Prof. Dr. Sadmukh Thapa (late)
(Retd. from Central Dept. of Political Science, T.U).
It is proverbially said that ‘Asia is where nobody likes anybody, very much’. Until, 1960s there were no strong and well-knit security mechanism here, in this continent. The nations of China-influenced Southeast Asia and India-influenced South Asia were themselves at loggerheads. To respect the words of Dic Wilson, they were ‘only quarrelsome lots vulnerable to global as well as regional hegemons’. But then came the hosts of new organizations like the Non-Aligned Movement, the ASEAN, SAARC, APEC, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and so on. There are also different Forums, quadrilateral and multilateral mechanisms such as the then-BIMSTEC, Boao forum, ARF and the likes. By the declaration of the 8th Summit of the ASEAN there would be by 2020 the emergence of Asia’s continental organization called the Asian Community comprising the ASEAN Economic Community, Security Community and Social- Cultural Community. This is of course, a good trend emerging. Prof. W. W. Rostow had suggested somewhere that in the prevailing vacuum of power in Asia; a regional-type mechanism would serve the interests of the nations here.
As we have seen a growing trend of regionalism has set in Asia- ‘too vast, diffuse and culturally divided.’ This is also a part of globalization and multilateralism where everybody gains from. At this juncture, Nepal is marching from the state trilateralism with India and China to that of quadrilateralism with one more partner, the USA.
Epicentral Nepal - the Exigency:
In the new equi-perspective, Nepal has to spin herself to churn out matching effects on India, China and the USA. It is to be seen how these countries respond.
The USA in the world of M. Kaddafi of Libya (late) has no friends but only slaves. That fits well with Lord Palmerston’s conviction that ‘no nation has permanent friends or allies but only permanent interests.’ National interest dictates pragmatism which the USA is convinced to play. The US power is often described as ‘too great, too comprehensive, too far-offshore and too enmeshed in the current status of the only superpower, in the great-power subsystem’. The US administration has been charged against upholding the precept of ‘absolute power’ preponderant over the world. The national security strategy of the country sustains policies such as ‘political hegemony’, diplomatic unilateralism, military preemptive attack and economic control’ over the world. As Henry Kissinger asserts, even the revolution of globalization is only the US ploy to manipulate the global system to its interest,
The ‘unprecedented hegemony’ of the superpower looks very ambitious so as to manipulate Asia in its stronghold so much so that there was even a proposition to form a mini-NATO in this continent, consisting of the USA, Australia, Japan and South Korea. The US government had also suggested a practice of quadrilateral defense exercises including Australia, India, Japan and the USA, which due to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s objection, has not been materialized.( The late author penned this article in 2009:Ed).
But, as in the words of Ralph Cossa, ‘the post-post cold war era has forced the USA to pursue a campaign of pragmatism in this part of the world, as much as in its interest-areas worldwide. The increasing US engagement in Asia is mainly due to the rising power of China, the emergence of economic, strategic and cultural Chindia and global problems like the international terrorism after the 9/11 Incident, the environmental pollution, proliferation of arms, drugs and so on.
China would be, formerly, as in the words of John Mearsheimmer of Chicago University, a ‘military threat’ which would provoke the USA into a formidable war. Alarmists, skeptics and detractors like him, would not intend to promote a peaceful world, for in Thucycide’s warning, ‘belief in inevitability of war can become one of its main causes’. It is now a global acclaim that China’s peaceful rise’ has rendered her ‘a responsible stakeholder’ in the world affairs of today. From H. Kissinger and Brzezinsky, Casper Weinberger and Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, all profess that China’s rise would be in the interest of all in the world. As former Secretary of State Collin Powell had ascertained the USA and China were the ‘best friends’, in history. These two countries are today bonded into trade, economic and strategic relationships which are held together by their own national interests. By the same token, the USA and India are relatively bound together by new exigencies of their ‘common interests’ and ‘strategic policies, especially since 2005. India has thus become US’s ‘best friend’ and a ‘partner of choice’.
