11/03/2015, 00.00
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Tensions rise between Kathmandu and Delhi after Indian national dies in ethnic protests

by Christopher Sharma
Ashish Kumar Ram, 25, was hit by a fatal gunshot from Nepali police. He was taking part in a protest by ethnic Madhesi who opposed the constitution promulgated 81 days ago. Meanwhile, India’s unofficial trade embargo against Nepal is now in its 40th day. For Kathmandu, India is violating its sovereignty by infiltrating “thousands of plainclothes agents".

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The death of an Indian national in the border city of Birgunj, in the Tarai (Terai), during protests by ethnic Madhesi has worsened the ongoing standoff between Nepal and India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called his Nepali counterpart, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, to ask for explanations about the incident. However, for Nepali authorities, India is interfering in Nepal’s affairs, with some saying that Indian police have infiltrated protest crowds.

The tragic death comes as relations between the two South Asian nations continue to deteriorate following India’s support for some of Nepal’s ethnic minorities. The latter have been protesting against the new constitution, claiming that it does not protect their interests.

In fact, since Nepal’s first secular constitution was proclaimed 81 days ago, unrest has intensified in the southern part of the country. India responded 40 days ago by imposing a de facto export embargo on the country. This has placed Nepal in a tight spot, forcing its government to seek alternative trade routes with China.

Yesterday Nepali police used live ammunition against protesters in Birgunj, the most important transit point between India and Nepal. Ashish Kumar Ram, a 25-year-old protester from India, was killed.

In their account of the incident, police said that as protesters began pelting agents with rocks, agents began firing back to regain control of the situation and a bullet hit Ram. Six police officers were also injured in the violence, and were later taken to local hospitals.

According to Satya Narayan Mandal, an ethnic Madhesi who is a minister in the current Nepali government, “India is infiltrating thousands of plainclothes agents to defend its interests during the unrest. This goes against international law. This is besmirching the Madhesi and undermining their rights."

For its part, Indian Ministry of External Affairs expressed concern with respect to Ram’s death and urged Nepal to limit the use of force.

Prime Minister Modi, who spoke with Nepali Prime Minister Oli on the phone, also called for calm. During their conversion, which lasted 25 minutes, the two leaders discussed the situation.

The Indian leader apparently told his Nepali counterpart that he understood the suffering of the Nepali people, and added that India had no interest in making matters worse. At the same time, he insisted that the Nepali government should take action to solve the problem.

For Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, a Nepali diplomat and former ambassador to India, "what is happening between Nepal and India is shadow boxing. Nepal must defend its territorial sovereignty and its constitution."

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Nepali nationalists call for vice-president’s resignation
Nepal: population is still divided on first anniversary of Constitution
19/09/2016 14:36
Nepali Catholics call for peaceful participation in local elections
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Kathmandu warns of a pending humanitarian catastrophe if India’s embargo does not end
Nepal police opens fire on protesting Madhesi: four dead and scores wounded
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