India said on Thursday it has conveyed to the Nepalese Government its willingness to help reroute vehicles carrying medicines to the country, and also to airlift medical supplies even as New Delhi reiterated that the blockade in Nepal is “not due to any restrictions imposed by India”.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, addressing a weekly briefing, said: “We have seen reports of shortages of medicines. Like the re-routing of trucks, we have conveyed to the government of Nepal we are ready to facilitate re-routing of vehicles carrying medicine. We are also willing to facilitate airlift. Nepalese importers of medicine are also advised to use those border crossings where there are no protests and disruption in supplies."
Swarup said: “The issues facing Nepal are political in nature; they are internal to Nepal and the Nepalese leadership has to resolve them through dialogue with agitating parties. If the political challenges facing Nepal are addressed we can hope it would assuage the concerns the protesters have, leading to a return to peace and normalcy in the affected areas of the Terai, including the border crossings currently occupied by Nepalese protesters and thereby improve the supply situation in the country.”
With regard to shortage of supplies, Swarup said: “Shortages are not due to any restrictions imposed by India. The major crossing of Ruxaul-Birganj that handles the bulk of the trade continues to remain closed from the Nepalese side. Of the 10 border crossings handling commercial cargo, seven, including Sunauli and Panitanki are operational. Between 400-800 cargo trucks are passing daily through the Indo-Nepal border,” he stressed.
Swarup said that petrol, oil, lubricants continue to pass through the border crossings into Nepal daily. “As of yesterday, 6,000 trucks are waiting to cross into Nepal, including 4,700 at Ruxaul alone.”
To another question on Nepal approaching China for petroleum supplies, the spokesperson said that “Nepal has to approach its own people and the problem will be resolved in a faster way”.
India&’s statement on Nepal comes even as the Unicef has cautioned that the blockade of the border crossings “threatens the future of the country itself”.
“First, there was a devastating act of nature – the earthquakes that took and damaged so many lives,” Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, said during a recent visit to the country. “Now, political differences among human beings are dealing new blows to the children of Nepal.”
Earlier this week, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called on India to lift the "unofficial blockade" in Nepal as soon as possible.
In a televised address on Sunday to the nation, Oli, who assumed office as the head of the government on October 11, said that Nepali people have been undergoing a hard time due to blockade imposed by India.
"It is unthinkable that a sovereign nation faces such an inhumane and severe pain, misery and blockade in the 21st century for having a Constitution with progressive, pro-people and democratic contents through an elected Constituent Assembly with people’s overwhelming participation and democratic franchise,” he is quoted as saying.
The crisis in Nepal began after the adoption of the new constitution on September 20, which the plainspeople, or Madhesis, say ignores their interests. The Madhesis and other groups residing on the border along with India have launched violent protests against the constitution and resorted to blockade of the border entry points, forcing freight trucks to remain stranded on the Indian side.