11/11/2015, 00.00
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Kathmandu warns of a pending humanitarian catastrophe if India’s embargo does not end

by Christopher Sharma
Nepal is calling on the international community to intervene to break the deadlock. For more than 45 days, India has imposed an embargo on exports to the Himalayan nation. As a result, humanitarian agencies are unable to deliver aid to earthquake victims. after meeting with Indian PM Modi, Nepal’s foreign minister said, “the Indian government turned a deaf ear” to the country’s plight. Overseas Nepalis plan demonstrations before UN offices.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – As a result of India’s unofficial trade embargo against Nepal as a show of its displeasure of the latter’s new secular and democratic constitution, helicopters operating for the World Food Programme have been grounded, foreign and Nepali aid agencies have found themselves unable to deliver food and other necessities to survivors of last April’s earthquake, the country’s transportation system has gradually ground to a halt, and most people are unable to reach hospitals or buy medical drugs.

For Nepali authorities, if trade between the two countries is not be restored soon, the country will be at risk of another "humanitarian catastrophe". To this end, the Nepali government has appealed to the international community to help settle the situation.

The trade embargo, which has been in place for more than 45 days, has been a crushing blow for Nepal. During this period, tensions have risen, punctuated by various episodes of violence, including the death of an Indian national who had joined protests in Nepal’s Terai region.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has justified the embargo, saying that the measures taken are designed to protect Nepal’s Madhese and Tharu tribal communities, who have been ignored in the new constitution. However, critics believe that the real reasons behind the boycott are India’s hegemonic aims.

After with Modi, Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa said, “We tried our best to make Delhi understand our suffering; however, the Indian government turned a deaf ear. We have no alternative but to appeal to the international community for help on humanitarian grounds”.

The minister added that China and Bangladesh have been contacted to vet other possible trade routes to allow in essential goods, "but this takes time."

"The Government of Nepal is not able to solve alone the current humanitarian crisis,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Dipak Adhikari. “We ask all foreign countries for help.”

“We shall use the appropriate diplomatic channels to forward the request. We are sure that the international community will not abandon us, as shown by the vast aid for earthquake victims."

Nepalis living abroad are also planning raise the visibility of the issue in their host countries. A first protest is planned for tomorrow in London, during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the United Kingdom.

Nepalis will try to draw public attention with protests at UN offices in Geneva, New York and Washington.

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