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A blockade is an effort to cut off supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. It is the blocking of men of war of the approach to the enemy coast or a part of it for the purpose of preventing the ingress or aggress of vessels or aircraft of all nations. india blockade Nepal is also distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually directed at an entire country or region, rather than a fortress or city. While most blockades historically took place at sea, the blockade is still used on land to prevent someone coming into a certain area.
History of the blockade in various landlocked countries including Nepal
This is an extreme case of lack of political power due to landlockedness – most landlocked countries have alternative trade routes through other transit neighbours.
Nevertheless, there are still hurdles where trade can be blocked or severely restricted by transit nations. Sanctions were easily placed upon Burundi by its neighbours
in 1996 (Dinar 1996). Bolivia has had severe difficulties transiting through Chile because of poor political relations that have lasted over 100 years. When political tensions result in military conflict between the landlocked state and their transit neighbour, the effect can be quite acute. Armenia is currently blockaded by Armenia and Turkey following the occupation of Kelbadiar (Azerbaijan) by ethnic Armenian forces. The alternative routes through Georgia and Iran are restricted due to geographic obstacles (mountains) and relatively poor infrastructure (Tavitan 2001).
Blockade history ofEthiopia and Eritrea
The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea has restricted Ethiopia’s access to the port of Assab where most of the Ethiopian trade had passed through duty-free until 1997. Ethiopia is currently forced to use the port of Djibouti. Both the route to the port as well as the port of Djibouti itself are characterized by low infrastructure levels and are scarcely able to handle the bulk of Ethiopian trade. While alternative routes are being investigated through Kenya, Sudan and Somalia the routes are characterized by very low infrastructure levels, and in the case of Somalia, also internal civil conflict. The landlocked countries of West Africa have been particularly affected by civil war. While Mali has been recognized for its recent political stability and commitment to democracy, its economy has suffered incommensurately as a result of regional conflict and instability. Each of Mali’s coastal neighbors has been engaged in some form of violent civil conflict in the last decade often making transport routes unusable.
Togo was devastated by violent political protests and deep internal conflict in the early 90s; Algeria was involved in a macabre civil war for much of the decade; Ghana suffered from ethnic violence primarily between 1993-4; Sierra Leone’s ten-year civil war has just recently come to a tenuous settlement; Guinea has been stricken by a series of coups and rebel wars; Liberia’s has spent most of the decade in violent civil wars which have threatened to spillover into neighboring countries, thus jeopardizing regional stability even further;and finally, and most importantly for Mali, Cote d’Ivoire has recently fallen into the devastating political crisis which continues to deepen and has had severe effects on Mali’s most important corridor to the sea.
Due to the civil war in Mozambique (coupled with poor infrastructure levels in Namibia and Tanzania), much SADC trade is forced along north-south lines, largely relying upon the port of Durban in South Africa. During the period of the Mozambiquian civil war,
Malawi was forced to reroute its freight, 95% of which normally passed through the ports of Beira and Nacala, to the significantly further ports of Durban and Dar es Salaam. It is estimated that the average surface costs to these ports are more than double those to the ports of Nacala and Beira via the traditional rail routes. The average transit times to Durban (7 days) and Dar es Salaam (6 days) are also nearly double that to Nacala (4 days) and Beira (3 days). The unavoidable rerouting cost Malawi an additional US$50m-75m per year, with insurance and freight costs doubling from 20% of the import bill in the early 1980s to 40% by the latter half of the decade. While the corridors to Beira and Naval have been recently reopened, infrastructure damage from the war has thus far limited their use.
Nepal has accused India of imposing an undeclared blockade. India has denied the allegations, stating the supply shortages have been imposed by Madheshi protesters within Nepal. However, despite Indian denials, minimal border entries even from border points with no agitation fueled allegations that it was indeed an India enforced border blockade.
As a landlocked nation, Nepal imports all of its petroleum supplies from India. Roughly 300 fuel trucks enter from India on a normal day, but this has dwindled to a sporadic passage of 5–10 fuel trucks daily since the start of the crisis, though shipments of perishables like fruits and vegetables have generally been allowed to pass. Moreover, India had also been stopping some Nepalese trucks at the Kolkata harbour. The blockade choked imports of not only petroleum, but also medicines and earthquake relief material.
