New dimensions of cooperationNon-traditional security governance requires a transnational approach
During the 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum held last month, Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), under which the latter will increase its assistance to the national assembly (NA) in the form of humanitarian and disaster relief equipment for a period of five years. One month before the forum, military personnel from both countries held the 2018 Everest Friendship military-coordinated training in China. This is also the second time that the two countries have carried out such military exchange activities. Under the background of ever-rising non-traditional security threats facing the world and joint-the need for joint-responses becoming the priority of most countries, military diplomacy and cooperation will open the doors for broader cooperation between the two countries in dealing with threats and become an indispensable part of the all-dimensional development of bilateral relations.
Non-traditional security is a concept different from traditional military and political security. It mainly covers terrorism threats, serious natural disasters, transnational crimes, major public health events, etc. One of the most important characteristics of non-traditional security threats is its transnational nature. Therefore, countries have taken international cooperation as a top priority in response to such threats. In the case of China and Nepal, considering the 1415 km boundary line and the complex natural geographical environment along it, the threat of major natural disasters is a serious reality that must be addressed collaboratively. The improvement of the bilateral relations has made the exchange of personnel and materials between the two countries more frequent. The threat of terrorism activities like extremism and cross-border crimes have also intensified.
Traditionally, China’s major domestic disaster relief missions have been undertaken by its armed forces. Its rapid response capability, high reliability and strict discipline have won wide acclaim among Chinese people. The unpredictability of disasters requires preparation and recovery work to be constant and professional. In March 2018, China newly established the Ministry of Emergency Management to unify the integration and management of China’s domestic emergency managing activities. The research on related theories and the cultivation of professional talents have already begun at an earlier stage. Chinese scholars have accumulated much experience in the research and practice of non-traditional security issues.
With the further development of globalization, consequences of domestic threats are no longer limited to the borders of one country. The earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 also caused losses to India and China. o Effectively rescuing and rapidly evacuating their own nationals after the disaster was a common task faced by the two neighboring countries. The severe floods in Nepal in 2017 also affected Indian citizens who resided around these areas.When a landslide lake crisis was aggravating the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra) in Tibet in October this year, the instant information was also notified to the downstream India authorities each hour. Frequent natural disasters and their indiscriminate harm are not only great challenges for neighboring countries, but also opportunities for deepening cooperation.
Beyond status quo
As a generally peaceful and stable regional environment, non-traditional security threats have become one of the greatest challenges facing China and Nepal. Both countries are victims of terrorist activities. The frequent occurrence of terrorism attacks in South Asia directly harms Nepal’s interests. In April 2017, the first-ever joint military training in the history of Sino-Nepalese was held in Kathmandu. The main programs targeted anti-terrorism tactics and disaster response. The last joint exercise between the two armies held in China also continued the same programs. These initiatives serve as a good start t for the two countries to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation
After the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, the assistance of international professional rescue forces from China and India to the Nepalese people was impressive. During the Wenchuan after-quake relief in 2008, China also received considerable international emergency rescue and post-disaster reconstruction assistance. At present, China and Nepal are also closely cooperating in reconstruction. Nepal is now accumulating precious practical experiences for post-disaster management, reconstruction of historical sites, and exploring a way of combining poverty alleviation and development in quake-affected areas. Moreover, Nepal has been closely collaborating with domestic and international NGOs related to this field in hopes to leverage their experiences and lessons.
It is an important measure for China to improve its national governance capabilities by setting up new ministerial institutions to rationalize domestic emergency management. It is, at the same time, a bold attempt in dealing with increasingly serious non-traditional threats. In transnational aspects, it is particularly urgent to seek international cooperation. When Prime Minister Oli was visiting China in June this year, the two countries had reached consensus on further enhancing law enforcement cooperation and had agreed to sign bilateral mutual legal assistance treaties and an extradition treaty as soon as possible. Relevant progress since then, including military contacts, has been satisfactory.
The theme of this year’s Beijing Xiangshan Forum is: Building a New Type of Security Partnership of Equality, Mutual Trust and Win-Win Cooperation”. Given their mutual dependence, China and Nepal still loom over a huge space for further cooperation in strengthening effective border control, combating smuggling and poaching, and dealing with climate change and other larger transnational concerns . Collaboration in information sharing, law-enforcement officials and technical personnel training, technology and experience exchange can be gradually achieved through policy communication and coordination. As both Nepal and India have reached out to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)—Nepal as dialogue partner and India a member—it will be an appropriate time and platform to strengthen cooperation with stakeholders in responding non-traditional threats.
It is undeniable and understandable that military contacts between China and Nepal are highly sensitive to other countries in the region. Military activities are extremely topical and must consider the timing of their joint training and the interpretation of its symbolic meaning by relevant parties. For the next step, enhancing the transparency of such activities and reducing the space for misunderstanding and misinterpretation is an important direction in enhancing the efforts of all parties. On the other hand, an international cooperation platform of a variety of stakeholders invested in non-traditional security governance must also be urgently considered.
Liang is a doctoral student at Sichuan University, China.