Nepal in Asia|

Each nation has its dreams. If we can understand what makes Nepal unique, it will protect our sovereignty. Also, development and prosperity will be attained. As a student of regional development, I have reached certain conclusions after examining some geopolitical, economic and social issues. First, from a geographical perspective, the parts of Nepal in the laps of the Himalaya were created when the Indian tectonic plate abutted the Eurasian plate. Nepal stretches from the Hindukush to the Burmese plate. To the east are countries like China, while around are countries of South Asia and the west. These regions developed as separate civilizations. Until the 16th century, India and China were the great world powers. Half of all economic production took place in these countries. It is only after the industrial revolution of the 18th century that Europe became a centre of production. Nepal has a unique identity. China and India think Nepal is an insignificant nation. But this region has a separate geographic, cultural and political identity. Second, we are the descendants of Homo sapiens who arrived here from Africa. That has been proved through DNA testing by Human Genome Mapping.

There are mainly four groups of people who live in Nepal. One – those who arrived directly from Africa and settled in the Tarai, the ‘dark-skinned’ groups like the Tharus and the Danuwar. From Burma arrived Tibetan groups like the Rai, Limbu, Magar, etc. Another group is the Khas-Arya community which came from Central Asia. And the Aryas living in the plains who we call the Madheshis. Thus, there are four main ethnic clusters. Because of the intermingling between them, there is also a large section of people of Tibetan descent. There are others, of the Indo-European language group, etc. Therefore, also from the perspective of mixed ethnicities, we have a unique identity. It is neither like that of South Asia, nor like the Chinese civilization. 

Nepal is known as a mountainous country. Recently, there has been increasing danger of climate change, glaciers melting and sea levels rising across the planet because of global warming. We are known as the third pole – the Himalaya are known as the world’s water towers. The glaciers and rivers of Nepal irrigate the large plains of northern India. The Brahmaputra, which originates in Tibet, is also a major source of freshwater. Nepal also occupies an important position in terms of ecological protection and biodiversity. Since Nepal rises from the plains to the highest place on Earth, it has a distinct role in confronting climate change. Simultaneously, there is the trans-Himalaya opportunity to connect the Indian civilization in the south to the Chinese civilization in the north. Our Tatopani customs with China is considered the lowest altitude trans-Himalaya crossing. Since early history, this has been the site through which commerce has travelled from India into Tibet and China, and vice versa. Kathmandu is an important site which mediated that exchange. Therefore, Nepal is also a melting pot where people from everywhere arrived and settled. Since Kathmandu was a mediating site, the two civilizations passed through here to encounter each other. Buddha was born in Nepal, and he attained enlightenment in India. Nepali Buddhism comes from Tibet. Therefore, Nepal is also a bridge between the two civilizations of India and China. King Prithvi Narayan Shah, during his quest to create the modern Nepali state, used the simile of a yam caught between two rocks. Perhaps his analysis was accurate for his time. However, we have become much more dynamic now because of globalization and economic growth.

In the 21st century, China is poised to become the largest economy while India will become the third largest. In terms of population, India is the largest, followed by China. Nepal’s economic prosperity and defence of sovereignty are situated in this context – two neighbouring countries, bearing the legacies of two separate civilizations, are rising on either side of Nepal, during what is being called the Asian Century. Situated as it is between them, Nepal’s role becomes especially significant. It can no longer afford to remain a yam stuck between two rocks. In the twenty first, situated between two world powers, we can become the bridge that joins the civilizations to the south and to the north. This can become our identity – this is why I have proposed the doctrine suggesting that we should become a dynamic bridge rather than remain a yam between two rocks.

China, India and the USA have promoted their grand visions, their specific dreams. In this context, we must ask – What is the Nepali Dream? No person can live without a dream; everybody has their dreams, as they should. Two or three objectives can form the basis for the Nepali dream. First, even though we may be small in terms of economy and geography, we can become a knowledge centre. With the arrival of the British, western civilization has advanced greatly in South Asia. We have our own eastern civilization. Also, since this is the country where Buddha was born, and is influenced by Buddhist philosophy, it can become a centre for western and eastern knowledge.

Since the Himalaya of Nepal are also considered the water towers of the world, Nepal can become a centre if it moves forward by connecting biodiversity conservation and the climate change crisis to the issue of protecting the Himalaya. Nepal can become the centre for raising the issue of protection of the Himalaya along with the climate change crisis.

India and China are powerful economies. From their middle, we can function in a unique manner. From a geographical perspective, Nepal appears divided into mountains, hills and the Tarai plains. But this is our asset. We can easily create a market for goods produced in the mountains, hills and the Tarai. We can import technology from India and China, and develop services for export, which may be of use in India and China. This service-export can also be unique.

In the 21st century, as the world develops, the negative side is the development of nuclear weapons. There is the danger of sudden nuclear blasts around the world. Economic development may be accompanied by a power struggle. There is the danger of such superpowers deploying nuclear weapons. Also, the manner in which artificial intelligence is developing has both positive and negative aspects. If AI is not controlled at an international level, it may create risks. Just as how nuclear weapons are controlled.  

While superpowers are in a power struggle, we should develop international organizations. The United Nations was created after World War II to maintain international peace. But superpower nations have disproportionate influence in it. In the future, another global federation may be created for global peace. Since Nepal is the country where Buddha was born, the concept may be put forward here as a neutral country. Lumbini can be made the centre of world peace. We can foster such a dream. It may come true in fifty years. Nepal can develop a world peace campaign for the benefit of the human race.  

Nepal used to have representative democracy. Now a new democratic practice has started to include the representation of all communities. Since Nepal is a country with great ethnic, caste, religious and cultural diversity, its participatory democracy may include everybody. We can also develop participatory economy.

Nepal must develop power to play a leading role in Asia. It remains poor, is forced to seek assistance, its youth is forced to migrate in search of opportunities, and its government is forever unstable. If this continues, nobody will respect us. If the politics remains unstable, no external force will heed us. At present, they continue to interfere, use us as a pawn in their games. All I am saying is that we should develop the basis for internal strength. Let’s have internal unity, and bring foreign investment to develop the country. If we develop internal peace and adopt the objective of sustainable development, we will become prosperous. Only then will we be heard. If we maintain geopolitical balance, our dreams will come true when India and China become superpowers. There will require political stability, international national unity and nationwide economic prosperity. For this, it is imperative to maintain a balance between our two neighbours, India and China. That is how Nepal can become a multidimensional centre.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai

Former Prime Minister, Nepal

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