China Cancels Nepal Flights as Trade Blockade Hits Fuel Supply

  • Protesters with India links are blocking main trade routes
  • Nepal looking to open checkpoints; India denies blockade

Chinese airlines canceled flights to and from Nepal citing fuel shortages as supply routes from India -- the Himalayan nation’s main partner -- stay blocked amid escalating civil strife.

China Southern Airlines Co. halted ticketing for Oct. 1-10 and China Eastern Airlines Corp. is offering free rescheduling or cancellations through Oct. 24 after Kathmandu airport told the carriers it can’t provide fuel, according to a company statement and media reports. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala requested India to reopen the trading points, the Press Trust of India reported Friday, adding that India has denied imposing any blockades.

Nepalese citizens with ethnic ties to India are blocking checkpoints in protest against the country’s new constitution that they say denies them equal rights. India accounts for about 60 percent of landlocked Nepal’s trade despite increasing commerce with China.

"We can only take goods up to the border," Vikas Swarup, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters in New York on Sept. 30. "Beyond the border, it is the responsibility of the Nepalese side to ensure that there is adequate safety and security for the trucks to enter."

At least 40 people have died in over a month of clashes between protesters and Nepal’s police. India is "deeply concerned" about the violence and has "consistently argued that all sections of Nepal must reach a consensus on the political challenges confronting them," India said in a Sept. 21 statement.

Swarup couldn’t be reached on his mobile phone on Saturday.

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