Security Concern in South Asia

India and China can trade via Nepal


By GP Acharya (KATHMANDU, 18 March 2019) – In reality, Nepal wants prosperity, India needs security, China wants economic superiority where as Pakistan needs peace and stability at the moment. Both India and Pakistan have severe foreign policy challenge today. However, there is no option between India and Pakistan other than dialogue to resolve the burning conflict including Kashmir issues and start new relations politically, diplomatically and economically.

If India and China want to be global leader in economy and politics, they have to march ahead together considering the economic well-being and sovereignty of their neighbors. Both India and China have to be successful in projecting themselves as a benign economic power to win the hearts of their immediate neighbors and project an honest tone to respect the minimum interests of their neighbors.

The concept of economic cooperation, in South Asia, is to be a practice of economic dynamics that has to lead to peace, connectivity and security in the region. The process of economic integration could create a platform to interact peacefully and cultivate sustainable peace in the region. For the broad regional integration in South Asia, inter-state conflict, gap of trust, diplomatic crisis and suspicion to each other need to be watered down now.

Security Architecture

By realizing the security concern within border and beyond, the incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan has extended cordial hand with India for talks. He has shown an appreciative “gesture of peace” even after the recent confrontation between them. Tapping the soft gesture of arch rivals and being the current chair of SAARC, Nepal has to exploit the platform of SAARC to bring all the SAARC members together again for the regional security, border crimes control and reciprocated surveillance.

In addition, tapping the situation and analyzing the latest political developments in South Asia, Nepal can play vibrant role to form Nepal-India-China (NIC) Cooperation. NIC Cooperation should float an idea of sustainable high tech security and economic architecture within its framework, so that all the members benefit from it.

Considering the geo-location and the future prospect of security, NIC Cooperation has to devise strategy to hold strong position in the region. Nepal’s existing geo-location, sandwiched between the two emerging economic giants, China and India, has brought continuous interest and watchful eyeing of the world’s major powers in Nepal. This could perhaps be by assessing the soft potentials and natural resources of Nepal or by assessing the strength and potentials of our neighbors or perhaps by thinking that Nepal can become a stable hub to challenge or counter challenge the neighboring powers. Nepal’s security, or lack thereof, is going to affect the security of India and China because of Nepal’s geo-proximity with both the countries. Since, Nepal is projected as a bridge between China and rest of South Asia in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, Nepal’s location has assumed greater importance in the region than ever. Terrorism, crimes, religious conflict, drugs and other transnational issues may be injected in this region through Nepal particularly to make BRI project vulnerable. So, Nepal has to play safely by making both the neighbors realize the possible threat to their security.

On the other hand, India is having numerous domestic challenges ahead- the security concern, growing number of populations, rising rate of unemployment, poverty in the rural areas, and the dearth of drinking water. India does not have any option other than enhancing relations with resourceful Nepal and China, basically in water and other resources. At the mean time, Nepal can be an influencing soft partner to both India and China. Subsequently, NIC cooperation would be the genuine platform for all the three members to make a win-win situation.

Economic Architecture

When the Indo-Pak border crisis is resolved and their relations get warmer, Indian fear psychoses of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be watered down and that would help find ways to India to benefit from BRI. If so, India would be an equally active player in the economy as well as politics of the region and will have equal platform to expand the sphere of influence in the region. Since, India is a key contributor of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that has allocated $100 billion for $900 billion BRI project, Indian concern of sovereignty and territorial integrity may be addressed to maintain ‘new type of international relations’, as anticipated by President Xi, in the region that would boost both India and China to rise together as the World’s next super power.

China and India have both strengthened trade ties realizing the common ground of emerging economies. After all, India and China are already together in numerous organizations- SCO, BRICS, AIIB and BCIM among others. Sooner than later India can find the best possible ways to benefit from BRI and graciously invite China in SAARC. This will enormously strengthen regionalization.

India and China can trade each other via Nepal. Because of the existing geo-location, India and China both can benefit more trading with each other than trading in American or European markets. Likewise, due to the geographical proximity, Nepal can be very suitable bridge for trade and tourism through where 1.4 billion populations in the north and 1.3 billion populations in the south can make a ply which could be one of the largest tourism markets in the world. NIC has to enhance connectivity, trade and investment, tourism and cultural touch among its members besides enhancing the security architecture. And, the areas of cooperation could be energy, cross border crimes, technology transfer, resource sharing, knowledge transfer and cultural connection.

The Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 has spurred various leaders to push for regionalization. China and India have occasionally linked up with ASEAN. Given that the member states of organizations- SCO, SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN and BCIM among others do not trade as much with each other as they do with rest of the world. Hence, there would be greater trade diversification through regionalization.

Political Will

Shifting of global environment and the relative decline of US and EU power is a strategic window for China and India to increase their global influence. Since, Europe is in dismay, American power is gradually declining, China is marshaling the clout of soft power, India is also mounting its influence and Nepal stands at a very important location in entire Asia. Then, China and India are the only nations to be future superpowers which together can lead the world ahead.

Realizing all these developments, potentials, possibilities and opportunities, the political leaders in Nepal, India and China have to set strategic vision and political will and step ahead for the conception of NIC Cooperation to maintain peace, prosperity, harmony, and sustainable high tech security and economic architecture in the region.

Yet again, all the member states needs to project a ‘balanced tone’, politically, diplomatically and strategically to respect the core and genuine interests of each other that would help maintain the sustainability of the projected NIC cooperation and embark on ‘new type of international relations’ in the region.

Acharya is a researcher and analyst who holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Statistics, MPhil in Management (Studied) and M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy (Research Progress).

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