Nepal raises India’s ‘trade blockade’ at UN

KATHMANDU:Nepal has turned to the UN over alleged obstruction of a key border trade point with India that has resulted in acute shortage of essential goods as it appealed to the international community to ensure that landlocked country’s freedom of transit is not curtailed.

Nepal raises India’s ‘trade blockade’ at UN

Trucks stranded on the Nepal side

Kathmandu, October 3

Nepal has turned to the UN over alleged obstruction of a key border trade point with India that has resulted in acute shortage of essential goods as it appealed to the international community to ensure that landlocked country’s freedom of transit is not curtailed.

Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh, who led Nepal’s delegation to the UN General Assembly, held talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during which the “India’s blockade” on the border also figured, sources close to Singh said.

Ban expressed concern over the obstruction of essential supplies and the difficulties resulting from it, they said.

Singh, in his address at the General Assembly on Friday, appealed to the world community to ensure effective and unhindered access to the sea for landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) like Nepal through effective implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for 2014-2024.

“The world needs to ensure LLDCs unhindered access to the sea for free movement of people and goods. We stress that the freedom of transit of LLDCs should not be constrained under any circumstances or pretext to disrupt the flow of goods and services.

“The freedom of transit of LLDCs must be fully and unconditionally adhered to by all transit countries,” said Singh, also the Nepali Congress general secretary.

His remarks come at a time when Nepal claims to be suffering from scarcity of essential goods such as fuel and cooking gas due to what it terms as “undeclared blockade” of a key trade point at the border with India by people protesting the controversial newly-promulgated Constitution. India has rejected as “totally false” allegations that it blockaded the checkpoint and has emphasised that it can only take goods up to the border and beyond that it is the responsibility of the Nepalese side to ensure adequate safety and security for the trucks.

Singh had travelled to New York after PM Sushil Koirala cancelled his visit to the UN headquarters at the last minute over the ongoing political unrest gripping the Himalayan nation. Amid the scarcity of fuel, Kathmandu's otherwise busy roads are seen empty these days with less than one-third vehicles plying on the roads. Reports said taxis were charging four times the normal fare and people were resorting to carpooling.

Even though the government has rationed fuel — 10 litres a week for car and 3 litres for motorbike — taxis are queuing up for two days at the petrol stations for a top-up.

News reports suggest 2.2 million students are deprived of going to the school following shortage of fuel resulting from the blockade. PM Koirala on Friday asked India to resume the cross-border transportation without delay. In his address to Parliament, he asked India to end the blockade on Nepal without any delay so that Nepal can enjoy its right to transit.

Nepali Congress senior leader and former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba said India should lift the ongoing obstruction on the border soon. He pointed out the need to lift the “unannounced blockade” to ease supply of essentials and petroleum products to Nepal. 

CPN-UML chairman KP Oli said efforts were on to end the blockade through dialogue and relations between Nepal and India would strengthen further. Oli, tipped to be the next PM, pointed out that a landlocked country like Nepal enjoyed a right to access to sea routes. 

The Nepal-Tibet trading point at Tatopani, 110 km east of Kathmandu, which remained obstructed following the recent earthquakes and landslides, has opened since Friday. With the opening of the route with China, the people of Kathmandu are expected to get some relief on the eve of festivals. — PTI

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