Jan 12, 2011

Global power rivalry and Nepal's destiny

By Deepak Gajurel

Expressions of grave concerns over Nepal's political state from major world powers have become a routine feature lately. No such concerns were witnessed in the past in terms of Nepal's domestic politics. Till some years back, Nepal had not been so prominently taken by global powers. As the political imbroglio goes on in Nepal, involvement of external players is becoming more discernible.

Role of external forces in Nepal's domestic politics could be analyzed in more than one perspective. The first and foremost is regional perspective. The Himalayan Asia (South Asia plus China) has become the center-stage for international power equation. This change became more visible after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as Super Power, and the end of the Cold War.

Nepal's importance is amplified in terms of regional as well as international power struggle. Since the beginning of 'peace process,' in 2007, Nepal's two giant neighbors - China and India - and the United States are doing activities unmatched in the past. The current political deadlock is mere a reflection of the power rivalry among these three major powers, that are competing for increased role in the world arena in general, and in this region of the Himalayan Asia, in particular.

'Continued political instability in Nepal will have its grave negative impact not only in this part of Asia but also in the entire Asian continent.' This is the latest statement from a Chinese official. He Young, a top Polite Bureau member of the Communist Party of China, said this while meeting a Nepali delegation in Beijing on November 29, 2010.

US Ambassador to Nepal, Scott H. DeLisi, has reaffirmed that United States has a firm and continued interest in Nepal. The envoy, in an interview with a Nepali newspaper on December 13, 2010, said that US has been working in Nepal with its national interests in the cornerstone.

Another key player, and perhaps, most effective and aggressive till recent past, India, has been vigorously attempting to keep its influences in Nepal's domestic affairs. New Delhi's posture in Nepali politics has, time and again, been criticized by Nepal's key political players. India looks on Nepal as a country under its sphere of influence. India visibly wants Nepal to remain under its sphere of influence, a continuation of Jawaharlal Nehru dictum, who had asserted that Indian borders were up to the Himalayas in the North.

Chinese understanding is that the United States, with assistance from India as well, can play from a weakened Nepali soil and act against the Chinese national security interest, along with hangover the entire South Asian region. Thus, Chinese interest in Nepal is to block the penetration of those forces which could pose a threat to its interests, especially through Tibet, China's weak belly.

Importance of Nepal is geopolitically heightened with the shift of power equation at global level. With international relations becoming global, one or other region has become heartland (hotspot) for rivalry between and among world powers.

The world powers always intend to expand their influence. This tendency in power acquisition leads to clash of big powers at places. European powers, including United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain and France were the rivals during the era before the First World War. For the expansion of their influences and for economic interests, these European powers, while entering into Asia and Africa, used to collide in Turkey, a country strategically located at the east-end of the Europe.

With the end of the Second World War, the international power equation shifted and the world was divided into two rival super powers, one led by the United States and another by the Soviet Union. The cold war featured proxy wars across the globe, West Asia being the major arena. Struggle between the super powers was focused on getting hold over West Asia. During the Cold War, West Asia was a vital region for both the super powers because of its location. First reason for its prominence is that West Asia is the place which harbors as much as 80 percent of known oil reserve. Second reason is Suez Canal, controlling which would compel others to walk under the controller's barrel of gun. The third, and the most important of all, is the strategic location of this region. This region is the nearest from all the major continents, i.e. Asia, Europe-including the Soviet Union, and Africa. This is why, the United States and the Soviet Union both tried struggled to get hold of this region. The result, continuous unrest in the region since the formation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The nature of the global power rivalry has changed with the demise of the Soviet Union. While there is no other power to challenge the lonely Super Power, the world's heartland has shifted from West Asia to the Himalayan Asia. Since 1999, United States has been increasing its presence in the Middle East, Korean peninsula, Africa, and South Asia. Remarkably, the increased US presence is the areas or territories which are in the periphery of China.

Nepal is located in a strategically significant position which is flanked by two emerging world powers - China and India. If China and India continue to develop in the way that they are doing today, they can be in a position to challenge the United States, not only economically, but probably militarily as well. It is this concern which has been prompting the Americans to avert the looming danger from China, in the short term and India, in the long run.

Because of its location sandwiched between global players and probable threats to the present-day super power - China and India, Nepal provides a suitable ground for visible as well as invisible strategic activities.

The current power rivalry, among regional powers and the lonely super power, for the quest of taking hold of this region, results that external powers have more to do in Nepali domestic politics, than Nepalis themselves do.


(Courtesy: Sri Lanka Guardian)

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