An economic blockade in the Terai along India’s border with Nepal has caused acute shortages and price rise in land-locked Nepal. What is the cause of this crisis, and what is India’s role? What are the demands of Madhesis protestors opposing Nepal’s new Constitution, and what is the future of this agitation? In this series, Scroll.in examines these questions from the ground.
On a cold January morning, a fresh batch of protestors arrived on the Maitreyi (Friendship) Bridge that connects Raxaul in north Bihar’s East Champaran district to Birgunj in Nepal.
The group, which included a school principal, a court clerk, a businessman and several farmers, joined others huddled in tents pitched on the asphalt bridge. Black pamphlets tied to the tents fluttered its message to the four winds: Madhes ka maang poora karo, Mazdoor ka suraksha guarantee karo. Fulfill Madhes’s demands. Guarantee protection for workers.
The Raxaul-Birgunj bridge is a key crossing on the open border between India and Nepal, connecting to the shortest land route to the capital Kathmandu, 150 kilometres away. Most goods needed by land-locked Nepal, especially fuel imports, enter the country from here. But for over four months, Madhesi protestors opposing the new Constitution adopted by Nepal in September have continuously occupied this bridge, not permitting a single truck to pass. They claim that the new Constitution perpetuates the discrimination they have long faced in the mountain country.
“Ten years ago, in 2063 [2007 as per the Gregorian calendar], Girija Prasad Koirala signed an agreement with the Madhesis after our andolan,” Yadav said. “But he died five years ago, and the three main parties are now violating their promise.”
“Our demands are valid,” said Shakur Alam, a typist at the local court in Birgunj, and a member of the Rashtriya Madhes Samajwadi Party. Alam, seated in the midst of the protestors, was clad in sweatshirt and trousers, with a pink gamcha around his neck contrasting with his henna-coloured beard. “Unlike the hill communities, we are dark complexioned, so the government says, ‘Madhesis are Biharis, Dhotis, encroachers from India’. But we are citizens, we are Nepali.”
Sections of Nepal society believe the close familial ties Madhesis have with India is evident in the way India has supported this protest, effectively blocking supplies to the country.
Nepal’s government believes this undeclared blockade is just like the ones India had imposed on it in 1969 and 1989. Kathmandu says this time it is doing it to punish Nepal for ignoring New Delhi’s advice on altering Nepal’s Constitution. Indian authorities deny the charge, and say the protests reflect the Nepal government’s failure to accommodate the demands of various ethnic groups, such as the Madhesis. India claims that freight transporters have been deterred from moving goods through Nepal’s disturbed plains because of the threat of violence.
A history of inequality
The protests are being led by communities living in Nepal’s Terai, the lowlands along India’s border. These communities are the Tharu, an indigenous group in the western plains, and the Madhesis, a group of several communities in the central and eastern plains.
Successive Nepalese governments dominated by the upper castes from the hilly regions have discriminated against both groups. The Tharus were dispossessed of their land, forcing many to work as bonded agricultural labour. The Madhesis are viewed as being Indian, and their loyalty to Nepal is questioned. Madhesis, Tharus and other janjati groups are under-represented in the legislature and in all departments of the state. These disparities are reflected in their economic, social and development conditions, which are well below average.
In Birgunj, which lies in the central plains, a sense of racial discrimination and lack of opportunities is a recurring theme. “Sab haakim pahariya hai.Only the hill people get elected as officials,” said Eenar Jyoti, a farmer in her 20s who was visiting Birgunj from Chaukiaberia village. Chandan Gupta, a 19-year-old high-school student who has taken part in several protests, said the Nepal government discriminates against Madhesis, giving them the runaround when they apply for citizenship cards and jobs. But was there a lack of economic opportunities in Birgunj, a decades-old commercial centre? “Not everyone can set up a business,” Gupta said.
These sentiments were echoed by the diverse group protesting on the Maitreyi bridge, who argued that even if they have to suffer now, once their agitation succeeds future generations will not have to bear the discrimination that they have faced.
