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Nepal economisch gegijzeld door India

BLOKKADE

Terwijl zelfs in de VN nauwelijks aandacht was voor de economische blokkade van Nepal door India, gaat deze gewoon door. Ondanks eerdere berichten is de blokkade nog steeds niet opgeheven en houdt Delhi voet bij stuk.

Dat betekent dat al ruim 2 weken Nepal is verstoken van o.a. brandstof en gas, maar ook veel andere noodzakelijke goederen. Nepal wordt gegijzeld door premier Modi en zijn trawanten vanuit New Delhi. Nepal is meer dan ooit vastbesloten zijn soevereiniteit niet op te geven en dus niet toe te geven aan India.

TERUG IN DE TIJD

Waar bijvoorbeeld de overheid er jaren aan gewerkt heeft om de bevolking te leren te koken op gas i.p.v. houtvuur, wordt nu alles weer noodgedwongen teruggedraaid. Zelfs grote restaurants moeten op houtvuur gaan koken want er is geen gas, geen benzine, geen diesel enz. En waar er nog een klein beetje is, staan lange rijen om nog een beetje te bemachtigen.

NIET INTERESSANT

Voor de rest van de wereld is dit kennelijk niet interessant, want bijvoorbeeld in de Nederlandse pers is hier nauwelijks aandacht voor. Een soevereine staat wordt gegijzeld door de veel grotere buur.*

Hieronder staat een redactioneel commentaar van een Nepalese krant. Ik zal er een paar punten uit lichten:

  • ++ De vijandschap in Nepal richting India groeit met de dag. Groepen in de Terai laten zich door India misbruiken.
  • ++ De ellende is pas echt begonnen na het aantreden van Modi in India.
  • ++ Het heeft er alle schijn van dat India er alles aan doet om meer invloed in de Terai te krijgen.
  • ++ Nepal staat voor de keuze: houden ze hun been stijf en riskeren daarmee een langdurig brandstof embargo of geven ze toe en geven daarmee een stukje van hun soevereiniteit op.
  • ++ De laatste optie is een oplossing voor de korte termijn, want vroeg of laat zal India opnieuw zijn spierballen laten zien.

 

* De problemen zijn wel doorgedrongen in Australie, waar het Australische Instituut voor Internationale Betrekkingen aan de bel getrokken heeft. Een zeer interessant stuk om te lezen! Klik hier voor dit rapport.

 

Hieronder het originele Nepalese commentaar:

 

What are Nepal’s options?

 

BIKASH SANGRAULA

The past two weeks have cleared many heads in Nepal. Even the woolly-headed among us who in recent days discovered a new hobby – burning or tearing to pieces the infant constitution that has every potential of growing up into something all of us can be reasonably proud of – have, hopefully, begun to see things as they really are.

The shocks and aftershocks of New Delhi’s unexpected blockade at the cost of whatever goodwill it had earned in the past year or so have made it abundantly clear which side of Nepal’s prevailing political divide the inhabitant of 7 Race Course Road – the official residence of Indian prime minister -  cheerleads.

Loyalties of political forces inside Nepal have also become evident, educating all of us.

With global torchbearers of democracy and human rights preferring to stand mute witness to India muscling in on Nepal’s internal affairs, Nepalis have been forced to make painful but necessary adjustments to their understanding of how international relations are conducted by the powerful. We wonder whether this is the rule, or an aberration.

Reports have surfaced of over a dozen diplomatic missions in Kathmandu writing to the Foreign Ministry for fuel supplies. Somebody must remind the heads of these missions that Nepal does not produce fuel. Period!

By now, it is clear that New Delhi is no longer willing to play the good neighbor it had appeared to have decided to play since May, 2014 when Narendra Modi came to power.

It is also clear that the oft-repeated ‘special relations’ will continue to exist, but not between the whole of Nepal and India. India’s ‘special relations’ will henceforth be limited to a certain community in our flatlands – a community India hopes to use time and again to bulldoze its interests in Nepal.

