Nepal as quasi-colony? An energohistorical approach to Nepal-India relations
In this seminar, Mikkel Vindegg uses the Indian “unofficial blockade” on Nepal in 2015/16 to examine the relationship between Nepal and India in a historical perspective. The abrupt stop in trade across the Nepal-India border lasted several months and most immediately resulted in severe energy shortages in urban areas of Nepal. A look through Nepali history shows that the 2015/16 “blockade” was the third time India halted trade at conspicuously timed points—during times of political turbulence in Nepal. A further look at more regular patterns of trade reveal apparent inequities between Nepal and India.
Vindegg traces a historicised pattern of asymmetrical exchanges between Nepal and India to argue that the two countries’ relation may be characterised as “quasi-colonial”. He specifically looks at: The supply of Gurkha troops, historical and contemporary labour migration, and the sale of Terai timber for building the (British-)Indian railway. Seeing these exchanges as asymmetrical energy transfers provides a lens with which to unpack contemporary energy quandaries in Nepal and its current geopolitical predicaments. In this perspective, the "unofficial" blockade was just one of several overt instances where India has used Nepal’s geographic dependence to assert its interests in Nepal. A historical analysis centred around a particular perspective on energy exchanges can thus reveal less explicit patterns of the same kind: Patterns that shape the history and contemporary geopolitics of Nepal.
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About the speaker
Mikkel Vindegg is a senior lecturer at the Deptartment of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo.