Kathmandu, Oct 27: Nepali officials left for China today to negotiate a fuel deal and ease crippling shortages after protests over a new constitution blocked imports from its sole supplier India, a minister said.
Scores of trucks have been stranded at a key India-Nepal border checkpoint for more than a month, cutting off vital supplies and forcing fuel rationing across the landlocked Himalayan nation.
The shortages led to overnight queues at gas stations in Kathmandu and prompted the state-run oil company to ask foreign firms to airlift supplies into the country as it struggles to recover from a devastating earthquake earlier this year.
"An eight-member team left today for China to discuss importing petroleum products and end the current fuel crisis," Ganesh Man Pun, Minister for Commerce and Supplies, told AFP.
India has had a monopoly on Nepal's fuel supplies for decades but tensions over the blockade have prompted Kathmandu to turn to New Delhi's rival Beijing, which has already agreed to donate 1.3 million litres of petrol to the country.
It is unclear whether China has donated fuel to Nepal in the past, but officials say the two countries have never commercially traded oil or gas.
"In the long run, we hope we can source some of our petroleum needs from China," Pun said.
Kathmandu is exploring the possibility of transporting fuel via its northern land crossings with China, one of which re-opened this month after suffering damage in the earthquake that hit Nepal in April.