India’s LPG offer to Nepal to check China’s influence

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NEW DELHI: After winning hearts in UP through rapid implementation of ‘Ujjwala’– the project for providing free cooking gas connection to poor houses –– the Modi government on Monday moved to win over Nepal by offering to assist in launching a similar scheme.

At a meeting with Nepal’s supply minister Deepak Bohara here, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan also accepted Kathmandu’s request to consider a pipeline for supplying cooking gas and extend the proposed Rs 200-crore product pipeline further inside Nepal’s territory.

At the heart of Pradhan’s offer on Ujjwala, acknowledged as a major factor in fuelling BJP’s rise in UP, lies an attempt to build on CM Yogi’s substantial following across the border to reignite the ‘roti-beti’ paradigm in bilateral relations. “India and Nepal have had fuel supply agreement since 1974. Supplying fuel to Nepal is not a business proposition for India. It is our responsibility,” Pradhan assured Bohara before Indian Oil and Nepal Oil Corporation renewed their fuel supply agreement for five years.

It also indicates New Delhi’s subtle attempt to counter China’s growing influence in Nepal, which had seen a rise in anti-India sentiment during last year’s economic blockade by minority Madhesis – Nepalese of Indian origin– disrupting supplies from India and sparking fuel shortage.

Miffed by the blockade, the then Nepal government signed a trade and fuel supply pact with China. But the Himalayan logistics involved in carting fuel from China has made the option economically unviable. The renewed agreement makes India the sole supplier but accommodates Nepal in other areas.