Government’s Policy Of Drift?: Uttam Maharjan
It has been two months since India imposed an unofficial blockade on Nepal apparently for promulgating the constitution by bypassing the former’s advice on putting it on the backburner. The blockade has created a humanitarian crisis in the country in that the life of the people has been adversely affected. There has been a scarcity of essential goods, including petroleum products, in the country. The people were compelled to celebrate the festivals of Dashain and Tihar amid a crisis.
India is still crying hoarse that the present crisis is the upshot of the Madhes agitation going on at the chekpoints on the Nepal-India border. It has hinted that once the Madhes issue is resolved, the supply situation will come back to normal. On the other hand, the Madhesi leaders are shouting from the rooftops that they are blocking the supplies to the country. It has been crystal clear that India has been blocking the supplies to the country on the pretext of the Madhes agitation because it is not satisfied with the constitution promulgated through the Constituent Assembly with an overwhelming majority.
It does not stand to reason for the Madhesi parties to block the life-line of their own country. They are complaining that they have been marginalised by the constitution. But the matter of fact is that the constitution is all-inclusive with provision of rights for every community in the country. The Madhesi parties have a presentiment that they have been dominated by the people living in the hilly region. In fact, the people living in the hilly and mountainous regions are suffering more than the Madhesi people. The country has not discriminated against the Madhesi people at any time.
The Madhesi parties want two autonomous provinces in the Terai belt. They want their leaders to helm the provincial governments. So they have plans up their sleeves to control the administration of the country in the way they want. That is why, they have been trying to bring the government to its knees by adopting even life-threatening tactics of blocking the essential supplies to the country.
There is a kind of emergency in the country. If this situation persists, it may explode sooner or later. So the problem must be solved by any means so as to prevent the country from sliding into the abyss of an even graver crisis.
In view of the sufferings the people have been facing for the last two months and the unwillingness on the part of India to lift the embargo on the country, the government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China for the supply of petroleum products to the country. As a token of assistance, China has also supplied 1.3 million litres of petroleum products to the country. For the supply of petroleum products to the country on a commercial basis, a business-to-business agreement is required. But it is yet to be sealed.
As things stand, India may not smoothen the supply of essential supplies to the country any time soon, whereas the sufferings of the people are mounting day by day. What is more, the government is still hoping that India will lift the embargo soon and the supply situation will limp back to normal. It is in a kind of dilemma whether to import petroleum products from China by sealing a business-to-business deal with it or to wait for India to lift the embargo and normalise the supplies.
As a sovereign state, the country is free to trade with any country in the world. Yes, the trade of the country with India makes up the lion’s share because the country and India have had good-neighbourly relations for centuries. On the other hand, China is also our neighbour, and there is no harm in enhancing trade relations with that country, too. Rather, it will pay off to diversify our trade, which will put the kibosh on our over-dependence on India.
It need not be reiterated that over-dependence on India has engendered the present condition of crisis. In the present context, the main thrust of the government should be to mitigate the sufferings the people have been facing for months for no fault of theirs. Since India has not shown any willingness to ease the supplies to the country, the government should take the initiative in importing petroleum products from China. It may be noted that the government’s policy of drift may exacerbate the supply situation further. This is not the time for the government to try the patience of the people. As the supply situation is going from bad to worse, it may burst any time, thereby pushing the country into the precipice of crisis upon crisis. Therefore, it will be in the interest of the government to ease the supply situation with the help of China.
The government should adopt a policy of diversification of trade. It should engage in trade not only with India and China but also with other countries to the extent possible. This will help the country in avoiding such a difficult supply situation in the future as well as cutting down on the trade deficit of the country. The government should, therefore, take the initiative in easing the supply situation obtaining in the country without any delay so that the people can feel the presence of the government in their daily life.