Kathmandu and Beijing break Indian embargo: New balance of power in South Asia
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – An agreement between Nepal and China was signed yesterday in Beijing that effectively breaks India’s de facto trade embargo of goods and fuel.
The Kathmandu delegation was led by Mahesh Maskey, Ambassador in Beijing, and discussed the quantity, price and quality of the oil to be traded with the Chinese authorities.
After 37 days of an unprecedented embargo, decreed by the authorities in Delhi in retaliation for the promulgation of the first secular constitution in the history of Nepal, the country will return to normal thanks to the supply of fuel from China through the Himalayas.
Yesterday's agreement definitively breaks the deadlock of goods being detained at the southern border, which has caused serious consequences for the Nepali population. This has resulted in schools being closed, transport blocked, the economic activities on the brink of bankruptcy.
The lack of food and fuel has also sparked public ire against the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who justified the initiative as a defense of minorities who were not taken into consideration in the new Constitution. Instead, some experts have told AsiaNews that the intent was more political than "humanitarian".
After the signing, Ambassador Maskey said: "The bilateral agreement - in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) - puts an end to the monopoly on the sale of fuel that India has held for 40 years."
The volume of oil trade had been reduced in the last month by about 90%. China had already announced an extraordinary supply of 1,000 tons earlier this week and will now permanently replace India as the main exporter.
Beijing and Kathmandu have decided to open a new route through north-east Nepal, through the city of Kerung. According to Dipak Gyawali, former Minister of Energy, "the Chinese oil will be more expensive than Indian, but the quality is higher. The Indian Oil standard provides 'Euro 3' fuel while China supplies ‘Euro 4' [that pollutes less - ed]”.
However, the agreement will only become operational in the next few weeks, the time needed to open the new route.
Meanwhile, after the signing, some tribals residing in the Terai region - who sparked the "dispute" between India and Nepal - have demonstrated against the agreement, burning a Chinese flag.
Rajkumar Yadav, leader of the protests, said: "With this embargo we can influence the government in Kathmandu, but with the help of China put an end to the energy crisis. And with it, our hopes of seeing our demands recognized. "
Finally, in this new context Nepal’s Parliament has appointed its first ever female President of the country Communist Bidhyadevi Bhandari, elected with 327 votes out of 549 present for the vote.