Good neighbourly ties: A win-win situation

Since Nepal has very cordial relations with both the neighbours and as we also have our own military and para-military forces, both India and China are saving huge amounts on their defense budget

Nepal’s immediate neighbours, India and China, have been stunning the world with their outstanding advancement through economic development. Both these neighbors are emerging economic powers.  Until the 1970s, world economists were of the opinion that due to the huge and ever increasing population of these two countries, they would never be able to reach the level of prosperity that the people of the western world are enjoying. However, with the huge economic scale of production, scientific and technological innovations, industrialisation, commercialisation of agriculture and creation of markets through various innovative techniques, and, of course, with a massive educational drive along with their hard work, both these countries have proved that they are capable of providing all sorts of happiness to their people and compete with the rest of the world.

Being a land-locked country, Nepal shares a border on three sides with India and to the north with China. Though the cultural, religious and political relations with both the neighbouring countries were rightly maintained by the rulers of respective small principalities before Nepal’s unification, all the later rulers of unified Nepal also did their best to maintain good relations and please both these neighbours.

Following the end of British rule in India, there was continued tension in the border areas of India and the Tibetan region of China. The two countries even went to war in 1962 over territorial claims. However, a commendable thing about Nepal’s diplomacy is that during the war and the cold war that ensued, Nepal never took the side of any of them, nor did these nations try to use Nepali territory during the war.

Both India and China have been whole heartedly assisting Nepal in her economic development endeavours from the time Nepal opened herself to the world in 1950.  Nepal and China officially established diplomatic relations in 1955. Both these countries’ contribution, mainly in the field of basic infrastructure such as transport, hydro-electricity, agriculture, industry, communications, health and education are remarkable.

There have been frequent visits of heads of states and governments of both Nepal and the two giant neighbors. The recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India and Nepal has added yet another milestone in strengthening mutual relations and in maintaining regional peace and stability.

In today’s world, the definition of development and modernism has drastically changed mainly due to the advancement of technology. Now there are prospects of exporting our hydropower to both the immediate neighbours and even beyond. As the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China is also rapidly developing, the need for energy is increasing there, and it would be easier for China to import it from Nepal rather than have it supplied from far-off mainland. China’s road, rail and air transport network has almost reached the areas bordering Nepal, and this has opened new avenues for Nepal’s development.

During the past three decades, the ever bitter relations between India and China have improved significantly, and they have come up with compromising terms on many conflicting issues. This has gradually increased the volume of mutual trade between these two giant nations. If Nepal could become a major transit point between India and China’s trade route, we would benefit largely. For this, Nepal should have a smooth network of highways and rail routes connecting China and India. In brief, the more the territories of both India and China bordering Nepal develop, the faster Nepal will also head towards prosperity.

Each year India and China spend billions of dollars on the security of their frontiers.  But as Nepal is situated in between these two neighbours, they do not have to worry much along this 800-kilometre stretch and also do not have to deploy security personnel heavily. Since Nepal is playing the role of a neutral country having cordial relations with both these neighbours and as we have our own military and para-military forces, both India and China are saving huge amounts on their defense budget. As such, why should not Nepal request both these countries without any hesitation to allocate a good percentage of their annual defense savings for Nepal’s economic development?

Since the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police are playing a vital role in maintaining law and order, controlling all sorts of illegal activities targeted at our two immediate neighbours, providing security in the border areas, and working tirelessly in the field of managing disasters and working hard in times of natural calamities, we should also seek additional assistance from both the neighbours to help modernise and develop the capacity of our security agencies.

In return, we should be committed not to allow Nepali soil to be used by anybody to hatch a conspiracy, perform terrorist or criminal activities or involve in any other forms of acts directed against our neighbours.  In today’s modern era, Nepal can also play a role of mediator to help improve relations between India and China, besides giving firm support to the views and stands of our immediate neighbours at various international forums.

Lohani is a development economist and a former banker