That evening on the bridge, besides the Madhesi protestors, Ajay Dubey, a transporter from Raxaul, stood near the group making an impassioned plea. “My Madhesi brothers, how long will you continue like this?” He was tall and dark, his khakhi jacket covering a potbelly.
Dubey said he had supported the protestors initially, even getting into a scuffle with Nepal’s paramilitary in September in the initial weeks of the protest. But he, like other transporters in Raxaul, has been losing thousands of rupees worth of business every day. Surely by now, he argued, the Madhesi leaders in Kathmandu should have been able to make some progress?
Political worker Shivji Soni explained that though Madhesis make up one-third of the population, they have low representation in parliament. “People voted for Madhesi leaders in large parties like the Nepali Congress,” Soni said. “But once inside parliament, they did not speak up for Madhes – some were scared, others sold out.”
“The Maoists, now in power, are trying to crush the Madhesis, because after all they too are ruled by the powerful hill communities,” added Shambhu Yadav, a farmer.
The conversation between Dubey and the Madhesi protestors had switched to Bhojpuri. “Bhaiya, if a father has 10 bigha land, won’t he distribute it equally among all his children? Similarly, Nepal has three children – Himal, Pahad, Terai. But the government is neglecting us.”
Divided over the Constitution
Nepal’s democratic Constitution was meant to redress this sense of inequality and disenfranchisement among its various ethnic and caste groups. Drafting a new Constitution was one of the main features of a 2006 peace agreement, agreed to by all political parties, which ended a decade-long civil war.
The Madhesis led a political movement in 2007-’08 against what they termed pahad rashtravaad, or hill-centric nationalism. They demanded new federal boundaries, reservations in public jobs, and measures to redress their under-representation in parliament. At least 50 were killed in police firing during that agitation. In the west, meanwhile, the Tharus demanded a Tharuat province.
Following these protests, all political parties agreed that the new Constitution will provide for Nepal’s transition from a unitary state to a federal one, divided into provinces.
The first constituent assembly, elected in 2008, failed to complete the charter, with parties differing over the proposed federal boundaries. A second constituent assembly was elected in 2013, but this too was mired in delays.
In April 2015, when a major earthquake devastated several hill districts, the three largest political parties – the Nepali Congress, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) – decided to fast-track the Constitution-drafting process.
They cut short the time for parliamentary debate and public consultation, and rolled back or diluted several provisions they had agreed to in the interim Constitution. The politically fragmented Madhesi leadership failed to assert itself.
Madhesis were agitated. Were the deaths in the Madhes movements of 2007 and 2008 in vain, they asked. This anger led directly to the current crisis.
Experts of international relations say the blockade has violated at least eight international laws and conventions, and this is tantamount to aggression.
The UN passed the Convention on Transit and Trade of Land-locked States in 1965, allowing land-locked nations like Nepal to import goods from other countries without any hindrance.
UN Convention on the Law of the Seas 1973, to which both Nepal and India are signatories, allows all land-locked countries unhindered access to the sea.
More than 165 countries, including Nepal and India, are members of World Trade Organisation, and they are entitled to the right to trade with each other.
In 1989, India imposed an official economic blockade against Nepal when a transit treaty between these two countries expired. The treaty was renewed only after restoration of multiparty democracy the following year. The treaty is still in force but India has imposed an undeclared blockade against Nepal.
Nepal has signed a trade treaty with India to access to sea via Indian territory, which has been violated.
Asian countries, including Nepal and India, have signed an agreement to connect their highways for regional trade. Nepal’s East-West Highway and Arniko Highway are parts of the Asian highway.
South Asian countries have adopted the concept of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) to promote trade and business with each other. SAFTA law does not allow any country to block other country’s goods.
8) Member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have started Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which guarantees free trade among its member countries.
Unicef has cautioned that the blockade of Nepal’s border posts with India“threatens the future of the country itself”.
The stark warning from the UN children’s agency, which echoes sentiments expressed by Nepal’s deputy prime minister, Kamal Thapa, earlier this month, follows calls by aid agencies working in the country for an urgent resolution to the crisis.
“First, there was a devastating act of nature – the earthquakes that took and damaged so many lives,” said Anthony Lake, the executive director of Unicef, during a recent visit to the country. “Now, political differences among human beings are dealing new blows to the children of Nepal.”
