The concept of geopolitics is not new. It had existed even in the City-State system of international relations. However, the name of relations based on geography between the adjoining countries was coined not that long ago. The credit goes to the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén for recognising geographical factors in international relations as geopolitics. At first, political scientists like Alfred Thayer Mahan laid more emphasis on the sea as a powerful element with regards to geopolitics. He emphasised that the countries that were capable of expanding their empires were regarded as powerful. According to him, such countries should have advantageous geographical position, serviceable coastlines, abundant natural resources, favourable climate, and population large enough to defend their territories, society with an aptitude for the sea and commercial enterprise, and governments with the influence to dominate the sea. Influential role Throughout history, geography has influenced the geopolitical orientation of countries in the direction of either land power or sea power. Geopolitics provides the link between geography and strategy for the country and seeks to establish the links between geographical elements and international political power to develop specific strategies to play its role in international community. International relations do not operate in vacuum. Once there is an action, there may be a reaction or interaction between the countries adjoining by land or sea. Geopolitical relations are automatically established between them. However, all lands or seas are not of equal importance in terms of geopolitics. Major factors like strategic location, resources, level of development, scale of economy, competency of human resources, development of information and communication as well as science and technology, development and dominance of the neighbouring countries make one country more important than others in terms of geopolitics. The Indo-Pacific Cooperation comprises mainly the USA, Australia, Japan, and India which are neither adjoined by land or sea but are the allies to contain the influence of China in Southeast Asia, South Asia and throughout the world. China has planned to resume its ancient silk road under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Nepal is one of the signatories. However, India is suspecting the BRI as a Chinese strategy to undermine its sovereignty and strengthen its arch rival Pakistan. India is taking the rising Chinese influence in South Asia as a String of Pearl to encircle it. In recent times, China has been showing its assertive role in the affairs of South Asian countries where India had so far been enjoying its unflinching influence. In addition, the USA’s strong support to Israel and some Arabian nations have nothing to do with adjoining land or sea boundary between or among them. In the modern concept, geo-politics is the intercourse between the power centres and their interplay. The original nature of geopolitics or geopolitical strategy or geopolitical alliance has been changing as per the need of the time. Nepal’s geopolitics and its impacts on its relations with its immediate neighbours and external powers form a permanent agenda of the country’s foreign policy. Nepal is a landlocked country having abundant natural and human resources. In terms of water resources, the country is one of the richest in the world. The natural beauty, enriched history, cultural and archeological heritages have made Nepal one of the major tourist destinations worldwide. Nepal lies between India and China. Both of our immediate neighbours are the rising economic powers of the world. At present, China is the second largest economy globally. And, this nation is on the way to become the global leader. India is also a fast-growing economy, which may soon grow beyond regional power and establish itself a vital player in the international affairs. Both China and India are giants in terms of territories, population and resources. Nepal’s water resources and hydropower are the foremost important resources for India. The security concern from China and the threat that could emerge due to the open border between Nepal and India are the matter of existential issues for our southern neighbour. The open border with India has been a serious problem for Nepal as well. Likewise, achieving political stability and economic growth, safeguarding national integrity and playing a leading role in the global area are among the major aims of China. In attaining theste goals, the stability in Tibet is vital. Nepal shares the largest portion of border with China’s Tibet. The world’s big powers are trying to contain China’s formidable march to be the global leader. Peaceful and stable Nepal is in the interest of both India and China. Utilisation of plentiful natural and human resources available in the country is beneficial for both our neighbours. Nepal should be treated as a friendly neighbour having strong ties with them. Geo-political stability is prerequisite for Nepal and its two immediate neighbours to attain national aspirations. Developed Nepal is a win-win situation for all the three countries. Economically weak, politically unstable and administratively fragile Nepal cannot cater to the basic interest of its immediate neighbours. The stable and resilient Nepal means no adversaries can play their foul game against our national interest.
Opportune moment Currently, humankind has been going through the COVID-19 pandemic since December 2019. In such a situation, every nation must show their solidarity and cooperation to overcome this grave crisis. Nepal, China and India are among the countries hit hard by the virus disease. There is no sign of stoppage of the disease. Therefore, it is an opportunity for these three neighbours to build cooperation to contain the pandemic and save human lives.
(Phuyal is an Under Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of MoFA.)