Pros and Cons of Neutrality

Bound by the same thread, Nepal could learn a few lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

By Salis Malik | April 2022

On the surface, the conflict in Ukraine may not have any direct impact or repercussions for Nepal. However, in retrospect, a deeper analysis of the Ukrainian issue actually serves as a vivid eye opener for smaller landlocked nations such as Nepal. When juxtaposed, one may even go on to say that both Nepal and Ukraine, even though separated by thousands of miles, are still actually tightly bound by the same geopolitical thread – having themselves stacked against a large nuclear power. Being a direct neighbour to not one but two nuclear countries – China and India – may become the bane of Kathmandu’s governance. Therefore, the Russian invasion of Ukraine serves a plethora of lessons for smaller and weaker landlocked nations.

Being wedged between two powerhouses, Nepal’s sovereignty is sandwiched in a precarious situation. Even though, Indian or Chinese aggression towards Nepal seems unlikely and is rather a hypothetical concept but the Indian and Chinese stance towards Russia’s onslaught upon Ukraine sticks out like a proverbial sore thumb for Nepal’s sovereignty. That being said, If China and India seem to be silent over Russia’s intervention, there is no telling what would happen if either one of these countries go on to target Nepal for strategic reasons. Delhi has been tight-lipped over Russia’s oppression against Ukraine. Similarly, China too encompasses an evident strategic partnership with Russia. Having the same international issues such as having the US as their common adversary, has brought the two countries closer above everything else. Moreover, Russia is the second largest supplier of crude oil to China as well, therefore cordial relations with Russia are paramount for China in achieving its strategic goals. When observing through the lens of statecraft, we also need to assess the importance of East China Sea and it being a backyard of Russia. Although there has been no formal alliance between the two countries, both are, however, enjoying the best bilateral relations since 1950 and that has largely to do with their informal agreement of forming economic and diplomatic moves that would serve as an antithesis to the United States and its endeavours. Although both China and India want the situation in Ukraine to be solved through diplomacy rather than war, their neutral responses actually might instil a wave of fear among the people of Nepal, which even though a small and peaceful country, acts as a buffer for both the neighbouring nuclear powers.

By now another lesson learnt from the example of Ukraine is how an inter-governmental peace-keeping body such as the United Nations, seems to be completely powerless in the face of a strong aggressor. This holds true for not only the conflict in Ukraine but also many several conflicts currently going around in different parts of the world –the conflict in Syria, the conflict in Palestine and the military oppression in Myanmar. These are some of the instances in which the UN seemed ineffective in its actions and this always holds true when a very strong nation such as Russia declares war on a smaller and weaker nation. This is also evident from the fact that how the UN was powerless when Russia vetoed the US-led resolution to end the violence against Ukraine. If war breaks out against Nepal, for instance with China, Nepal would not only be thwarted by the military might but would also be dealt with a swift blow on the diplomatic front. China is a crucial part of the UN and even if the war prolongs, action taken by the UN and other international bodies would take a long time to even call for a ceasefire.

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Salis Malik is a freelance journalist and columnist based in Islamabad. He can be reached on Facebook @salismalik7777

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