The crisis centres on opposition to Nepal’s new constitution, signed on 20 September. Although the charter was passed by a large majority of MPs, members of the ethnic Madhesi political parties boycotted the vote, claiming the constitution failed to guarantee them fair representation in parliament and public office.
Dr Swayam Prakash Pandit, the director of Bir hospital in Kathmandu, said the hospital is running low on vital drugs and oxygen cylinders. “We are managing so far but we will run out soon,” he said. “We are having to use firewood to cook food for our patients as we ran out of cooking gas.”
The Government of India, given how several Nepali people as well as politicians have expressed extremely hateful rhetoric against India, rightly feels that there may be any security incident [truck bomb, hidden terrorists, etc]. Thus, they increased security check.
A senior official in Nepal’s customs department said the movement of cargo through other border checkpoints had also declined, due to enhanced Indian security measures.
“Things have slowed down because Indian customs and security officials are carrying out more checks than usual,” said Shishir Dhungana, director-general of customs.
Nepalese politicians are becoming increasingly outspoken about what they see as India’s role in the blockade. On Sunday, the prime minister, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, suggested India was to blame for prolonging the blockade, describing it as “inhumane and beyond imagination” according to local media reports.
Some have accused India of siding with the Madhesi, who have close ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties with north India. India has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Ram Sharan Mahat, a former finance minister, said: “India should not use international trade as a tool to influence internal politics … Internal problems should be resolved internally … Nepal’s economy has been badly affected, especially at the time of post-earthquake reconstruction.”
With the onset of winter, Bharati and his family are struggling to sleep at night because of the cold. The fuel shortages have made things worse. “The current crisis has added more pain,” he said. “We are not getting cooking oil, kerosene oil and the price of food has gone sky high … Nothing has changed since the earthquake. The level of pain and difficulty is just getting worse.”
KATHMANDU, March 4: Indian leaders attending the opening ceremony of the Nepali Congress General Convention have expressed regrets over the suffering the Nepali people had to undergo because of the six-months-long blockade imposed by India.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the general convention at Tundikhel Khullamanch Thursday, Jogendra Sharma of the Communist Party of India (CPI) Marxist, said the Indian people are sad that the Nepali people had to put up with hardships for months because of the Indian-imposed blockade.
Nov 12, 2015-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns over the obstruction of essential supplies on the Nepal-India border.
In response to questions about the situation in Nepal during a regular press briefing in New York on Tuesday, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban, said, “The Secretary-General underlines Nepal’s right of free transit, as a landlocked nation as well as for humanitarian reasons.”
REPUBLICA , KATHMANDU, March 3
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the general convention at Tundikhel Khullamanch Thursday, Jogendra Sharma of the Communist Party of India (CPI) Marxist, said the Indian people are sad that the Nepali people had to put up with hardships for months because of the Indian-imposed blockade.
Likewise, Vijay Pratap Singh, vice-president of the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, apologized for the inconveniences faced by the Nepali people because of the Indian blockade.
“There should have been no blockade. I am ashamed of what India did to Nepal,” he said. He further said that Nepal should be a bridge between India and China.
Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar state, said that India extends its best wishes to Nepal as it has democracy now and is moving ahead toward peace and prosperity.
On 6 October, the Madheshi-centric Nepal Sadbhawana Party criticized the Nepali media reports blaming the blockade on India. Its President Rajendra Mahato stated that the blockade had been done by the Madheshi people, and that India had nothing to do with it. The Indians alleged that the Maoists, who dominate the Nepali politics, were promoting a false propaganda against India. An editorial in the Nepali Times has claimed the Indian blockade is no longer about the Madhes and the constitution, but rather that India also seems to be opposed to KP Oli replacing Sushil Koirala as prime minister, and has a whole host of demands on security and other issues that we haven’t even heard about.
