As Nepal’s Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa shook hands with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on Sunday, the movement of thousands of shipping containers meant for Nepal’s 28 million landlocked consumers remained restricted by India.
Chandra Ghimire, Nepal’s Consul General in Kolkata, told Nagarik Dainik that the tiny nation, which is already reeling under severe budgetary constraints following the devastation of April and May earthquakes, is paying as much as NRs 25 million a day in holding fees alone. This is nearly AUD 335,000 a day for the impoverished nation brought to its knees by Mother Nature last April.
In light of this, much hope is being pinned on the New Delhi visit of the royalist leader who also doubles as Nepal’s deputy prime minister. Mr Thapa is expected to iron out some polarising differences between the two South Asian neighbours, the most contentious being the newly-promulgated constitution of the Himalayan nation which India claims fails to protect Nepalese citizens of Indian origin. Most Nepalese people view the current informal blockade by India as its punitive action for Nepal failing to dance to its tune in the run up to the constitution promulgation.
However, interestingly, the Nepalese government has not so far called the disruption of transit a ‘blockade’.
According to the report published today by the Nepalese-language national broadsheet, 6900 containers bound for Nepal are currently being held by Indian authorities at various points of transit, including at the port of landing in Kolkata. It added 2400 of these are still at the port while the rest are either at various Indian customs offices or in transit.
There are around 2500 containers at Raxaul only. All these came from third countries, the report said citing the Nepalese Consul General.
Mr Ghimire has reportedly urged the concerned authorities to waive the massive holding fees for the containers given the dire condition Nepal is following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25.
Around 85 metric tonnes of various important supplies including fertilisers, iron and oil are being held up in the process.
Kathmandu and all major cities in the landlocked country are facing acute shortage of daily necessities, fuel most importantly, which is paramount as hundreds of thousands of Kathmanduites leave for their country homes to celebrate their biggest festival of Dashain.