Nepalese consumers may soon be refilling their vehicles without having to wait in serpentine queues as authorities work tirelessly to reconnect with China through Tatopani Customs Office, a border point between the communist superpower and its tiny Himalayan neighbour.
Speaking to southasia.com.au, the Chief District Officer (CDO) of Sindhupalchowk district Balabhadra Giri confirmed that the Kodari Highway (which connects Kathmandu with China) will be fully operational as early as Sunday.
“So far as small vehicles are concerned, they are already coming,” Mr Giri said in a telephonic conversation with southasia.com.au. “It is up to the business people whether they bring fuel or not, our job is to open the road,” he said when asked about the possible import of petroleum products from China in order to counter the Indian blockade.
Most Nepalese, both at home and abroad, look at the Tatopani entry-point as the only alternative since India-imposed blockade stifled the supply of essential commodities in Nepal.
The blockade has added to the woes of the Himalayan nation which was already reeling under the catastrophic events of April and May this year. A powerful 7.8 magnitude temblor on April 25 killed nearly nine thousand people.
DNA India, an English broadsheet published from Mumbai, reported earlier that there were about 400 Chinese tankers waiting on the Chinese side, ready to hit the road to Nepal. The CDO, however, could not verify the news but pointed out that the question of petroleum import from China was a question for the center (Kathmandu) to handle.
In the mean time, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh has called Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala (who today decided to resign and pave way for a fresh prime minister) to urge him to initiate dialogue with the Madheshi leaders. Mr Singh also tried to convince Nepalese leaders that ‘he would also appeal to Madhesi groups to end violence and go in for talks with the Nepal government’, DNA reported.
The Indian minister’s call comes at a time when the world’s newest republic is about to connect with China via the Tatopani border crossing. The road was first severely disrupted during the April 25 earthquake. Shortly afterwards, Chinese engineers had opened it but was later covered by landslides again, an after-effect of earthquake.
Government of Nepal claims its southern neighbour has placed an ‘undeclared blockade’ bringing the supply of daily necessities to a grinding halt, although limited number of trucks are now being allowed to enter Nepal. Reports suggest only perishable commodities like vegetables are being escorted into Nepal.
India, on the other hand, blames the blockade on Nepal’s internal political unrest due to which, it claims, Indian freight forwarders are unable to operate because of security concerns. The conflict India is concerned with is between the government and agitators belonging to various Madheshi (Nepalese of Indian origin and hence the South Asian giant’s interest in the issue) groups who refuse to accept the newly-promulgated constitution. They say the statute is not inclusive enough to ensure their political future in the country.