Geopolitical Significant of South and South East Asia in World Theater

Abstract South and South-East Asia cover global attraction in the time period. With emerging global economic, resident of around one-third of the total population, global power competition is focused in the region. Chinese influence in the region is rising on the other side, US engagements in the region to deter China is growing. This review paper will concentrate addressing the question: How does the region becomes pivotal point for geo-political competitions? With growing influence of China in the region, the US engagement is also increasing. This paper focuses on the power struggle of US and China in the region behind these engagements. The rising US military and economic assistance to countries like Nepal shows the geopolitical involvement in the region for global power politics. Download full Article

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The US interest in Nepal: Deter China and Enhance “Western Orientation”

Bidhur Dhakal Nepal is today a very valued partner in the Indo-Pacific.  We’re working together to ensure that we have a free, open, secure, prosperous region”- Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. It has been a major topic in Nepal for the past few years as a result of US pressure for Nepal to be a part of its security plan, known as the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS). The US sought a “central role” from this extremely delicate and small Himalayan nation for the first time during the visit of then-foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyanwali to Washington, DC, as part of its “Indo-pacific strategy”—widely perceived as a counter to the ambitious Chinese connectivity project. Furthermore, China is described as a revisionist force and a threat in the United States’ June 1, 2019, Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, despite Nepal maintaining cordial ties with China. It also further states that the US is working to operationalize the major defense partnership with India while pursuing an emerging partnership with Nepal as well as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. In the report, the US clearly mentions that it seeks to expand its defense relationship with Nepal. The same report had added Nepal as its partner nation in the Indo-Pacific with the State Partnership Program (SPP). However, Nepal has not openly endorsed the US defense strategy amid countering China among the nations in the region of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Still, the US is trying to pull Nepal under its security umbrella. Yet, again the US is pursuing Nepal to be the partner of US IPS.  On October 30, the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, before meeting with Nepalese counterpart Narayan Prasad Saud called Nepal a “very valued” partner in the Indo-Pacific without mentioning “Strategy”. And stated that both countries are working together to ensure “a free, open, secure, prosperous region”.  The US Raising Engagements its Interest Nepal’s geo-political sensitivity and situation have increased geopolitical engagements. On the north the rising power China is pursuing its ambitious connectivity projects of “Joint Belt and Road” with “Shared Future”, while, in the South, India is pursuing its security alliances with the US and expanding its interest in the region. Nepal between the two giants is strategically important for both. Soon after Nepal and China signed the MoU on Cooperation under the BRI Framework, in Kathmandu (March 2017), the US and Nepal signed 500 million dolor MCC in Washington (September 2017). Despite rumors and agitation, Nepal’s parliament ratified the MCC accord. Over the years, the engagement has grown even more noticeable both before and after the ratification. The rise in US diplomatic visits to Nepal is evidence of the US’s increasing involvement in the country.  Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, USAID Chief Samantha Power, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Afreen Akhter, MCC Chief Executive Officer Alice Albright, and US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu are among the diplomats dispatched from the US.  Although the US was the second country to establish diplomatic ties with Nepal, high-level interaction has been uncommon and has become even more so since the end of the Cold War. Since Nepalese officials had not made a state visit of such a high caliber before, King Birendra paid a state visit to the United States in 1983. The Nepali PM would travel to New York for the UNGA and have a brief meeting with the US president for picture opportunities. Following a 17-year break, the then-foreign minister Gyawali and his US colleague Michael Richard Pompeo met bilaterally at a time when Nepal was deepening its diplomatic ties with China. After the end of 2018, and today, the US has sent its officials to Nepal on a regular basis. After 5 years, again at the Thomas Jefferson Room of the State Department in Washington D.C. Blinken welcomed Saud. In 2022 May, Nepal, and the US signed a new development agreement for five years of grants, amounting to $659 million. Nepal had received $42.8 million through the US Department of Defense. The foreign military financing program was the main program prioritized by the US aid in Nepal during the period. Nepal received a 16.93 million FMF program in 2021, third in the top activities. With 17.86 million, DOD was third in assistance partner and Conflict, Peace, and Security was third sector of priority with USD 17.82 million. In 2020, U.S. cooperation in the military sector was low. In that year, Nepal received 124 million dollars in aid, of which only 1 percent of military assistance was available. In 2019, an obligation of assistance was $174.2 million. Only 0.5 percent was military assistance. At that time, $1 million was spent on military education and training. Concerns have been raised recently over Beijing’s increasing sway on Nepal, especially when it comes to investment and infrastructure development. This has given rise to some conjecture over Nepal’s potential future alignment with China, India, and other Indo-Pacific nations. According to this data, the US military is progressively providing more support to Nepal in an effort to keep China in check in the area.  The US Aids Interest in Nepal Yesterday and Today US assistance to South Asia has traditionally been targeted against communist ideology. It was directed against the influence of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and currently against China. South Asian states have long been seen by the US as communist-prone. The US was interested in Nepal because of its close proximity to China during the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s significant influence there.  Enhancing Nepal’s “western orientation” and controlling the potential “threat of communism” were the main goals of US aid in that country. The United States of America has always maintained Nepal inside its security zone and offered military support.  In 1964–1965, the US contributed 1.8 million military personnel, according to a 1973 House of Representatives speech by James H. Noyes, Deputy Secretary of Defense Assistance.  The US was Nepal’s biggest donor until 1965. During the height of the Cold

