Newspaper article International New York Times

Nepal Blames Indians for Border and Fuel Havoc

Newspaper article International New York Times

Nepal Blames Indians for Border and Fuel Havoc

Article excerpt

Nepal said India imposed an economic blockade as retaliation for its adoption of a Constitution that had drawn Indian objections.

Days after Nepal adopted a constitution in a way that appeared to infuriate India, Kuldiep Singh, an official with India's border security force, received his orders: Thoroughly search every single truck trying to cross into Nepal.

Trucks immediately backed up at the customs post in West Bengal State staffed by his crew. Now, more than a week later, about 400 are waiting to cross. "Definitely to some extent it is slowing down," Mr. Singh said on Wednesday.

Nepalese officials accuse India of imposing an economic blockade as payback for Nepal's adoption of the Constitution on Sept. 20 over India's objection that the Nepalese population should be consulted more thoroughly. In Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, political leaders are vilifying India, blaming it for the sudden and severe fuel shortages.

India, while acknowledging its objections to the Nepalese Constitution, has said it has nothing to do with the shortages. They became so severe that on Thursday Nepal decided to prohibit private cars from getting gasoline to help ensure enough supplies for emergency vehicles.

Nepal imports all of its fuel from India.

Whether they amount to a blockade or not, India's orders have contributed to a drastic reduction in the number of trucks crossing the border, interviews with border officials indicate, and the imposition of exhaustive security checks coincides with the onset of Nepal's fuel crisis.

Some border crossings are facing obstructions of a different sort. Nepalese protesters from the Madhesi community have staged sit- ins at at least two major crossings, blocking those routes to goods since last week, officials said. Since August, more than 40 people, most from the Madhesi and ethnic Tharu communities, who live in southern and western Nepal, have been killed in protests over the Constitution. They argued that the new boundaries of several states would dilute their political voice.

But Sishir Dhungana, the director general of customs in Nepal, said that while two of the crossings were high-traffic trade routes, they accounted for fewer than half of the roughly 2,000 trucks that usually cross the border daily, and at several border checkpoints where there are no sit-ins, trucks are still not crossing into Nepal. …

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