‘Himalayan Quad’: Western Skeptical On ‘Tran-Himalayan Cooperation’

Dhakal Bidhur

Globe is fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. The global powers are fighting themselves for geopolitical supremacy. Nepal’s geopolitical position in South Asia is considered strategically important to all. Two neighbors, China and India, want to keep Nepal aside from them. Meanwhile, for the United States, Nepal has been geography of strategic importance for South Asia.

At this time, the Himalayan nation Nepal has been facing a clash between the three power Nations. Nepal, a partner of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRE) proposed by China; is working together and separately with its three friendly nations in various multilateral fora. The US is been working hard to get Nepal, a member of the BRI, to participate in its Indo-Pacific Strategy (IFS)- a defense policy.

On the other hand, the US is in a way toward investment publicly in Nepal through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). ‘The controversial’ MCC is yet to be passed from the parliament. Together with the IFS, the US has initiated a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) involving Japan, Australia, and India to counter Chinese influence in the region. In particular, the first virtual conference of heads of state/government was held in March this year, 14 years after the forum was first initiated by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

Interest of each and concern at the conference was China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region; and on the other hand, China’s support in the fight against COVID-19 in this area. At the same conference,US President Joe Biden announced more than a billion vaccines would be distributed in the region by the end of 2022 to reduce Chinese influence.

Besides this ‘Quad’, another ‘Quad’ is in term of discussion last months in Indian and western media- ‘Himalayan Quad’ by China with its strategic partner Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

What is the Himalayan Quad and How its Starts?

On the 27th of July 2020, Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, China, Nepal, and Pakistan held a video conference on COVID-19. In the meeting chaired by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan foreign ministers were attended.  The Western and Indian media describes it as China’s ‘COVID-19 Diplomacy’.

In November 2020, Indian scholar Jagannath Panda in a Journal of Analysis and Information in issue China brief published by the Jamestown Foundation called it as Trans-Himalayan ‘Quad’, and lament toward China as ‘Beijing’s Territorialism’. Indicating this quadrilateral video conference between four nations, Panda offers a new hue on it.

The quadrilateral meeting focused on the enhancing Quadrilateral Corporation to encounter the COVID-19 pandemic was roasted as the security alliance and connected toward the Quad as the US, India, Japan and Australia are practicing in the Indo-Pacific region as the ‘Nato’.

On April 2021, Yuri M Yarmolinsky, an analyst with the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Research and former Consular of Embassy of the Republic of Belarus to the Republic of India, in an article published in ORF Raisina Debates, noted the meeting as China’s unilateral and expansionist action in the region linking toward the increasing activity of the Quad.

As the United States expands its investment in the Asia-Pacific region, Northern neighbor China has also extended a helping hand to neighboring countries. On the quadrilateral meeting ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal supported Wang Yi’s four-point cooperation initiative and thanked China for providing medical and food assistance, and for sharing experience on COVID-19 containment. In particular, the ministers highly commended President Xi Jinping’s initiative to make the vaccine a global public good.

According to the FMPRC press release, these three nations will work with China in solidarity to deepen cooperation against COVID-19, strengthen joint response mechanisms, ensure unimpeded trade and transportation routes, facilitate personnel and trade flows, advance the “Silk Road of health”, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Not only that FMPRC stated that these three nations will work with China to deepen Belt and Road cooperation, accelerate recovery in socio-economic and livelihood development, and promote post-COVID economic growth. This cooperation- Silk Road of Health, initiated by China is been called ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’ by Westerners.

Yarmolinsky had added with SCMP this April that China already partners with NepalPakistan, and Afghanistan on security and strategic cooperation. ‘Nepal is a strong foothold in the Himalayas in the context of the Sino-Indian territorial dispute, Afghanistan is a significant factor in ensuring security and maintaining stability in Xinjiang,’ he was quoted by SCMP.

Beijing and Islamabad have been working on a US$62 billion connectivity and infrastructure project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to grow a China-centered global trading network – and the two sides have also cooperated on tackling security challenges around their shared border.

Nepal, meanwhile, receives foreign direct investment and economic aid from Beijing, which has also opened a training academy in the small Himalayan country for the paramilitary police force that guards its border with Tibet. The two nations’ armies have held counterterrorism drills together in the past, too. On a horizon, western media and experts tend to explain this cooperation as a security alliance as ‘Himalaya Quad’.

In March, when the Quad leader meeting was held virtually, the Chinese and Russian Foreign ministry meet at

Not only that, in March, the first meeting of the Quad was held and the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers hold the bilateral meeting in Guilin city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. The meeting shows the the unity against US and EU in the region. China and Russian have always followed the ‘four-point agreement on showing firm support from each other’, State Councilor Yi stated in that meeting.

‘We should uphold the universally recognized international law. China is willing to further strengthen cooperation with Russia under the multilateral frameworks, such as the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and BRICS, jointly safeguard multilateralism, maintain the international system with the UN at its core and the international order based on international law, while firmly opposing unilateral sanctions as well as interference in other countries internal affairs,’ FMPRC release quate him.

This meeting was questioned by western experts- ‘Will Russia and Chiana Form their block?’   The US Center for Strategic and International Studies published an article in April, ‘The Return of Quad: Will Russia and China Firm Their own Block?’ ‘In response to the Quad, China has stepped up its partnership with Russia,’ it added- ‘As we know from Newton’s Third Law, for every action—no matter how positive for U.S. interests—there is an opposite reaction. Sino-Russian strategic cooperation was rapidly expanding before the Quad Summit, but Moscow and Beijing have responded to this renewed momentum and solidarity among the Indo-Pacific maritime democracies with a flurry of military exercises and diplomacy of their own, including a new embrace of Iran as well as warm words for North Korea and the Myanmar junta.’

If we call each meeting the security alliance, there would be uncountable security blocks. At the end of this April, the Chinese Foreign Minister had hosted a video conference of foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. What should we call this meeting? No need for all the dialogue between the leaders to be the security alliances against any other.

Does Nepal Enter Any Security Block?

Nepal is a nation guided by a non-aligned policy. As Nepal is dragged towards the so-called ‘Himalaya Quad’; does Nepal has entered any security block? Indian and Western experts seem to be concerned about the Nepal-China partnership on security. It is not only China Nepal has a partnership with India and the US on security. Nepal-India, Nepal-US joint military exercise used to held annually. Like that the ‘Sagarmatha Friendship’ is held with China. The quadrilateral meeting last year was not any security alliance. The alliances look to address global challenges in the area of post-pandemic cooperation and others. Nepal, between two great powers, does not want to irritate another country by joining any power alliance against any neighbor.

Nepal knows its importance of being the center of the geopolitics of South Asia. Nepal always stood in support of the ‘One China Policy.’ The quadrilateral meeting between four nations will not form a separate security block; rather it will increase the development partnership. The partnership between these four nations connected by the Trans-Himalayas range will make a way forward to protect our Himalayas from climate change.

In a signed article by President Xi Jinping published in Nepali Media two days before he landed in Kathmandu in 2019, he had emphasized the need for greater efforts to develop a multidimensional connectivity network across the Himalayas, with four priority cooperation areas; Trade and investment, post-disaster reconstruction, energy, and tourism. This quadrilateral meeting has added the one priority area- pandemic and post-pandemic economic order.

Dhakal is Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from Tribhuvan University and currently studying Master’s in Public Administration in University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) Chengdu. Diplomatic Correspondent at Pahilopost Kathamandu.

This article is originally published in The Asia Live. Please click here to read the original article.

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