Saarc members ‘should speak against blockade’Diplomats and foreign policy experts have suggested that Saarc nations and the Saarc Secretariat in Kathmandu should speak up against India’s trade embargo in Nepal as the country reels under an acute fuel crisis.
Diplomats and foreign policy experts have suggested that Saarc nations and the Saarc Secretariat in Kathmandu should speak up against India’s trade embargo in Nepal as the country reels under an acute fuel crisis.
It is more relevant for Nepal, which chairs the regional grouping this term and hosts the Saarc Secretariat in Kathmandu, to raise the issue in international forums and tell the international community about the supply constraints, they suggested.
Former ambassadors to India Bhekh Bahadur Thapa and Lokraj Baral are also for raising the issue in regional as well as international platforms. “The relevancy of Saarc has ended,” said Thapa. “As the Saarc chair, Nepal should call a meeting of member nations and apprise them on the matter.”
A diplomat to have served in the Saarc Secretariat said member nations should call an emergency meeting of their eight commerce and supplies ministers to discuss the blockade.
The embargo is also against the spirit of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, said the diplomat, adding that Safta does not imagine a situation in which a member country imposes an embargo against another member.
Warning that the fuel dearth would lead to a humanitarian crisis during the festivals, he wanted the Saarc nations to speak up against India’s behaviour. Former ambassador Baral said, not only Saarc nations, other democratic powers like the United States and the European Union should speak against the Indian embargo.
“I have lost my hope in Saarc but member nations should speak against India’s move. Some members may stand by Nepal in its crisis,” said Baral. The government has made no effort to inform the regional grouping about the crisis.
“If Nepal calls a regional meeting, member states will definitely speak in its favour,” said a diplomat, expressing his doubt whether Nepal would hold such meeting given its complex relations with India.
Bangladeshi Minister for Commerce Tofail Ahmed told an Indian daily, the Hindu, that the blockade, which has been hurting Nepal’s economy, should end at the earliest. Speaking from Bangladesh with the Hindu, Ahmed noted that his country had been following the developments but had so far avoided commenting on it. But he said such blockades are not in the spirit of regional cooperation in South Asia.
“In June this year, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal agreed to create a framework for BBIN transport network,” he told the Indian newspaper.
“BBIN is an unprecedented step that we took aiming at shared prosperity in South Asia. BBIN was meant to facilitate movement of commercial vehicles across the
borders of Bhutan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Such blockades hit at agreements like the BBIN.”