Buying expensive oil from China is not a sustainable long-term alternative for Nepal, battling protests by Indian-origin Madhesis on its border with India against the countrys new Constitution.
The Indian establishment is of the view that in approaching China for oil in the wake of protests by the Madhesis that have disrupted essential supplies, Nepal had only tried to prove a point that it has other options available to meet its requirements.
However, transporting fuel through the difficult Tibet region will push up costs of fuel 15-20 times, rendering the move economically unviable, Indian government sources said. They said both India and China wanted instability to end in the Himalayan country as continued trouble may give an opportunity to the Western powers to intervene.
Moreover, Beijing would not want too many interactions between authorities in Tibet, with a history of tensions with the Chinese establishment, and Nepal. Sources said China has been telling Nepal to have good relations with India.
A group of leaders from the Madhesi community on a visit here were told by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday that India was for “broadbased ownership” of the new Nepalese Constitution and favoured a “speedy” political solution to the crisis. The Madhesis living in the Terai region of Nepal want better safeguards in the new Constitution, which they claim discriminates against them.
The Indian establishment feels, if the issue is not addressed effectively, it may snowball into a “huge problem” in future with the agitation assuming “separatist” dimensions. Demarcation of boundaries, distribution of political powers and ambiguity in grant of citizenship to Indian women marrying Nepalese men in Terai region were among major issues raised by the Madhesi community.
The view here is that Madhesi community may be willing to take a middle path but the ruling establishment has to show seriousness in addressing the problem and it may be a “tough nut to crack”. Under the current law, an Indian woman marrying a Nepalese man is granted citizenship of Nepal when she starts the process of giving up Indian citizenship. However, there is no clarity on the issue in the new Constitution, Madhesi leaders say.
They say there are differences in the rights enjoyed by Nepalese born people and naturalised citizens. The agitation by Madhesis, who have blocked the trading points along the Indo-Nepal border for the last nearly four months, has often turned violent and crippled supplies to the land locked country, triggering acute shortage of essential commodities including fuel and medicines.