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The U.S. raising Engagement in South Asia: New Battlefield of Sino-US rivalry

With the new year 2023, the visits of top American diplomats to South Asian countries have increased.  These recent visits are concluded as the counter steps of the US against the Chinese influence in the region. Recently, from the end of January to a few days in February, the American Under Secretary Victoria Newland visited three countries in South Asia and headed toward Gulf. Recently, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited three South Asian nations including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and the Gulf nation Qatar for a week starting from Jan 28-Feb 3. Before her, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu had traveled to India and Bangladesh from January 12-15. Within the span of a week, another senior official from the Biden Administration, Samantha Power, administrator of the USAID is scheduled to Visit Nepal. Soon after Power’s return, Afreen Akhter, Deputy Assistant Sectary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) for Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives, as well as the Office of Security and Transnational Affairs set to visit Nepal. These engagements and activisms by the US in Nepal and South Asian Region are focused on Countering Chinese influence and encircling from the South. Review of Recent Visits Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the visit was centralized with US-Indo Pacific Strategy and its framework. It was the first visit of any senior US official after the formation of a Leftist dominated government led by Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’, the Chair of CPN (Maoist Center). During her Stay in Nepal, she met with Prachanda, foreign minister Bimala Paudel Rai, former Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and KP Sharma Oli.  During these meetings, she proposed a collaboration to fight against China and Russia. Let me quote her from the meeting with the press in Kathmandu, “We can see authoritarians from all over the world trying to force them to enforce the rules around the world.” Though she didn’t mention China, her indication was toward China. “So we have to work together to protect democracy,” she purposed to the leaders in Kathmandu. In the term “Urgent Global Issue” all her meeting was focused on China and obviously on Russia too. In New Delhi, Under Secretary Victoria co-chaired the annual meeting of the India-US Foreign Office Association (FOC). Within the umbrella term “India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership” the meeting was focused on US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. The statement by the Ministry of External Affairs mentioned that both sides have made their commitment to a free, open, and equitable Indo-Pacific region and discussed in the Quad, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative (IPMDA). All these forums are led by the US against China. The Quad is an informal security alliance comprising India, Japan, and Australia, led by the US. While The IPEF and IPMDA are the ‘framework’ unveiled by US President Joe Biden during his visit to Japan on May 23 last year. The White House’s fact sheet states that the United States is an economic power in the Indo-Pacific region and aims to expand American leadership in the area. India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries are included in this framework. China had strong opposition to such a framework. On the geopolitical strategy, these frameworks are designed as the new weapon by the US to counter China. “The IPEF is designed to advance US geopolitical strategy. In the name of cooperation, the framework seeks to exclude certain countries, establish US-led trade rules, restructure the system of industrial chains, and decouple regional countries from the Chinese economy,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on May 25, 2022, had lamented the framework. Mahathir Mohamad, Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, a member nation of the IPEF had criticized a new U.S.-led economic grouping, saying it is intended to isolate China, and won’t benefit regional economic growth without Beijing. This show that the visit of Under Secretary Victoria was solely focused on US-IPS, and rheostat the Chinese influence in the region. Colombo was the third and last stop of this visit in South Asia. It was the second visit of Under Secretary Victoria to Sri Lanka, which they called the victims of China’s “Debt Trap”. She with Assistant Secretary Donald Lu and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Amanda Dory visited Colombo last year in March. Sri Lank a member of BRI, had rejected the US assistance program MCC. The US used to accuse Chines investment in Sri Lank as a “Debt Trap”. the cause of the “debt-trap diplomacy”, Sri Lanka lost Control of a major port- read the report entitled “The Elements of the China Challenge” state.  But, Sri Lank had rejected the Western accusations of the “Debt Trap”. On January 12-15, the US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu had his visit to India and Bangladesh. This visit was also aimed at expanding bilateral relations and preventing Chinese influence from the relevant countries. It is a controversial interview with an Indian Television, Lu directly accused China of being Aggressive towards Indian Border. “We have said that the border dispute between India and China Should be solved peacefully through negotiations directly between the two parties. Having said that we haven’t seen PRC has taken good faith steps to resolve this border conflict,” he stated. His Next Stop was Dhaka, where the Newly appointed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was stepped in a week before. Though it was called “Technical Stopover” by China, it was his first foreign stop after holding the position. They stopped after a day, US Senior Director for South Asia, National Security Council Rear Admiral Eileen Laubacher landed for four days visit to Dhaka. Bangladesh, with close ties with China holding an election next year. The United States has imposed sanctions on the Bangladesh Paramilitary Forces ‘Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)’ on charges of human rights violations since 2021. Previously, Bangladesh was not invited on the Summit for Democracy held by US President Joe Biden on