India’s apparent haste to establish the frontiers of its sphere of influence by strong-arming Nepal away from Chinese economic and political incursions has made obsolete the erstwhile softer approach of winning hearts in Nepal, be it through sweet talking at the parliament, the prompt and generous humanitarian response after the quakes this spring, or the announcement of the biggest bilateral aid for reconstruction in the quakes’ aftermath.

An India made restless by the rise of China has given us its clearest message in decades - do as we say or face indefinite fuel embargo.

India has taken sides in Nepal, pushing us on the verge of doing the same.

Nepal is faced with two choices – accept once and forever that we are powerless before the Indian Leviathan, or take an unprecedented decision to redefine our trade dependence.

The Easy, Lazy Choice

The first choice is humiliating to any self-respecting Nepali, but will result in the immediate lifting of the blockade. Demarcating provinces in ways compatible to India’s strategic interests, and constitutionally guaranteeing a gradual dominance of India-pliant political forces in Nepal will make our lives comfortable within days.

We will be able to drive our motorbikes and cars again, shelve the electric stoves we ransacked our homes to find after cooking gas retailers in our neighborhood closed shop, send our kids to school, and stop worrying about food and medicine availability.

The respite, however, will be short-lived. 

Choosing this path will open the doors for easier and better-veiled blockades by India for generations to come. In fact, India will no longer need to block supplies to Nepal for getting what it wants. Some of our own provinces will do that for them.  

If emerging indications are true, amending the constitution to suit Indian interests does not seem enough to ensure that the blockade is lifted.

Nepal will also have to agree to a financially suicidal infrastructure project – the 76-kilometer Kathmandu-Nijgadh express highway that India wants awarded to its Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd., a company partially owned by the government-run State Bank of India.

The highway that will reduce the travel time between Kathmandu and Bara from the existing five hours to just one hour will, however, bleed the nation’s coffers for decades.

The proposed project contract not only requires Nepal to be the lender and equity holder of the project, but also the guarantor of Rs 15 billion in toll revenues per year. Various studies have pointed out that despite exorbitant toll fees proposed for the highway, the revenue target is impossible to meet. According to a former top bureaucrat, if the clauses are passed as they are, Nepal will end up paying hundreds of billions to the company in the course of 25 years.

That the project is getting primacy at the highest political level when a number of more important national issues deserve attention is enough evidence that the express highway is among important concessions being sought.

The Difficult Choice

This choice involves a flat refusal to give in to Indian strong-arming.

A pre-condition for this is a strong and stable new government representing at least Nepal’s three biggest political parties.  This is possible only if the widely reported gentleman’s agreement on government formation is honored.

Despite the sufferings it has caused, the blockade has offered Nepal a great opportunity to reorient trade relations and embark on the path to energy-independence.

The focus now should be on ensuring 24-hour operation of our recently reopened trading routes with China. This will take care of our immediate needs. Frugality will, however, need to be exercised.

The two years left before the next general elections should be enough to open a number of new, all-weather trading routes with the northern neighbor to bring trade with our two giant neighbors to even levels so that a blockade like the current one will not obsess the nation.

For a country bestowed with immense hydropower potential, fossil fuel should always have been the last resort.

Instead of lending 75 billion rupees and investing another 15 billion rupees on the Kathmandu-Nijgadh highway, Nepal should build a hydropower project with the 90 billion rupees. By recent cost estimates, 90 billion rupees will generate 700 to 800 megawatts of electricity, doubling our existing generation.

Hydropower is our long-term energy solution. If we don’t want our children and grandchildren to feel as helpless as we are feeling today, we must take this course, and eventually replace our fuel-guzzling vehicles with electrically-powered ones, and our LPG-powered stoves with electric stoves.

Fuel-dependence is our biggest weakness. The potential for fuel-independence is nature’s compensation for our landlocked geography.

We can choose to make use of this potential, or continue to live under the Indian sledgehammer that can strike whenever 7 Race Course Road wants.

The choice is ours. Not theirs.

Published on: Wednesday, October 07, 2015 14:00:21

 

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