ignoring their demands.

India, which borders the Himalayan nation, has blocked trade, justifying the act as a form of "support" for  unheard communities. In fact some experts have told AsiaNews the real reason behind the move is India’s hegemonic ambitions.

After long months of suffering, which brought the country to the brink of civil war, yesterday the Birgunj border crossing was reopened, allowing the transit of about 100 vehicles. About 70% of all goods entering by land and through the container cargo use this crossing, mostly routed through the port of Calcutta in India.
The day before dozens of members of the party Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha had opposed the reopening, but yesterday the passage of trucks took place in peace and the party itself stated that it will not block the border "in the future."

Once the transit was restored, the Minister of Finance of Nepal Bishnu Poudel flew to India to prepare for an official visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, scheduled for the end of the month. The politician met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. Speaking by phone to AsiaNews, he said that Oli will meet Indian Prime Minister Modi: "The visit of the Nepalese Prime Minister will focus on bilateral and regional issues”.

But the ties between the two countries seem torn by months of suffering. In conclusion Prof. Jayaraj Acharya, a diplomat, said: "People are worried even for essential commodities. They will be happy when they have gas for cooking and may use transport. People are not interested in high level political discussion, when they have to struggle to find a way to survive day by day".