Insights into Editorial: India needs to pay close attention to deepening of Nepal-China cooperation
President Xi Jinping’s brief but significant visit to Kathamandu was defined by the determination to accelerate the development of an ambitious trans-Himalayan corridor between China’s Tibet and Nepal.
We are not referring to military and defence exchanges but to the expanding engagement between the police forces, intelligence agencies, border management organisations and law-enforcement authorities of the two nations.
China’s interest in “security diplomacy” as separate from “defence diplomacy” is not limited to Nepal.
Nepal’s security cooperation has become intense ever since trouble broke out in Tibet in the early years of this century.
Chinese president’s visit in Nepal opens new chapter for Nepal-China friendship:
- Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation within the BRI framework in 2017, bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, connectivity and people-to-people exchanges has been deepened at a fast pace.
- Achievements of the cooperation could be seen everywhere, he noted, from made-in-China products used by Nepalis in their daily life, to the jobs created thanks to Chinese investments, to the agriculture, telecom and infrastructure construction sectors using Chinese technology.
- China and Nepal agreed to upgrade their relations to a strategic partnership of cooperation featuring ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity.
- Though being a small country, Nepal contains immensely bigger natural resources.
- The trans-Himalayan connectivity network, a gigantic infrastructure program undertaken by the two countries, could help upgrade the roads, railway system and aviation in Nepal, and better logistics would then benefit the agriculture and industry sectors, improve economic structure and boost export.
Evolution of China’s Security Diplomacy:
- Massive modernisation of its internal administrative structures, significant investments in new technologies, and an effective integration of law enforcement into China’s foreign policy have transformed China’s pursuit of security diplomacy.
- Security diplomacy has emerged as a major element of China’s international relations in all geographies.
- The globalisation and digitalisation of the Chinese economy, the growing movement of people across Chinese borders and expanding capital and human assets beyond borders have made law enforcement cooperation with the rest of the world a major priority for China.
- The range of issues involved in security diplomacy include tracking down fugitives from Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign, criminals seeking safe haven in other countries, countering terrorism, preventing drug trafficking, assisting Chinese citizens and tourists abroad, and reining in political dissidents active in other countries.
- Security diplomacy seeks to expand engagement between the two countries, not just in fields related to military engagement but also to the police forces, intelligence agencies, border management organisations and law-enforcement authorities of the two nations.
- Like the other great powers that preceded it, China sees security diplomacy and law enforcement cooperation as important tools of statecraft.
- In the case of neighbours, security diplomacy takes on an added dimension, given the dynamic interaction between internal political stability and the situation across the frontiers.
The importance China attaches to security diplomacy is reflected in the fact that four of the 20 documents signed in Kathmandu relate to law enforcement.
These agreements touched on border management, supply of border security equipment, mutual legal assistance, and collaboration between Nepal’s Attorney General and China’s prosecutor general.
India needs to view Nepal-China intimacies with equanimity:
Xi’s generous assistance to Nepal of USD 495 million was of a piece with the style with which China makes friends with India’s neighbours.
There is to be a feasibility study on a trans-Himalayan train link between the two countries, and a road link from Kathmandu to Kerung, on Nepal’s border with Tibet, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Both connections will increase Nepal’s access to the Chinese economy. To the extent that this pushes up the possibility of Chinese goods flooding India through Nepal, Delhi should be concerned.
But it must also come to terms with the reality that there can be no zero-sum games in foreign policy.
Viewing relations with neighbouring countries only through the prism of India’s security has its limits.
As the region’s largest economy, India needs to find better ways to make friends with its neighbours, and retain these friendships.
Caution to India:
India’s concern is that, given the difference in the strategic weight of China and Nepal, security diplomacy can be used as a tool by China to interfere in the internal affairs of Nepal.
Since Nepal acts as a buffer state for India, seeing it slip into China’s sphere of influence, will not be in India’s strategic interest. Also, China’s interest in “security diplomacy” is not limited to Nepal.
China Nepal Economic Corridor can lead to China dumping consumer goods through Nepal which will worsen India’ trade balance with China further.
Developing the China-Nepal economic corridor is considered immensely vital for transforming Nepal into an economically developed nation and dependable neighbour.
China is also participating in the development of new international rules on law enforcement, shaping the discourse on issues at hand, and seeking leadership positions in multilateral organisations dealing with law enforcement.
China’s deep pockets make it difficult for India to control the expansion of China’s influence in India’s neighbourhood.
India will have to debate the issues generated by China Nepal Economic Corridor for some time to come, it also needs to pay attention to an equally important dimension of China-Nepal relationship that the deepening of bilateral security cooperation.
India should act as a bridge rather than a blockade in realizing Nepal’s dream of becoming a land-linked country from a land-locked one.
Though India has all the right of such blockade, however, India must refrain from such blockades as it affects India’s credibility in eyes of Nepali citizens.