After two devastating earthquakes, a blockade on its border presents Nepal with another humanitarian crisis.
By Hemant Ojha, November 27, 2015
Months after two devastating earthquakes that killed 9000 people, Nepal is now confronted with another humanitarian crisis, this time due to a blockade at a crucial crossing on the border with India, which has halted oil and other essential supplies landlocked Nepal obtains from its giant neighbor. The blockade, which Nepal’s government blames on India (New Delhi denies involvement) immediately followed the passage of a new constitution by Nepal on September 19.
The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed its displeasure at Nepal’s constitution, a position made clear in a series of statements issued by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in new Delhi. Citing MEA sources, Indian Express even circulated a seven-point demand for amendments to the constitution, within days of its promulgation. With the election of nationalistic leader K P Oli as prime minister in Nepal, the rift between Delhi and Kathmandu has widened, and could potentially lead to a massive humanitarian crisis, as shortages of fuel, medicines, and essential supplies become acute across Nepal, with no sign of a reconciliation in sight.
But why should India be so unhappy at Nepal’s historic moment?
During the decade of the Maoist War (1996-2006), Nepal was mired in crisis. India’s help as a neighbor was crucial in striking a peace deal in 2004, creating the foundation for a comprehensive peace deal between the Nepalese government and the Maoists. Since then, Nepal has been moving through a process of peaceful transition, making impressive strides in a number of areas: ending monarchy, adopting secularism, promoting social inclusion, and achieving development. On the whole, the agenda of political reform has been, and is being, well handled. There is a sense of readiness for the remaining challenges ahead, and a degree of political contention and civil society watchdogging continues to pressure national leaders to keep the reform process going.