Nepal is Failing To Capitalize on its Location Between India and China


Credit: Sundar1/wikimedia

Last week, three of Nepal's former Prime Ministers called for trilateral cooperation among Nepal, China, and India. For Nepal, a small Himalayan country sandwiched between two giant economies, there are obvious benefits to increased cooperation. However, with Nepal's political history calls for reform come with some baggage.  

I asked Arpita Nepal, Co-founder and Research Adviser at the Nepal-based Samriddhi Foundation, about the calls for trilateral cooperation:

This is an interesting piece. But I'm on quite skeptical on what this means. Talks of tripartite cooperation are really old. All the leaders quoted in the article are either Maoists or belong to the Unified Marxist Leninist party. They are notorious for saying something while refuting their own statements the very next day. Maoists have always relied on posing India as the 'bad guy' in their populist agenda in Nepal. But the instant they resume government, it does not pay them to be that radical.

Another reason for my skepticism is the lack of value addition that Nepal can provide. I sincerely don't see any value addition for India and China to go via Nepal as a transit route unless we change our trade treaties condition with India. We have a lot of custom duties and quarantine regulations that is likely to negate any advantages that can be gained from using Nepal as a transit route. Of course, having tripartite cooperation would be beneficial for a country like Nepal but then in terms of negotiations as such, the question is 'What's in it for India and China?'

We really like to think that we are advantageous to both India and China but other than their own internal security concerns (given the fact that India has an open border with Nepal and a lot of Tibetan refugees either migrate to Nepal or travel via Nepal), their interest in us is a little too exaggerated by the media. Officially I don't know how much China would relent in terms of 'One China Policy'. India is officially opposed to this and supports the free Tibet movement.

It would be wonderful if Nepal can be forward looking enough to take advantage of its location in between giants but our policy direction suggests an entirely different scenario where we still live by the fear that either India or China will take us over. Therefore, our orientation is more towards protectionists policies.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi was supposed to visit Nepal recently, but his trip was postponed, a move that Nepalese writer Trailokya Raj Aryal believes is the latest illustration of how much Nepal means to China, and how unlikely trilateral cooperation may be:

While our seasoned China watchers never tire of discussing how important we have become to China's new set of leaders, as evidenced by the recent visit to China by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his photo op with China's new President Xi Jinping, the Chinese side has unilaterally postponed the two-day visit of Yang Jiechi, state councillor in charge of foreign policy and former foreign minister, to Nepal, originally scheduled to start on May 18. There goes our importance to China's new set of leaders and some of our optimists' views that we are on our way to becoming a 'bridge' between India and China and that we are moving towards trilateral cooperation.

Nepal could benefit from its geographic location, but to do so reforms that will develop the economy and address the unemployment rate, which stands at over 45 percent, need to be implemented.

While Maoists and Leninists in Nepal may be hampering the sort of reforms the region needs there is some hope that incremental reforms can be made domestically in Nepal, with the Samriddhi  Foundation working towards empowering entrepreneurs through a crowdfunded project that hopes to reduce regulations faced by store owners.

China and India's attitude towards their smaller neighbor might well change if Nepal can makes necessary reforms. Because it is trying to work with two of the world's largest economies it is up to Nepal to implement the necessary reforms to make cooperation possible.

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  1. That picture is failing to capitalize on its position between article and alt-text.

  2. Personally, I’d build lots of underground bunkers and arm all of the citizens. Booby-trapping any passes through Nepal would be wise, too. Have they visited Switzerland lately?

    1. I bet Nepal fears armed Nepalese much more than China or India.

      1. Probably. That’s another problem they need to solve. Maybe they should adopt Swiss liberalism as well.

  3. Really, what can Nepal bring to the table? It is hard as hell to get over or through those mountains. I can’t see it being worthwhile to build rail and road infrastructure in the worst environment outside the poles when you can already ship things around that environment by sea. Wouldn’t Nepal benefit more by focusing on exploiting its natural resources and building a thriving tourist industry?

      1. High risk research stations?

    1. Iain Banks covered this in The Business.

  4. I don’t think this has been covered here…

    IRS higher-ups requested info on conservative groups, letters show

    At least one letter requesting information about one of the groups bears the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended director of the IRS Exempt Organizations department in Washington.

    She didn’t lie, she just misspoke.

  5. ” All the leaders quoted in the article are either Maoists or belong to the Unified Marxist Leninist party.”

    Until you root these commie scum out of the country, they will be hopelessly mired in poverty and violence.

  6. Sorry, not intending to ignore the thread and post NRs all of the time, but this is classic gold. Warning, this article takes Kool-Aid drinking progressive reality inversion to an all time high.

    Just when we thought it was over, the gun grabbers are in fact winning!

    despite all appearances, gun grabbers are winning

    1. I don’t know how anyone can think the NRA is extreme. They love statist solutions to problems. I am a lifetime member and was embarrassed during sandy hook when the NRA called out the entertainment industry and mental health. The only response they need was that laws were in place, the perpetrator is dead.

      1. Well, this guy not only thinks they are extreme, he thinks that the 2nd amendment is extreme. From a comment at where else, New Republic:

        The Constitution is not the Bible. The 2nd Amendment is obsolete and pernicious. It should be sharply amended if not repealed. That is a fact.

        Of course, he goes on by immediately pulling out the 90% of Americans support, blah, blah, blah…

        This is why you do not compromise with progressives, at all, ever.

  7. Nepal has a mean IQ of 78. That might be hurting the squad.

  8. “I’ll take ‘who cares?’ for $600, Alec.’

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