Indian firms being targeted in Nepal worries New Delhi
Amid heightened anti-India sentiments in Nepal because of a border blockade, unidentified persons threw a petrol bomb at the office of GMR Energy, an Indian conglomerate, on Tuesday evening.
The attack came days after India asked Nepal to inquire into similar incidents at GMR’s hydropower project and ensure security for Indian companies based in the Himalayan nation.
Senior police official Pratap Singh Thapa told the media that a window at the office, located in Lalitpur near Kathmandu, was broken in the attack. No one sustained injuries.
GMR Energy is part of a consortium that is building the 900-MW Upper Karnali hydropower project. The project, costing nearly $1.5 billion, is the single largest foreign investment in Nepal.
This is not the first time the group has been targeted. A similar attack took place at GMR’s project site in Surkhet district last month, and in September last year, a group of youths tried to vandalise the office.
Officials alleged these attacks are orchestrated by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, a breakaway Maoist faction, which has been targeting Indian establishments in Nepal for years.
Other hydropower projects such as the 250-MW Upper Marsyangdi, 750-MW West Seti and 402-MW Arun III, in which Indian firms have large stakes, have been targeted in the past for being against Nepal’s interests.
“There has been no major damage yet due to the attacks. It seems the outfit wants political mileage from such incidents,” said DK Singh, assistant vice president of GMR Energy.
The string of attacks on Indian entities has New Delhi worried. The Indian embassy in Kathmandu recently sent a letter to Nepal’s foreign ministry to inquire into the incidents and provide adequate security.
“Officials working in the office narrowly escaped and the incident has created a sense of panic amongst them,” said the letter mentioning the attack at GMR Energy’s project site in Surkhet.
Indian firms account for more than half the foreign investments in Nepal and the embassy said such attacks could dampen the confidence of Indian investors.
Nepal is facing a severe shortage of essential goods and fuel because of a blockade of key points along the border with India by Madhesis (the residents of the Terai plains bordering India), who are protesting against the country’s new constitution.
Despite New Delhi’s repeated denials about any involvement in the blockade, many in Nepal blame India for the current state of affairs.