From a buffer towards a bridge...

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From a buffer towards a bridge...

Nepal’s positional status as a landlocked country has turned itself a hostage of its geography, severely limiting its prospects in political, economic and diplomatic frontiers. Physical constraints imposed by geography have been limited not only on its access to third-country beyond its immediate neighbours, it has also created a structure of dependence in which Nepal remained just a ‘client’ state to its powerful neighbors. Maintaining Nepal’s independence and protecting its geographical sovereignty has been a major goal of its foreign policy, leave alone the idea of having influence outside. The asymmetric dependence remained for centuries particularly after the unification of Nepal.

Historically however, Nepal’s role was not limited to serve as a ‘Buffer’ space between India and China. Expansion of Buddhism, travel accounts of Fa-xian and Huan-xang about ancient Nepal stand in testimony that Nepalese land was used as a shortcut for the travellers of both nations. During the medieval period, the Malla kings of Kathmandu valley maintained good trade relations with both neighbors. In fact, it was a vibrant trade route linking those two giant countries during that period.

The ancient trade route seems possible now given the burgeoning economic cooperation between two political adversaries particularly with the onset of globalization. The idea of Nepal linking the two economic giants and taking benefit of it has been articulated many times by its rulers since late 20th century. Late King Birendra during 1970s and 80s came up with the idea of developing the nation as a gateway between South Asia and Central Asia.

Former King Gyanendra also expressed Nepal’s willingness to be a transit state for the overall economic development of the region. Lately, former Prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai in his inaugural speech at the second Convention of China and South Asia forum at Kathmandu proposed the idea of turning Nepal into a vibrant bridge for the overall development and cooperation of the region. The idea has not been principally opposed by neighboring countries; in fact, so far China seems to favor this proposition strongly.