NEW DELHI: Relations between India and Nepal have dipped to a new low with the economic blockade leading to wide unrest in the Himalayan neighbour, leading to protests and the death of an Indian national, and now followed by a war of words with Nepal Chief Minister making it clear that he will brook no interference in his country’s internal affairs. Curfew has been imposed across the Nepal-India border.

India has opposed the Nepal Constitution that instead of declaring a theocratic state opted for a secular democracy, and came out strongly on the side of the Madhesis claiming that they had been ignored in the new document. Efforts by the Nepal government to point out that many of the demands had been accommodated and the remaining being looked out were dismissed by New Delhi that continued to insist that the Constitution was one sided.

The Madhesis on the India-Nepal border stepped up the agitation that Kathmandu has seen as part of an Indian effort to stoke fires. Trucks carrying goods, including fuel from India, were stopped at the borders with again the Nepal government claiming that it was part of an economic blockade by India, and New Delhi adamant that this was because of the violent protests at the borders. The result was that the celebration of the major Dussehra festival in Nepal suffered, with shortage of fuel and commodities, and spiralling prices.

This has, according to reports from Kathmandu, resulted in a strong anti-India sentiment across Nepal with passions rising on a daily basis. The death of an Indian national from Bihar in police firing has further fuelled tensions between the two neighbours with the Indian government summoning the Nepalese envoy here to lodge a protest. Shortly after Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli warned India not to interfere in his country’s internal affairs.

PM Oli openly accused India at a public function of “propping up” the Madhes-based political parties to impose blockades at the custom points along the open border between the two countries."Why is India rallying behind the four Madhes-based parties," he a

He made it clear that the Nepal “Constitution is not targeted against any country” and reminded the audience that it was promulgated with a vote in favour of 96% of the Constituent Assembly members. India had tried to get Nepal to stall the promulgation of the Constitution after it was known that the Himalayan country had decided to adopt a federal constitution and not declare itself as a theocratic rashtra.

The Madhes-groups have, predictably, announced that they will not enter into talks with the Nepal government. China has stepped in to bail Nepal out of the fuel crisis imposed by the blockade, another issue that has added to the tensions between India and what was till recently a very friendly neighbour.

Senior former diplomats spoken to but who did not wish to be quoted at this stage are very critical of India’s Nepal policy maintaining that it was a reliable ally in Saarc and the wrong handling had virtually destroyed an excellent relationship.