Nepal, India, China Relations in the 21st Century

Saurav Raj Pant

January 28, 2021


Nepal, India, China Relations in the 21st Century

Many books come and go on the bookshelf. But some books are remembered for their academic integrity, flawlessness, data-driven, and future optimistic outlooks.

Among them, I find “Nepal, India, China: Relations in the 21st Century” written by Nepal’s former Ambassador/ Permanent Representative to Geneva and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York; Shambhu Ram Simkhada as one of my favorite picks.

Born in Darkha village of Dhading district, the author has his spectacular journey from a rural boy to a diplomat and international relations thinker.

With an initial schooling in the village, he was fortunate enough to have an MA Economics from the Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu and then holding the title of the first Nepali to obtain the Ph.D. degree in International Relations (IR) from the University of Miami, Florida, USA.

This book is a collection of his academic writing presented during different occasions covering the wider spectrum of IR.

My Reflection

This entire 355+ pages book is divided into 4 Parts (Themes of IR, Reflections on Nepal’s foreign policy, Reflection on Nepal-India Relations and Reflections on Nepal-China Relations).

The author uses the “Revenge to Geography” connotations to indicate Nepal’s geopolitical sensitivity because of situated between India and China.

The author travels from ancient times in Indian, Chinese and Greek histories — from Chanakya (Kautilya), Confucius, Thucydides to Machiavelli and Edward Carr’s writings. His IR writings swim over the intellectuals descendants of the 18th Century Enlightenment Optimism, Nineteen Century Liberalism, Twentieth Century Wilsonian Idealism and 21st-century Realism, Idealism, Globalism, and Behavioralism’s multi-dimensional clash.

Right after the start of the new millennium of 21st century; 9/11, and the author’s chairmanship of the UN’s Human Rights Commission — he had envisioned the new building blocks of the global political security and foreign policy architecture on the Politics of Liberty and Law, Economics of Enterprises with Equity, Society of Social Justice, Caring and Sharing, Foreign and National Security Policy of Amity with all Enmity with none under the leadership of wisdom and courage, and the ethics and morality.

He is also one of the early debaters during 1993 of increasingly assertive Security Council role in the international community of sovereign nation-states, questions of national versus international jurisdiction; today what we call as Humanitarian Military Intervention.

Regarding his view on nationalism, he argues that the idea of nationalism can’t be separated from the notions of nation-state building.

These days, we are brewed by the idea of nationalism and national interest in Nepal. He raises the question of fundamental dilemma in Nepal — the sequencing of interest — which comes first, the interest of the individual, community/party, or the nation as a whole!

He tries to postulate the crisis deep-rooted in Nepal’s foreign policy via 3Is Agenda (Issues, Institutions and Individuals).

He writes the existing state is strengthened by vertical evolution upwards to supra-national level, devolution downwards by recognizing the sovereignty of the people, the guarantee of their fundamental rights and horizontally sharing power with other states and non-state actors.

In linking this with Nepal, he argues that success and failure of the Nepali state, too, will thus depend, first and foremost on the thinking of people in the position of power and authority within influence outside.

According to him, technology has led to the death of distance but even humanity begins its journey into the third-millennium racial prejudice, religious fundamentalism, ideological extremism, digital divide and inequality of wealth and opportunities are creating greater disparities, discord, despair and death.

The author talks about the qualities of the ambassador in the 21st century. Even from Chanakya period, the idea of the envoy is still prevalent.

It was Italy that sent its first permanent ambassadors in medieval times. In this section, he explains the qualities, functions, services and management skills of the ambassador.

He has been advocating for the national consensus as to the basic issues of Nepal’s national interest.

In the 1990s, he had even presented a paper to the then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala identifying key priorities of Nepal’s foreign policy.

He explains, in a multiparty democracy, ideological differences and competitions for power among the political parties and leaders are natural.

But for democracy to sustain and prosperity to follow many things are needed; identifications of the major issues of national interest, security and foreign policy among major political actors and the elite are essential.

He underlines the core challenges of Nepal’s foreign policy dealing with the internal and external environment changes in South Asia and the globe.

Nepal’s issues and challenges with foreign labor migration is complex. According to him, the government should prepare for massive skills, enhancement programs, lobby with the host country for better minimum wages, social safety nets, including insurance compensations.

He highlights the complexity of the emerging external environment coupled with our internal political turmoil.

Second, showing the enormity of the task of understanding ourselves and then explaining the importance of formulating appropriate foreign and national security policies to enhance national interest.

Third, to suggest that the intellectual pedestal on which the edifice of prosperous democracies stand and we are trying to build, shaking everywhere.

He wants to decode the matrix of Nepal-India relations with SRS Conundrum (Sovereignty, Resources and Security).

According to him, Nepal’s political pre-occupation with sovereignty, devise a better model of economic cooperation for a viable strategy of the utilization of Nepal’s natural resources especially water, based on principles of efficiency, ability, fairness and mutuality of benefits and Indian genuine security concerns as a result of the open border.

He further suggests a three-pillar roadmap in building Nepal-India relations better. Prevention, where he suggests India not to see everywhere China card in the Nepal-India relations.

Furthermore, Nepal must not see Indian hand in all things going wrong in Nepal.

In the roller coaster journey of IR, globalism and strategies, he has perfectly inserted his emotional side, love-affection towards his family, which will not make a reader like me bored or exhausted.

Preparation, where he mentions Nepal’s evidence of Sugauli Treaty related to Kalapani and conducting elections, census, registration, tax receipts, etc.

This helps Nepal in the negotiation table.

While reflecting Nepal-China relations; he refers to the SD Muni and Tan Tai Young, Routledge India 2012, China’s economic miracle has been characterized by Growth, Development and Progress(GDP), its security policy as Defend, Deter and Deny(3D), its politics as Reform, Replace and Reclaim(3R) and Diplomacy as Compete Cooperate, Compete and Counteract (3C).

This is very much helpful to understand China from an Indian perspective.

He further writes China’s fifth generational leader Xi is searching for a win-win IR.

The author uses the “Revenge to Geography” connotations to indicate Nepal’s geopolitical sensitivity because of situated between India and China.

So, he says translating Revenge into Reward requires political skill and diplomatic ability to manage relations with the emerging and current superpowers cooperating and competing at the same time.

He has dedicated one chapter to the political and strategic significance of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s 21-27 March 2016 China visit.

The historic Transit Transportation agreement with China ends the so-called monopoly of one India’s over trade and transit with Nepal.

In addition to this, synergizing the bilateral cooperation programs and carry out major projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI).


In this book, he has been able to add emotional layers to his love life and the tragedy of losing his 22-year-old son.

He regards Varanasi as the civilization basis of his belief and remembers his early days of love life with his wife, Bindu.

In the roller coaster journey of IR, globalism and strategies, he has perfectly inserted his emotional side, love-affection towards his family, which will not make a reader like me bored or exhausted.

He looks Nepal-India relations with the “Basudhaiba Kutumbhakam” analogy whereas relations with China via interest-based.

He becomes nostalgic of Swiss Jungfrau and his village hills during his days in the early 2000s as an ambassador in Geneva.

Being a Nepali, he was fortunate enough to chair the UN’s Human Rights Commission (now Human Rights Council), also chaired The Situation in the Occupied Palestine Territories.

Well, every great book has its blemish. This book is no exception. It would have been great if the title of the book was according to the collection of articles followed by smart suggestions, recommendations and conclusions.

(The author is a Researcher & Ph.D. Candidate, International Relations & Diplomacy, Tribhuvan University)

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