There is no gas, no vegetable supplies, no fuel for vehicles, no fuel for airlines, and life is about frozen. We don’t want this type of friendship.(In reference to 1950 Indo-Nepal friendship treaty) —Khadga Prasad Oli UML Chair & Prime minister-designate of Nepal
On 28 October, the Nepal Oil Corporation and PetroChina signed an agreement to import fuel from China, the first fuel agreement ever between the two nations. China also pledged to donate 1,300,000 L (290,000 imp gal; 340,000 US gal) of fuel to Nepal.  Nepal is planning to import a third of its fuel from China.
Treaty of Trade and Transit Between the Government of India and His Majesty’s Government of Nepal
Trade carried on by India and Nepal with each other is regulated by different Indo-Nepalese Trade and Transit Treaties. Up to the year 1950, trade between the two countries was regulated by the Treaty of Friendship of 1923 between Great Britain and Nepal. The first formal trade treaty between British India and Nepal was signed in 1792. This Treaty was followed by Treaty of Friendship of 1923. Nepal’s transit problem in her trade with other countries apart from India arises out of its landlocked geographical location. The closest sea port from Nepal is the Kolkata port which is about 890 kilometers from its capital Kathmandu.
Transit facility through the adjacent countries for international trade is an important factor in the economic development of land-locked countries. The right of unrestricted transit in terms of free flow of goods and people and right of free, access to and from the sea is of paramount importance to land-locked countries. Theoretically, the right of access to the sea derives from the doctrine “Every nation is free to travel to every other nation and to trade with it.”Transit facilities are provided by India to Nepal through Kolkata which is connected to Barauni and Katihar by broad-gauge rail and from there to Raxaul, Jayanagar and Jogbani in India on the Indo-Nepalese border. After independence, India, with a view to promoting the economic development of Nepal started extending a helping hand by making available not only domestic resources but also foreign trade facilities through its territory and ports.
Indo-Nepal Treaty of Trade, 1991:
The Governments of India and Nepal being conscious of the need to fortify the traditional connection between the markets of the two countries mutually came up with this Treaty which came into force on the 6th December 1991 for a period of five years and was renewable for a further period of five years by mutual consent. This Treaty was animated by the desire to strengthen economic cooperation between them to develop their economies for their several and mutual benefit. Both the Governments were convinced of the benefits of mutual sharing of scientific and technical knowledge and experience to promote mutual trade between their respective territories and encourage collaboration in economic development.
This Treaty consisted of 12 Articles, Protocol and Annexure A and B. This Treaty kept almost all the provisions same as were there in the Treaty of 1978. Article II of the Treaty provisioned of endeavoring to grant maximum facilities and to undertake all necessary measures for the free and unhampered flow of goods needed by one country from the other to and from their respective territories. Two more products were added in the list of the primary products listed in the Treaty of 1978 and exempted from the basic Customs Duty on a reciprocal basis (Protocol Art. IV), thereby increasing the numbers of primary products to a total of 13. Moreover, in respect to Protocol relating to Article V, the term “auxiliary” was added in making it “basic and auxiliary” for exempting customs duty and quantitative restrictions for all manufactured articles which contained not less than 80% of Nepalese materials or Nepalese and Indian materials. In case of other manufactured articles in which the value of Nepalese and Indian materials including labour added in Nepal was at least 40% of the ex-factory price, the Government of India agreed to allow the articles on a case by case basis for preferential treatment. This preferential treatment was in die form of tariff concessions to the extent of 50% of the duty charged to the Most Favoured Nation where the value added in such articles is less than 80% but more than 40% of the ex-factory price. With regard to ‘additional’ duty collected by the Government of India in respect of manufactured articles other than those manufactured in ‘small’ units, certain provisions were made as whenever it was established that the cost of production of an article was higher in Nepal than the cost of production in a corresponding unit in India, a sum representing such difference in the cost of production, but not exceeding 25 per cent of the ‘additional’ duty collected by the Government of India, would be paid to the Government of Nepal provided that:
(i) Such manufactured articles contained not less than 80 % of Nepalese and Indian materials, and
(ii) The Government of Nepal had given assistance to the same extent to the (manufacturer) exporter.
The agreed routes for mutual trade were increased from 21 to 22 to include Darchula/Dharchula route in this Treaty.
Indo-Nepal Treaty of Transit, 1991:
This Treaty of transit had 11 Articles besides Protocol and Memorandum containing import and export procedure. This Treaty came into force on 6th December 1991 for a period of seven years.
