Madhesi crisis: India needs to buckle up to maintain significance in Nepal


New Delhi: Nepal, a country landlocked between the two Asian giants – India and China- is forced into an economic blockage due to the internal anguish of its multi-ethnic populace. The foundation of a new constitution unveiled on September 20, 2015, led to violence and riot-like situations in several parts of Nepal by the Madhesi community who felt left out in the new Constitution.

Madhesis living in Terai region of Nepal are purportedly finding themselves being sidelined in the newly formed Nepalese Constitution. To show their resentment against it, they imposed an economic blockade across the Indo-Nepal border. This led to an obstruction of transportation on either side of the trade route, that is still continuing. There are trucks lined up on both sides of the border, which has resulted in shortages of food and fuel in the Himalayan nation.

The Madhesi community consists of migrants from India. This demographic advantage resulted in an age-old partnership and informal trade between the countries. The Madhesi people had high expectations from the new constitution, but the government didn’t show much interest in implementing their concerns.

The Nepal government is accused by the Madhesis for constituting exclusionary policies. The constitution ignored the demands of making the whole Terai region a province as over 40% of the people there have been denied citizenship. Only eight districts have been given the status of province whereas the remaining 14 districts are to be joined into the hilly province.

This Madhesi crisis has led to blockading of trucks across the border hindering the supply of food, medicines and oil. The Terai region, as a result, is in dire straits to sustains their routine lives.

This disadvantageous situation has led Nepal to discontinue its four-decade long dependency on India for fuel. Nepal has currently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for oil trade agreement with China on October 28.

India is being perceived to not to be concerned on this issue, as the Nepalese perceive a lack of alternative solutions from this side. The press statement by the MEA to restrain transference for safety and security reasons is being observed as an indirect fortitude to enforce a blockade on Nepal. They have also accused India of being cold in their response to Nepal’s appeal to re-route the movement of tankers (10 tankers per day as against over 1,000 earlier).

The terrain from China to Nepal traverses Himalayan passes which draw a difficulty in the long-term arrangement logistically. But with China it is clear that they would try to strengthen their relationship with Nepal to break India’s huge influence in the state’s affairs.

As a result, despite its rocky topography, China succeeded to make some deliveries. Since China is putting in excessive efforts which are missing from the Indian side, it can possibly lead to better relations between the countries in the energy sector.

India needs to put its international as well as national strategies in place. In context to Nepal, national strategy is equally important due to its old cross-border migration and social interrelations.

If the state wants to maintain its significance in Nepal’s socio-political affairs such issues ought to be given prime importance as China’s better relation with Indian neighbours can put the nation’s Southeast Asia prominence in jeopardy.