Online Khabar caught up with veteran diplomat and foreign affairs expert Jaya Raj Acharya to talk about the Indian blockade, the Madhesh Movement and resulting crises. Excerpts from the interview.
On the blockade
We don’t know why India’s been imposing a blockade against Nepal. As per Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party conveyed its concerns to two former prime ministers during their visits to India, which took place in the run-up to the promulgation of the constitution through the popularly-elected Constituent Assembly.
Apparently, the constitution did not address Indian concerns and India imposed a blockade (the third such blockade against Nepal in a period of about 45 years). What stopped us from learning our lessons and exploring alternative supply lines originating in China? After the 90’s blockade, we could have made supply lines originating in the north operational. But we did not.
Behind the current blockade, India may have its vested interests. Perhaps it wants to increase control over our water resources. Perhaps it wants to increase its trade domination. The blockade may be a tool to achieve these objectives.
On the Hindu state
The new constitution should have declared Nepal a Hindu state. We should have been able to convince both India and China that a Hindu state will be in their interests too. Both the neighbours would have supported our move. This step would have kept western players at bay and stabilised national politics.
Inability to learn lessons
The rulers should have learnt from the blockade that India imposed in the 1990’s. We could have generated 10,000 MW of hydroelectricity and achieved energy independence. By waiving customs, we could have promoted the use of electric vehicles.
Who cares about co-existence?
The Tarai can exist without the hills, but vice-versa is not possible. These days, the hills rely on the southern plains for vital supplies. Of course, the hills have rivers and streams, but not enough fertile fields that can make use of these waters.
That’s why we are hearing demands that seek to carve out Tarai provinces that touch no part of the hills.
Far more discriminatory treaty: A real possibility
The 12-point deal was the corollary of the 1950’s Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty. The 1950’s treaty reflected the current reality of that time. The context has changed now, but far more unfair and discriminatory treaty is likely if political parties do not come together and sort out domestic issues on their own.