Silk Road euphoriaNepal’s preoccupation with domestic affairs has prevented it from moving ahead and joining the rest of the world
The Chinese-promoted Belt and Road Initiative has been receiving increasing attention around the world. More than 100 countries and international organisations are engaged in it. China has signed agreements with 40 countries on the route for co-construction besides carrying out international productivity cooperation with more than 20 countries. The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to bring benefits to the countries concerned if the idea is seen from an economic instead of a political perspective.
The Silk Road Economic Belt will link China with Europe through Central Asia and Russia, connect China with the Middle East through Central Asia, and connect China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Likewise, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is focused on using Chinese coastal ports to link China with Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean besides connecting China with the South Pacific Ocean through the South China Sea.
Realisation of Asian Century
Against this background, we should keep an open mind and make the construction of this economic corridor more fruitful when we sit together to discuss the construction of the China-Nepal-India Economic Corridor, which was initiated by the Chinese government and has been supported by the governments of Nepal and India.
The proposal was mooted by China during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Beijing in May 2015 and he received it positively. The leaders agreed that the simultaneous re-emergence of India and China as two major powers in the region and the world offered a momentous opportunity for the realisation of the Asian Century. They noted that India-China relations were poised to play a defining role in the 21st century in Asia and indeed the world. The leaders agreed that the process of the two countries pursuing their respective national development goals and security interests must unfold in a mutually supportive manner with both sides showing mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns, interests and aspirations.
In recent years, China has played a leading role in the establishment of a new set of international economic institutions, including the New Development Bank, BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Silk Road Fund and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Together, they represent a regional counterweight to Western-led entities like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—and more recently, the European Central Bank—that have dominated the global financial order since the introduction of the Bretton Woods system after the Second World War. China is only the third country in history, after Britain and the US, with the capacity to shape and lead a global system of finance and trade.
The US overtook the UK to lead the world in industrial production capacity in the late 19th century, but it was another 50 years and two world wars before it could dominate global finance. China recognises this reality and has consistently promoted the AIIB and other organisations, both as a complement and competition to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Cooperation among competitors
Nepal has officially signed the OBOR agreement with China which shows its zeal to collectively march ahead in all the areas proposed as the basic tenets of the core concept. Nepal’s geo-strategic position does not allow it to move independently in view of its size, position, capital endowment and multiple other factors. The true connectivity essence propounded in the spirit of OBOR certainly puts all participating countries in a win-win position, including those few harbouring chronic animosities due to security apprehensions. In today’s cooptitive (cooperation among competitors) milieu, a country’s prosperity can’t be imagined merely with an abundance of resources, geographical advantages or capital. Regimental notoriety can be flaunted even in isolation as has been demonstrated by the regime of North Korea, leaving aside any connectivity, whether with countries or world institutions.
As far as infrastructure development is concerned, Nepal’s requirements should be fulfilled as early as possible whether with help from the north or the south. Both China and India have moved far ahead in creating the infrastructure they need, leaving their small neighbours far behind. Development should be kept free of confusion and controversy, at least by political parties, so that Nepal can try to catch up with them. Our geography does not allow us to go to any country without going through their territories. Therefore, Nepal should lose no time in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the AIIB, of which it is a founder member.
Unfortunately, Nepal’s preoccupation with domestic affairs has prevented it from moving ahead and joining the rest of the world. Long overdue political business is taking up a lot of the government’s time. The executive and legislative branches of the state are always arguing with each other. Major decisions are withdrawn the very next day following pressure from coalition partners. In such a situation, the credibility and legitimacy of the government’s decisions are always being challenged and questioned. Unless these issues are properly addressed, the country can forget about development, service delivery and strategic international initiatives.
Baral was the foreign affairs advisor to the late former prime minister GP Koirala