At a time when Baghdad was observing twenty years of the US invasion of Iraq, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin to broker a peace deal on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Within a few days of Xi’s return to Beijing, Russia is said to have deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as a “warning to the west”. Meanwhile, Honduras broke off its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and switched to China to establish diplomatic relations by stressing on ‘One China Policy’, which signals that like-minded countries have started leaning toward a China-led new world order.
A little earlier, China brokered a diplomatic deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in which the two major rivals in the Gulf agreed to resume their diplomatic ties. Following this historic move under the mediation of China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, major developments are taking place in the region. The Iranian President is likely to visit Saudi Arabia soon, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has visited the UAE, while Oman’s Sultan is expected to visit Iran shortly. What’s more, Iran and Iraq, once arch rivals, are likely to strengthen relations, having already signed a deal to step up border security. Yemen and Saudi Arabia are also in the process of improving relations. China, Russia and Iran conducted a joint military drill in the Gulf of Oman. All these unprecedented “geopolitical transitions” (be it in Russia or in the Middle East) will not only instigate geopolitical transformation, rebuild relations, reshape unity or help develop a security architecture there, but also pave a strategic path for China to expand its sphere of influence and accelerate its march into global ambitions.
China is desperate to expand its global influence—be it through BRI, Global Security Initiative (GSI), Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) or Global Peace Initiative (GPI). That is why China has reportedly got engaged in brokering peace and diplomatic deals in recent times, using its embassies, which are higher in number than any other countries’.
The world witnessed bi-polar politics between the US and Soviet Union after World War-II and during Cold War 1.0. The US has been a great power for more than 100 years and the sole superpower for about 75 years (after Cold War 1.0). The US became the most powerful immediately after the end of WW-II (at that time, it accounted for more than 35 percent of the global economy in terms of production), and was capable enough to (re)shape global politics and economy as per its wishes.
The world is again witnessing bi-polar politics between the US and China , with the latter emerging in recent years as a dynamic country marked by extraordinary economic rise, diplomatic initiatives, technological innovations and geopolitical transformations. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s remarks (“China and Russia are driving geopolitical changes globally”) indicates that a new world order is emerging amid resilient China-Russia ties.
The recent meeting between President Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has indeed left multiple repercussions such as a tough strategic message to the west, the rise of China as a responsible global power, moral and psychological support to the Kremlin, and an anticipated political sense of reciprocity on the Taiwan issue, among others. The Beijing-Kremlin gesture could result in global geopolitical consequences like stronger China-Russia ties, a united Arab World under China-brokered diplomatic deals, a higher possibility of integration of Taiwan with the mainland China, the emergence of religious radicalism, which may weaken India, while strengthening Iran and Saudi Arabia, and isolating Pakistan from the Islamic World. For now, there is no immediate risk of WW-III with the West, but Cold War 2.0 has indeed begun, which can directly affect Nepal-physically, geo-strategically, economically and digitally as the country is directly under the “tectonics” of Cold War 2.0.
How can Nepal leverage every opportunity in the changing dynamics of global geopolitics to its advantage? This is a crucial concern for the Nepalis.
Following the emergence of China and India as economic powers, India-China or US-China competition in diplomacy, economy, trade, investment, cooperation and connectivity in Nepal has increased, which has amplified the country’s geostrategic credence globally. The geo-location of Nepal, the Tibet factor, competition between India and China, and between the US and China in Nepal pose substantial challenges to the country. Their irrational competition on “who can be more stupid” has only increased the threat to Nepal’s physical and psychological security.
Physically, Nepal shares an open border of 1880 kilometers with India and 1439.18 kilometers of boundary land with China. Nepal’s national security is crucial due to existing geo-location, dynamics of geopolitics and its asymmetric relations with India and China. Yet Nepal’s physical position is quite significant.
Psychologically, Nepal has been mostly stressed by psychological and political warfare, and influenced by geopolitical meddling. Due to the changing dynamics of geopolitics in the region and beyond, powerful countries like the US, China and India have been relentlessly increasing their activities in Nepal and are likely to push their interests in Nepal through various strategies, including the IPS, MCC, B3W, BRI, or the “carrots and sticks” of the “Neighborhood First Policy”. Logically, Nepal is now under a sensitive geopolitical chess-game and is at the epicenter of the geopolitical chess-board as shown in the diagram below:
Diplomatically, Nepal should conserve its geostrategic magnitude and balance the expectations projected under various initiatives as mentioned above by considering geopolitical sensitivities. Nepal can equally leverage from all the powers and maintain balanced relations through inclusive political interactions, partnership and cooperation, and balancing or strategic hedging as the country is in what can be called ‘a system affecting position’.
Nepal has maintained cordial relations with every country in South Asia, and enjoys good ties with many countries in Europe, Asia and America. It can influence the world by adhering to its candid political, societal and civilization culture as a champion of democracy and human rights. Nepal is perhaps one of the few countries in the world with incredible soft and strategic potentials through which it can significantly influence the whole world. It can be a “bridge builder” not only in the South Asian region, but also in the European and American continents. Nepal should engage with different countries through multilateralism so as to benefit from opportunities in different sectors like trade, economy, cooperation, knowledge sharing, technology transfer and security—both physical and digital.
A soft security strategy has become more important for Nepal in a fast-changing world. Since Nepal does not possess significant intelligence, counter-intelligence or strategic intelligence mechanisms and
has not been fortified with robust defense technologies, its presence in regional and global politics should not create ample ground for others to cause trouble to it. In the international political or diplomatic sphere, Nepal cannot apply “Newton’s third law of motion”. How Nepal maintains its relations with Beijing and New Delhi is a matter of critical concern for Washington. Thus, realizing its sensitivities and significance of geostrategic credence, Nepal should make a rational geostrategic move amid an emerging world order.