Nepal: Through Himalayan Looking Glass, 21st Century World Order

Madhukar SJB Rana

Board Institute of Foreign Affairs, Institute for Development Studies,

The US is the sole Super Power this century. We feel its military, technological, ideological, economic and political weight like never before. From being stationed permanently in the Korean peninsula, Europe and Japan it has moved NATO to take action firstly in West Asia and then in the Balkans. Post September 9, 2001 it has moved into South Asia and once more in West Asia with a new doctrine of the right to preventive war. How long will this hegemony continue? One may assume it to last till 2030, if not 2050.

How to maintain this position of preponderance will be the primary aim of its foreign policy in the 21st century. It will seek to maintain that position by all means--- diplomatic, intelligence, military and political.

'That position' consists of: (a) economic supremacy, being challenged by Europe as a bloc; promoting free trade to create interdependence be they bilaterally or regionally or sub-regionally; using the IMF, WTO and World Bank as the lever to control the non-industrial nations of the world; (b) military supremacy, consisting of acquiring overwhelming nuclear superiority and threatening to use it if need be from its territory or overseas; thwart any move towards nuclear disarmament; develop capacity for 'star wars' or nuclear interception in space; enlarge and extend NATO into Asia; re-mould the US-Japan security arrangement to suit the post 9/11 environment and the possible re-unification of the Koreas (which may mean the nuclearization of Japan); establish bases in West, Central and South Asia; (c ) political, put pressure on China and the Muslim nations with the rhetoric of human rights, democracy, good governance; enunciate the doctrine of preventive wars against terrorism and 'evil'; disallow supremacy of the UN over its national laws and promote its laws as a universal phenomena; contain Russia and China with 'strategic partnerships' with Central Asian Republics; contain China with entente cordiale with India; contain Russia through enlargement of 'old' Europe to 'new Europe' and maintain 'strategic partnership' with Ukraine, Poland and Romania; (d) intelligence, ensure that there are no weapons of mass destruction in countries other than the Big Five; foil terrorism with counter-terrorism activities; monitor production of drugs and narcotics and smuggling and illegal trade activities.

China aims to be a co-equal Super Power with the US in the 21st century. Witness, therefore, China and Russia jostling with each other not knowing whether to come together united against the US or to woo Europe and India separately to counter-balance  US power. This wooing will take the form of closer economic ties to begin with. If India cozies up to China, because Russia prefers to be allied to Europe and NATO, then China will not mind the enlargement of the nuclear club to include India and have India as a member of the UN Security Council.

China may even go all out to promote Asian solidarity and unity through inter-regional cooperation through a series of free trade arrangements as well as arrangements for sub-regional cooperation in Central, South, South East and East Asia, if Japan is too closely allied to the US.

Where India does not respond geo-politically to Chinese gestures then China will bank on its strategic relations with Pakistan to contain India and, together with each other, will develop much closer economic and security ties with the rest of South Asia, especially as its hinterlands in the South West need better access to the high seas.

The only way for India to counter this force is to settle the Kashmir problem, first and foremost, to the satisfaction of Pakistan and then move the SAARC agenda forward towards an Economic Union of South Asia on a fast tract by agreeing to sacrifice immediate and short-term benefits for long-term gains. This may involve free movement of peoples across borders, without visas, to all countries for employment and social reunion and interface that will set the foundations for an eventual Confederation of South Asian Nations (CSAN).

Such a confederation will be the third fulcrum of global prosperity, post 2050, after China and US, but before Europe and Japan. In the coming together of India and Pakistan the era of the 'clash of civilizations' will come to an end, which will bring the West Asian region into the geo-economic orbit of South Asia to strengthen both Asian regions.

The fulcrum of world politics will lie till 2030 (if not 2050) in US and China with all other regions and countries responding to developments between them since the relations between the Super Power and near-Super Power are determinants.

The US will initiate the diplomatic moves till 2030 as China wants to build its economic, technological, scientific and military capacity by maintaining internal peace and stability and for this requires cordial relations with all. Development, domestic political stability and rapid modernization are, and will be, their foremost foreign policy concern. So long as Taiwan is kept wrapped up in its 'one-China, two nations' policy this foreign policy will hold firm.

Later, inevitably, the very success of the Chinese leadership will result in it being the world's second most powerful nation and in a position to make its own diplomatic initiatives; rather than responding to the US's as in the thirty to first fifty years of this century.

One does not see China-India relations getting close at least up to the end of 2030 when India will be an industrial, developed nation. Neither does one see the formation of a South Asian Economic Union by 2015 due to the continued Indo-Pakistan divide. So, therefore, expect the US as 'allies' of both Pakistan and India to be much more active in the affairs of South Asia with a direct presence in terms of trade, investment, technology and, not least, security cooperation to combat terrorism in all its manifestation.

Whether India likes it or not, the US will be in South Asia like never before as an honest broker, if not actually as mediator and arbiter in the affairs of the "world's most dangerous region" as proclaimed, not too long ago, by former President Bill Clinton when he visited the region.

(This Futures Paper was written around 2002-03: A revisit may be useful as BRICS; China-India-Nepal Trilateralism and China-India-Myanmar-Thailand Quadrilateralism  are in the geo political scene these days-Author).

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I agree


  • Posted on - 2013-07-14    by     prabir
  • Prof Rana mentions that the advent of BRICS may need a rethink regarding his conclusion Actually, it is hardly likely that BRICS will make any difference to the domination of the US in world affairs for many more years to come. To be honest, BRICS is a non starter given he dire straits if these economies now. May be BRICS should also include Iran, Indonesia and Turkey to have more impact on the US.
  • Posted on - 2013-07-04    by     B.M. Jain
  • It's a thought provoking piece with new insights and pragmatic approach to resolving the complexities involved in the art of foreign policy and diplomacy. Prof. Rana's write ups are always instructive and inspiring, written with a command of the subject. I recommend this piece to all those who are seriously engaged in the dynamics of the changing contours of geopolitics and the primacy of geopsychology- a blend of realism. Congratulations again.
  • Posted on - 2013-07-03    by     David in London
  • I don't see BRICs etc making any difference to Imperial America which tends to believe that it is a new Civilization on its own right and might. What the author does need to add to his insighfuk analysis is the use of ITC and cyber surveillance globally by the US to maintain its hegemony. Unhappily, a new Cold War will start with all countries going into cyber wars and battles and the small nations can be powerful too if they use their human capital tom this end to protect themselves
  • Posted on - 2013-06-28    by     Rabi Raj Thapa
  • excellent paper with full of vision and accurate geo-political appreciation.