Did the Bihar election have anything to do with an unofficial stand-off between India and Nepal? Unofficial, because India cites the economic blockade put up by the Madhesis in the Terai region of Nepal, which is the lifeline of bilateral trade, as the reason for supply trucks not being able to enter that country. Nepal says India has put up an economic blockade and is playing the China card.
Nepalese media reports stated that on Sunday, Prime Minister KP Oli said there were indications that the current blockade along the border would end soon.
“Oli said he has found positive indications from sources that the ongoing blockade will be lifted as it has also affected India,” the Kathmandu Post reported.
Some, like Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Professor, Department of Political Science and Director, Centre for Nepal Studies, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, agree.
“I think after the Bihar elections, things are likely to improve,” Ray Chaudhury says. The hint is: Narendra Modi’s BJP allowed it to escalate to gain currency in the elections.
Madhesis, with roots in Bihar, were allowed to buy provisions from the Indian side. India shares an unfenced border of over 1,700 km with Nepal, a good part of which passes through North Bihar.No quick resolution
But not everyone buys this argument. Nihar R Nayak, Associate Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, does not see an easy solution unless the Nepal government takes a reasonable stance.
Madhesis are protesting a number of controversial clauses in the newly adopted constitution, which they allege were framed to deny them proportional representation in decision making and government jobs.
“The agitation is on for nearly three months with approximately 40 dead. And the Bihar poll doesn’t have any bearing on that,” Nayak says.
The problem, he says, has trans-border implications with some Nepalese refugees seeking political asylum in India.
Also, redeployment of border forces by Nepal for internal security gave rise to cross-border crime in India.
What is most important, Nayak says, is that “the new government in Bihar may be sympathetic to the Madhesi cause”. This is irrespective of the decisions of the Centre.
Social media posts of Madhesi activists make it clear that they are banking on the Lalu-Nitish duo rather than on Narendra Modi.Delaying tactics
Sukh Deo Muni, Professor Emeritus, JNU, feels the Madhesi uprising is led by its youth, who are frustrated at years of neglect and are now forcing politicians, both at Terai and Kathmandu, to take a decisive stand.
“The situation in Nepal is somewhat similar to the mid-1970s Sri Lanka,” he says. But instead of reaching a political solution to the problem, the Oli Government, Muni feels, is trying to delay it.
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