China and India are bound together not only by history, cultural and civilization but also by contemporary compulsions of economy, trade, tourism, and sce-techno development. The ‘world factory’, China and the ‘world laboratory India, the hard and the soft power of the world have joined hands to dominate the Asian century. As in Indian PM, MM Singh’s assertion, they both make a ‘formidable force’ and ‘can together reshape the world order’. It is worth recollecting that Sun Yuxi, then Ambassador of China to India saying the truth that India and China are 99.9 percent friends from history. For Lii Haibo, a Chinese scholar asserts ‘India and China both are the schoolmates of ‘Modernization’. Reserving their differences, both the countries have now vowed to devote themselves to making common prosperity. Sashi Tharoor, former Under Secretary General of the UN, says, the show on the world stage has already begun and’ the elephant and the dragon are dancing together’. Also, Harvard business professor Tarun Khanna expresses in his ‘Billions of Entrepreneurs’: How China and India are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours that now people have begun to speak of ‘Chindia’ as if ‘the two were joined at the hip in the international imagination’.
The under currents show that Asia is in transformation- a strategic transformation, the most historical trend of our time. The balance of peace and stability is to be sustained here. For, the last quarter century after China’s ‘war of lesson’ on Vietnam in 1979, has been laid in place in Asia. The architects of the Asian peace and stability are China, Russia, Japan, India and Indonesia. The USA too has an overt role to play. China’s great-leap jump in her fledgling modernization is the 21st century’s greatest hallmark which would better substantiate and further guarantee Southeast Asian peace and prosperity. Together with India’s outstanding rise in the South Asian region, China would fervently catapult peace and prosperity in South and Southeast Asian regions as well as in the world, as such.
To maintain equilibrium in Nepal all the three actors, China, India and the USA have to play their proper and competent parts, where Nepal has to respond equi-centrally. We have over two millennia old relations with our northern neighbor China, with whom we have tested our mutual trust and equality through the vagaries of time. The Himalayas and the perennial rivers flowing down from them are our symbols of eternal relationship. Besides conventional relations of friendship, solidarity and cooperation from China has of recent added a new dimension of ‘good-neighborly relationship’ in its foreign policy. It is our mutual commitment that against any changes whatsoever in the world, our usual historical relationship would not change. But in the prospect of Nepal’s policy of equiproximity, China is solicited to remain very sensitive to the delicate subtlety of our position. So, do we hope India to be obliged to follow the suit? As recently scholars and diplomats like S. D. Muni state Minister Jairam Ramesh, Shyam Sharan and other have stressed, India one of our nearest and dearest friends is to treat Nepal with trust and equality. There would be no game of playing favorites or cards or power-politics. She would be honored to have Nepal behaved magnanimously. Revisiting the ‘Gujral Doctrine’ like Japan’s ‘Okuma Doctrine’ of the past, would serve some purpose. A novel and better policy would be advisable. As Nepal has to deal with China and India equi-proximately in the new perspective, it can be premised the US deal with the two in the same spirit of equiproximity, facilitating and cooperating with them, which would by all means, result in Nepal’s benefit. Nepal might then be a Switzerland between the two neighbors treating her constructive neutrality and nonalignment purposefully. There can be a “Concert”-like mechanism devised among Nepal, China, India and USA. In an era of globalization the spirit of multilateralism and transnationalism prevails over the rest of the things. Gone are the days of high-politics, security concern and military victory. The days of ‘power-politics’ and ‘spheres of influence’ are gone, too. So to speak, only the interests of ‘common security’ and ‘human security’ are to be assured and preserved. The success of the new diplomacy of Nepal may depend on the manipulation skill, dexterity and vision of our political leaders. It is not yet certain when and how the multidimensional New Nepal would settle in, as the country is passing through a painful transition of anarcho-democracy to a new era of peace, stability and prosperity.
# Late Thapa (rest in peace) was associated with China Study center.
Text courtesy: Journal of International Affairs. April-September issue, 2009.