Looking At Nepal With A Chinese Prism

Posted by Dr. Shreesh Pathak in GlobeScope, Politics
December 22, 2017

It’s almost clear that an elected democratic government is going to be formed under the leadership of the Left coalition parties in Nepal. This is a country which has waited long for a full-fledged democratic and federal republic to ensure the proper representation of people who associate themselves with three major identities – Himal, Pahad and Terai.

It can be hoped that this government will be a stable one which will last for the next five years, by favourably coordinating with the state governments, many of which are also likely be led by the Left coalition parties. It can also be hoped that Nepal will follow its natural course of development, which has been badly affected in the last 30 years. After all, the country really deserves to have a peaceful and stable period of governance.

As Nepal has adopted a federal structure, this certainly will help them address the many concerns of the people regarding the issue of their identity. A strong government at the centre will be decisive in taking essential steps, which will eventually strengthen the integrity of the country.

The new government in Nepal will have many challenges that may need to be addressed sooner or later. Elections are contested mainly on the issue of development – and undoubtedly, this should be the foremost agenda of the government. Development requires investments, resources and prowess.

In order to have all these things, Nepal needs to maintain relations with the actors of the world system (in general) and with India and China (in particular). As a land-locked country, Nepal is bordered by India on three sides and with China from one side. Also, it does not have any direct access to sea routes for trade activities.

Whereas India enjoys a typically traditional relationship with the country, China has made more ambitious and cautious attempts to build a sturdy relationship, especially through the vast programme under its One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy. Situated in the lap of the Himalayas, Nepal can indeed be a promising source of hydro-power – and it can develop itself as a central point for trade interactions connecting India, China, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

As a most-important neighbour, India is keenly watching Nepal’s progress as a democratic country. In the long run, nobody can deny the role of India in Nepal and the kind of rapport the countries have. In my opinion, this relationship is incomparable.

But India cannot be complacent, keeping in mind China’s ‘string of pearls’ policy and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India needs to be more engaged with Nepal than ever before. India should understand the needs of a new nation which aspires to adopt an ambitious developmental path. It has to be ready with generous offers which Nepal will not be able to refuse, despite China’s backing. India also needs to correct its traditional diplomatic approach towards Nepal, and should not react in haste over any China-Nepal cooperation.

Nepal, with a new Constitution and a newly-elected government, needs both India and China, as both economic and geographical concerns suggest. Obviously as a sovereign state, Nepal will try to utilise its geopolitical location in order to beat the constraints of its geography. India cannot approach Nepal as a buffer state any longer. Rather, it should see Nepal as a credible neighbour which is willing to go forward, hand-in-hand.

Definitely, a leftist government at the Centre may make India a little bit uncomfortable while dealing with Nepal, especially when China is already investing significantly in the country. However, India should go ahead with its legacy of interconnecting countries, its outstanding democratic credibility and the mutual reverence arising from its ability to build relationships between people.

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Lintao Zhang/Pool/Getty Images