A sense of reality and possibilityThe prospects of hostile India-China relations are not shocking for the developed world, though it is extremely harmful to Asian economies.
When the novel coronavirus was not known, and the world was moving ahead with an undivided economic vision where China’s ideological priorities were shrewdly made to coexist with consumerism, there was a strong clamour for the ‘Asian Century’. Globalisation was seen as a cure-all enigma. Sadly, it crumbled when China was blamed for producing the deadliest virus, and an aggressive counter by neo-nationalism made the world order look like a set of a 10-pin game.
A much stronger Chinese nationalism at home, global trade integration lost in transition, and fast approaching mass poverty for over a billion people the world over ensure the clanging of alarm bells. The pseudo comfort offered by globalisation despite its discontents is waning, and unrest is intensifying not just on the streets but in the desperate decision-making process. This makes the state oppressively overbearing. Under the new framework, there is no chance left for the old ideologies to survive, even in the form of symbolism. Democracies are failing their citizens en masse with their clumsy leaderships that thrive on some kind of authoritarianism.
Current international relations are being ruled through domestic political compulsions or misplaced priorities, the case of the India-Nepal standoff is an example. Also, the deep border disputes and low-scale confrontations between India and China can be seen in this perspective. The message that comes out is loud and clear, it implies a disastrous end of flawed diplomatic and strategic manoeuvrings.
In fact, the prospects of hostile India-China relations are not shocking for the developed world, though it is extremely harmful to Asian economies. It should be noticed how India’s trade terms with China are seeing an unprecedented fall while the United States is back in business with China. In post-Covid-19 times, China’s understanding should put a stop to its exceedingly damaging ‘String of Pearls’ action and expansionist Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and move forward with a peaceful rise with its entrepreneurial capabilities.
As China’s integration with the rest of the world will be troubled in the times to come, it should have given more focus to Asia with a sense of reality and possibility. Its double-speak is unlikely to give it mileage like in the past. As the conflict between the two Asian giants has already reached a flashpoint, the onus is on China to act for peace.
Nepal, for reasons best known to its decision-makers in the left camp, has not read China’s intentions in the South Asian region. The BRI is a grand design and Nepal will seriously suffer if it falls prey to Chinese advances, especially if it does so at the cost of weakening its reliable terms with India and without developing its own capabilities. When it comes to Lipulekh or the matter of sovereignty at large, Nepali lawmakers have every right to act. However, those acts are supposed to strengthen Nepal’s position rather than sensitise the main plank and let go of the options in diplomatic engagements and dialogue.
It is important to recall the apathy of Asians towards their own history, and investigate why it is that the Western model—ridden with crises of idea and direction—is still being religiously adhered to in Asia. The weakening of radical political ideologies, and the failure of the existing leftists to find an alternate route regarding ‘intelligent economics’, has made the scene viciously saturated. India and Nepal are uniquely suffering with democratic left ideologies without defined accountability and commitments. Even now, reckoning about the broken Western model is not commonplace, it no doubt continues as a dominating political and economic force. Not long ago, the prominence of Asia seemed imminent as it had vast untapped potential. However, diverse governing patterns in different Asian countries stopped their rise on an even plank.
Among those countries, Nepal is well placed with its relatively positive fundamentals and its firm embrace of modernism and democracy. But this nation needs to admire its icons in a more engaged manner, besides eliminating the conditions that allow regressive ‘partisans’ to thrive disproportionately. BP Koirala was a nationalist and yet an internationalist without any predicament. Can’t the serving Nepali politicians of this time period pause and consider Koirala as a role model? Many other first-generation democratic leaders, including those from the left background, should be recalled for their balanced stand.
In an interview with a Kathmandu-based think tank, the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement, Noam Chomsky said China doesn’t have a socialistic system and India’s progressive democracy is being separated from its finer elements. Nepal’s interest lies in being neutral, he added. Indeed, Nepal has a fair chance to broaden its developmental agenda by pursuing enlightened self-interest in its foreign policy. There is a need to discriminate between the national interest and political interest, the former should steer the foreign policy and engagements.
A trilateral front of India-Nepal-China is unlikely until China looks for extra space in the South Asian region and threatens India’s geopolitical and economic interests. For Nepal, this is not viable either, as its bilateral relations with India will sustain the tides on the strong fundamentals and people factor. While China should think of a peaceful rise and contribute its due to the dreams of an Asian Century, India must deliver more, and on time, in Nepal. Nepal, for its part, should do better homework and get into a framework that enables it to act freely without undeserving preoccupations. Its maturity lies in knowing its interest well and not losing the immense goodwill in India. India should always reciprocate. In a trying time like this, India and Nepal have a common ground to make a cooperative narrative and boost regional and sub-regional cooperation.
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