Recognising the fact that Nepal is a land-locked country and it needs to have access to and from the sea to promote its international trade, the Treaty made the provision in its Article I that the Contracting Parties shall accord to ‘traffic in transit5 freedom of transit across their respective territories through routes mutually agreed upon. No distinction shall be made which is based on the flag of vessels, the places of origin, departure, entry, exit, destination, ownership of goods or vessels.
Two new routes for the traffic in transit to pass were added in this Treaty as compared to the earlier Treaty. These new routes were Calcutta-Naxalbari (Panitanki) and Calcutta-Sukhia-Pokhari (Protocol Art. VI).
Agreement of Cooperation to Control Unauthorised Trade, 1991:
An Agreement of Cooperation to Control Unauthorised Trade containing 8 Articles was signed between the Governments of India and Nepal on 6th December 1991. In order to protect the interest of both the countries the Agreement made provision of taking all such measures that were necessary to ensure that the economic interests of the other party were not adversely affected through unauthorised trade between the two countries. As per the Article II of the Agreement, both the countries agreed to cooperate effectively with each other to prevent infringement and circumvention of the laws, rules and regulations of either country in regard to matters relating to customs, narcotics and psychotropic substances, foreign exchange and foreign trade. Article III of the Agreement further made the provision of prohibiting and cooperating each other to prevent:
(a) re-exports from its territory to third countries of goods imported from the other Contracting Party and products which contain materials imported from the other Contracting Party exceeding 50 percent of the ex-factory value of such products;
(b) re-exports to the territory of the other Contracting Party of goods imported from third countries and of products which contain imports from third countries exceeding 50 per cent of the ex-factory value of such goods.
According to this Agreement, both the Governments agreed to exchange with each other regularly the lists of goods the import and export of which were prohibited, or restricted or subject to control according to their respective laws a regulations. In this way, the commitment was made to cooperate with each other in the prevention of unauthorised trade.
Revision in Indo-Nepal Trade Treaty and Treaty of Transit, 1991:
At the end of the official visit of Prime Minister of India, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao on October 21, 1992, a joint communique was issued in Kathmandu, which considerably enhanced India’s bilateral trade preferences to Nepal and further improvement in its transit facility. In accordance with the communique, India and Nepal signed three letters of exchange on 16 February, 1993.
One of dying letters related to trade while the other two related to transit. The letter relating to trade replaced Part V of the Protocol of the Treaty of Trade 1991. One notable feature of the amendment was the eligibility of the Nepalese labour content along with Indian and Nepalese materials qualifying as inputs while estimating their content in the ex-factory value of Nepalese manufactured output. Henceforth, the Government of India provided access to the Indian market free of basic and auxiliary customs duty and quantitative restrictions for all articles manufactured in Nepal which contained not less than 50 percent of the Nepalese labour content, Nepalese material content and the Indian labour content. Thus the requirement of Nepalese raw material content for duty-free access to the Indian market was reduced from 55 percent to 50 per cent Such rules of origin permitting the inclusion of labour in a preferential trading arrangement was unique .in Indo-Nepalese relations. Another important feature of the amendment was that the proforma clearance system for the preferential export of Nepalese manufactured items to India was abolished. By this provision, it was expected to abolish the procedural delays faced by the Nepalese exporters.
Another letter of exchange was concerned with the replacement of the letter exchanged at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Transit on December 6, 1991. Under the agreement, movement of the Nepalese private commercial vehicles from the Nepalese border to Calcutta/Haldia and back was allowed on such vehicles being duly authorised by the Government of Nepal or the Nepal Transit and Warehousing Company Ltd. or the Nepal Transport Corporation, and the necessary undertaking being given by them to the Indian customs authorities. As such the signed three letters of exchange between India and Nepal related to:
(i) Provisions relating to improvements and simplification of the regime for the export of Nepalese manufactured items to India on a preferential basis,
(ii) Movement of the Nepalese private commercial vehicles between Nepalese border and Calcutta/Haldia, and
(iii) Easier Nepal to Nepal movement of Nepalese vehicles and goods through India.