Nepal’s small state status is in high notion perhaps because of the big sized neighbors on either side. Typically, the biggerness is the relative phenomenon of the smallness. Rather, the ‘bigness of smallness’ is the matter of geo-strategic magnitude of a small state within the region and beyond.
“The bigger states must realize that small states are the absolute contributor of peace, security, connectivity, economic integration and soft partnership”
Yet, small states cannot use their military or economic power to change the deeds of the bigger states; they still can influence international discourse and play a momentous role in shaping or reshaping the international order. To leave a profound consequence of bigness, states do not need only military strength, economic might or geographical whack. They have to make a strategic move and bring bigger states into their confidence by projecting a paragon of diplomacy.
Small States in Regional Integration
Nepal, one of the small states in the world, has bigger significance in the regional politics. Nepal’s existing geo-location, sandwiched between the two emerging economic giants, China and India, has brought continuous interest and watchful eyeing of the World Powers. This could perhaps be by assessing the soft potentials and natural resources of Nepal or perhaps by thinking that Nepal can become a stable hub to challenge or counter challenge the immediate neighboring powers. Since, Nepal is projected as a bridge between China and rest of South Asia in BRI, Nepal’s geo-location has assumed bigness in the region than ever.
Singapore’s role in US-North Korea summit, in June 2018, is another example of the bigness of smallness where Singapore’s basing contributed for the successful hosting of summit between the two Nuke rivals. The neutral, reliable, trustworthy and secure history of Singapore is one of the reasons of choosing it as the summit venue.
Iceland is a tiny state of which location is very significant for the transatlantic security. Probably, Iceland is the only state in the world which does not have any armed forces. Because of the geo-strategic position, Iceland is considered as one of the founding members of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The US-Iceland relation is stronger because of the Iceland’s geo-location. Iceland’s geo-strategic position is more important to US security than the security of Iceland itself. Similarly, the geo-location of Macedonia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kosovo are equally important as part of collective NATO security.
US ties with Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka is another example of small states serving bigger states interests. Sri-Lanka, Maldives and Malaysia were believed to serve the Chinese interest in BRI; however, the things have been differed now. In Middle East, Jordan’s stability is again largely under the US interest. Tunisia is another small state with geo-strategic importance for regional stability in Middle East to North Africa. Sweden, Norway and Denmark have made exemplary effort in promoting the norms of sustainable development and leadership attempt in climate crisis within the UN which shows the examples of Nordic countries acting as environmental champions. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are influencing the international discourse despite of their smallness.
Now, the bigger states must realize that small states are the absolute contributor of peace, security and economic development. Small states role is important in regional integration, connectivity, access, economic integration and soft partnership.
The Bigness of Nepal
The geo-strategic importance of Nepal has been gradually gone bigger, now. The history of South Asian politics and the latest developments have shown that Nepal’s geo-strategic position has been gradually transformed from ‘safe zone’ to ‘buffer zone’ to ‘competition zone’ to ‘clout of attraction’ in the region, today. However, to maintain this rising bigness, Nepal has to play very safe and smart – politically, diplomatically and economically.
The increasing geo-strategic competition between India and China, in Nepal, signifies the importance of Nepal to both the countries. India-China competition in diplomacy, economy, trade, energy, investment and railway connectivity in Nepal shows the geo-strategic bigness of Nepal. Nepal signing of ten agreements in various sectors during PM Oli’s visit to China in 2016 and consequently getting access to four Chinese seaports, for trading with third country, has been a new achievement in Nepal-China strategic relations. China’s trust on Nepal as the guarantor of the security and stability of Tibetan region and a geo-strategic soft partnership in BRI has further conscientiously increased Nepal’s geo-strategic credence.
India is also mounting its influence in Nepal in a tailored approach assuming to counter minimize China’s over growing influence in the region. The more India tries to keep China away from South Asian politics, the higher the geo-strategic importance of Nepal rises. Even if India wants China in South Asian integration, Nepal’s geo-strategic importance would go higher because of the sensitivity and volatile nature of Tibetan region, soft partnership in BRI and Chinese concern of security.
Beyond the regional bigness, Prime Minister Oli’s participation in World Economic Forum (WEF) has been a new beginning for Nepal to enhance its co-existence in global economy, trade and diplomacy. The gallant presence of PM Oli in the 73rd session of United Nations General Assembly has drawn immense praises at home and afar, where he projected nation’s image with a broad vision on Foreign Policy. Instead of pleading for sympathy and grants, he nobly reiterated to address the emerging transnational issues through Global Governance. This shows, Nepal is in a position to strong defend its sovereignty and is equally standing in international arena through the paragon of Multilateral Diplomacy.
Realizing the changing dynamics of world politics, diplomacy, economy and globalization; Nepal has successfully hosted Nepal Investment Summit 2019 where 700 plus prominent international investors, policy-makers, sector specific experts, speakers, dignitaries, movers and shakers of world economy and high level representatives of the governments from around 40 countries participated.
The BRI Induced Bigness
The refusal by India to be a part of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) may have increased Nepal’s geo-strategic significance to China. Nepal’s involvement in BRI has further increased its role in the region. Even if India had signed BRI project, there would have been strong possibility of tri-lateral cooperation among Nepal, India and China. Then, India and China would be trading via Nepal. That could have again increase the geo-strategic magnitude of Nepal.
Nepal’s geostrategic position is more important to the security of China and India than Nepal itself. Nepal’s security, or lack thereof, is going to affect the security of India and China because of Nepal’s geo-proximity with both the countries. Since, China is aiming for economic superiority and India is endlessly worrying of security, both of their concerns can only be addressed through an approach of Broad Regional Integration where Nepal can act as an integrating bridge.
After signing the BRI prospect, Nepal is believed to bridge China to South Asia in BRI. President Xi has shown his interest to visit Nepal, near soon. Delhi and Beijing are successively inviting Nepalese delegates. Chinese and Indian leaders and their officials are frequently visiting to Nepal. India has been backtracked into diplomatic road to Nepal, that’s why PM Modi has already visited Nepal four times since he became the Prime Minister. Nepal has successfully hosted the fourth BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu. Every member states of the regional organizations are eyeing Nepal as a trust of mediation among others advances the geo-strategic bigness of Nepal. Further, all eyes are on Nepal for reviving the stalled SAARC process.
Paragon of Diplomacy
Nepal has to make a strategic move ahead and bring bigger economies into its confidence by projecting a paragon of diplomacy. Nepal has never believed in alliance and bloc politics. And, it should not. Rather, it should maintain its neutral, trustworthy, compliant and bigness values as always. The concept of economic perspective is to be a practice of economic dynamics that has to lead to peace, connectivity and security. Even so, Nepal needs to develop a comprehensive ‘Political Intelligence Culture’ and project a ‘Stately Economic Diplomacy’ to achieve the National Interest and heighten its gradually enlivening stature around the Globe.
Acharya is a researcher and analyst who holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Statistics, MPhil in Management (Studied) and M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy (Research Progress).