New Delhi/Kathmandu : The brittle India-Nepal relations came under further strain on Monday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed “shock” over the unfortunate killing of an Indian in the police firing in Nepal and sought details of the incident from his counterpart, Prime Minister K P Oli, even as the Ministry of External Affairs summoned Nepal’s envoy over the incident. The Indian youth, 19-year-old Ashish Ram, was killed when the Nepalese police opened fire on protesters near the Indo-Nepal border. The sensitivities involved can be gauged from the fact that the youth was from Raxaul in poll-bound Bihar.
Since the promulgation of the new Constitution in Nepal in September, the Indian-origin Madhesi population has been agitating as they believe it discriminates against them and denies them equal standing with other Nepalis. The agitation obstructed the supply of essential commodities, including petrol, thereby creating a crisis in Nepal, which accused India of imposing an “economic blockade”, a charge denied by India. Amid the heightened tension, the Nepalese Prime Minister said on Monday the new Constitution was not directed against any neighbouring country even as he warned that his government will not tolerate activities against national interest.
Oli also accused India of “propping up” the Madhes-based political parties to impose blockades at major customs points along the 1751-km open border between the two neighbours. “Why is India rallying behind the four Madhes-based parties,” he asked, adding that it was Nepal’s responsibility to address the grievances of the various agitating groups. Matters came to a head recently when Kathmandu signed an MOU with China for supply of petrol, thus ending the monopoly of the Indian Oil Corporation. Clashes erupted in different parts of Birgunj on Monday after Nepalese police baton-charged Indian-origin Madhesi protesters in a pre-dawn swoop and burned down their tents. The protestors were also evicted from the key Miteri Bridge on the Indo-Nepal border, thus opening the Birgunj-Raxaul border trading point for the first time in 40 days.
Nearly 200 empty trucks stranded on the Nepalese side of the border were allowed to enter the Indian territory during the brief period when the police took control of the area. India, meanwhile, has asked its transporters to exercise caution and not endanger their lives, in an advisory which may deepen the supply crisis in Nepal. Modi on Monday assured his counterpart that there was no embargo from the Indian side on supply of fuel and other essentials. Reacting to the firing incident, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi: “Issues facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved by force. Causes underlying the present state of confrontation need to addressed by the Government in Kathmandu credibly and effectively.”