Nepal is a tiny Himalayan nation situated between two Asian giants China and India. The geo-strategic location of Nepal is very sensitive, and thus it is an important discourse for China and India in the current time. The upcoming superpower China is leading the BRI project to drive their political and economic influence in the worldwide arena while America including India is leading the Indo-Pacific Strategic Scheme which was formed to counter the Chinese BRI dream project. Nepal is the member of BRI. But in the Indo-Pacific project, Nepal did not join the member of Indo-Pacific Strategy. The BRI is the biggest project of China to bring the power back into the hands of China. China Foreign Policy expert and researcher Jeffery Ribhs explored that BRI is the signatory initiative dream of president Xi Jinping to flourish the Chinese model in the global surrounding and challenged the US international leadership1. Political analyst Andres Sarbin illustrated that world economic power hub has now been transported from the Atlantic region to the Asia Pacific region2. The biggest reshuffling in the international system is the rise of China. While the Indo-Pacific Strategy advocates on the American alliance on the connectivity issue of land, ocean, and energy and cyber security, the reality is to restore the American policy and trace the China policy and their outlook in the international surrounding. This is the right time for Nepal to seriously work on the framework of both challenges and opportunities of BRI and Indo-Pacific strategy. In the current situation, China has been closely monitoring Nepal’s foreign policy, political developments and its situation, economic rate and security policy by the perspective of BRI framework. Similarly, America and its allies also look at Nepali policies by the perspective of Indo-Pacific framework3. The involvement of BRI and Indo-Pacific Strategy is the main concerning agenda of Nepal’s current foreign policy.
The BRI diversifies Nepal in terms of trade, connectivity, access to the sea, and different other aspects4. And, BRI as the mega project to link the whole world, appears as a beam of hope for the Nepali people. Approximately 8,715 Chinese tourists visited Nepal in 2002 whereas the figure reached to 123,850 by 2014. This multiplying number of Chinese tourist in Nepal within 12 years can be the best example of the impact of BRI in Nepal5. This is the best time that Nepal should link their connectivity and economic empowerment link with the BRI. It makes a better relationship and correlation build up with upcoming superpower China. While in the case of Indo-Pacific, Nepal has not been a part of the US strategy. In this point, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali made it clear that Nepal was not a part of the United States’ “Indo-Pacific Strategy”6. Still, in this sense, Nepal’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region is not necessary. It only affects the amicable and goodwill relationship Nepal shares with China because Indo-Pacific strategy is countering the China mechanism.
Foreign policy experts opine that Nepal’s participation in the US strategy aimed at countering China could bring mistrust between China and Nepal because Nepal has already become a signatory to China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. The strategy is aimed at reshaping America’s regional approach and coalescing efforts to manage a rising China7.
Therefore, Nepal has to clearly synthesize the importance of BRI and Indo-Pacific strategy to strengthen the foreign policy and regional connectivity mechanism. Saying that, both Chinese and American strategies (BRI and Indo-Pacific) collide with one another in Nepal. However, both connectivity is equally necessary for Nepal as Nepal has not only good relationship with China but also an amicable relationship with the US. Thus, the current political insight is that Nepal has to maintains= the balance in relationships in the international arena.
In the part of BRI and Indo-Pacific strategy, Nepal is already associated with the BRI connectivity. If Nepal also engages in the Indo-Pacific Alliance to focus on the issue of regional connectivity, especially increasing the forum of SAARC and BIMSTEC only, other connectivity with Indo-Pacific may damage the China and Nepal relationship. So, Nepal has to carefully and seriously handle the recent geo-strategic dimensions between the two giant nations – China and India.
- Kiran, Chapagain. How to take benefit (Kasari Faida Line). Himal Weekly Magazine. 3-9 February, 2019.pp.20-21.
- Ibid (p.20).
- Ibid (p.21).
- The Himalayan Times. BRI crucial to diversify economic risk. November 18, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
- Niraj, Lawoju. Belt and Road Initiative a huge opportunity for Nepal. China daily, 2018-09-1. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
- The Himalayan Times. Nepal not part of Indo-Pacific Strategy. December 23, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
- Santosh, Ghimire. FM Gyawali refutes Nepal’s central role in Indo-Pacific Strategy. My Republica, December 22, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
Author: Chakra Bam
Photo: Sushma Bhatta