23October 2016: When democracy was restored in Nepal following the 1990 Jana Andolan against King Birendra’s autocratic rule, political celebrities promised their fellow subjects that they would soon turn Nepal into a South Asian “Switzerland”.
Twenty six years on, the Swiss reference is often employed to denote hollow rhetoric that Nepalese leaders deliver every single day as they go about attending meetings after meetings.
One of many such promises was made last year when KP Oli government vowed to flood Kathmandu streets with Chinese oil. It caught people’s imagination too because it was a time when supply of petroleum products, lifesaving medical goods and other everyday needs dwindled following a blockade on the landlocked nation.
There are only six days to go before neighbours Nepal and China mark the first anniversary of a landmark MoU signed on 29 October 2015. India’s monopoly over Nepal’s fuel industry was supposed to be over within “three to four weeks” – as soon as rest of the formalities were completed.
However, the initiative to import “one-third” of Nepal’s petroleum needs is dying a premature death as Nepal, which was estranged from India under the prime-ministership of a firebrand KP Sharma Oli, has a new prime minister now, the Maoist boss Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda).
According to Annapurna Post, there has been “zero progress” in terms of importing the “higher standard” fuel from the communist nation.
The Nepali-language daily reported today that despite “repeated China visits” by officials from Nepal Oil Corporation and current as well as previous ministry of supplies, the Chinese oil is as elusive as ever.
Asserting that despite multiple visits entailing huge costs on “expensive hotels” and “attractive allowances”, the subject of fuel import from China “is still in dilemma”.
As things stand, not to mention lack of proper infrastructure such as reliable roads, Indian Oil Corporation has a clear and continued monopoly on Nepal’s fuel industry.
Given Nepalese leaders’ track record of delivering on promises they make, it is unlikely that this will happen in “two, three weeks” to come.