October 20, 2015
In spite of smiling press shots and optimistic sound bites, Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa’s meetings with Indian leaders during his 3-day visit to Delhi, were lackluster and not impressive. His mission was to clear the way for ending the Indian “informal” blockade of petroleum products. This did not happen.
Thapa did his best to paint a rosy picture. Among other things, he claims to have boosted India-Nepal ties. In an interview with ANI, he said that he was “…quite optimistic. I think this visit has been able to clear the air of mistrust and misunderstanding and it has also prepared the ground for further strengthening of bilateral ties."
There is no evidence from the Indian government to support his claim. Quite the opposite.
For instance, during his meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Thapa expressed concern over the obstruction of supplies from India, to which Swaraj pointed the finger right back at him, saying, "reduced or closure was due to the obstructions on the Nepalese side by the disaffected section of the Nepalese population."
On Sunday when he met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and broached the subject of the blockade, sources said the Home Minister advised the Nepal deputy minister to do whatever was needed “to allay the apprehensions of the Madhesis.” Indian seemed to be sticking to their claim that their country was not at fault.
To this ear, it doesn’t sound like Thapa had “cleared the air of mistrust and misunderstanding.”
After meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday morning, Thapa said that he was confident after receiving assurances from Mr. Modi that the blockade would not last long. But who can verify that statement? Mr. Modi certainly did not go on record with such a promise. There was a brief statement issued from the Prime Minister’s Office, but in no way did it assure Nepal that the blockade would soon be over:
"The Prime Minister reiterated that India's only desire is to see a united, inclusive, stable and prosperous Nepal, and that India is committed to strengthening the traditional bonds of friendship and kinship with the people of Nepal."
Pretty diplomatic words meaning nothing.
As Thapa was departing from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, he told The Hindu, “A committee for dialogue with the Madhesi leaders has been set up by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. But, we are unable to find an end to the blockade right away. We need India’s support to end the blockade.”
And that clearly did not happen during his trip.
Although some of the eastern and western supply routes to Nepal have witnessed better vehicular movements, bringing temporary relief, the main supply route of Birganj which connects Kathmandu with the world economy remains blocked, causing serious difficulties for the economic heart of Nepal.