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US Indo-Pacific Strategy Aimed Containing China

Dhakal Bidhur Nepal’s governing party Nepal Communist Party (NCP), after the unification of the CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Center) second central committee full conclude is on going in the capital Kathmandu. 20 month after the unification the political document introduced in the CC meeting adopt the strong views against the US Indo-Pacific Strategy stating that it is aimed at containing China’s rise in the global geopolitical circumstance. “The US has come up with a military strategy named Indo-Pacific Strategy to boost its influence and dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, to contain China’s rise as the world’s top economic power and to weaken it,” read the NCP’s political document presented by its co-chairpersons KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the party’s central committee on going meeting. China initiated Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been praised on the document of NCP who took over administration after the landslide victory on election held after the formulation of news constitution. The report mentions that today’s world economy will focus on Asia. “The Chinese economy and economic growth, accelerating to become the first of the world’s economic powers and growth of the Indian economy as a potential Asia-centric world power,” the document said, adding, “China’s BRI, Asian Infrastructure. Development Bank, BRICS between China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa and India shows the conscious initiation of cooperation strategy.” The BRI is described as the broad sharing strategy. Without naming the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact in which Nepal has signed in 2017 and ready to introduce in the parliament document sates, “Nepal cannot accept any proposal of political or economic assistance if that is part of any military alliance.” “The BRI presented by China today is working as a comprehensive partnership strategy to expand its connectivity and financial support globally,” the document said, adding that Nepal has also signed a BRI and has made itself a partner in expanding that relationship and cooperation. NCP document shows the need to take positive initiatives for the development of an independent and self-reliant national economy while maintaining good neighborly relations with China and India. However, the document is silent MCC which has been under discussion in recent years, inside and outside the government and in the streets. Speaking at the inauguration of a meeting on the issue of MCC, which was opposed by senior leaders of the NCP, Prime Minister and one of the chairmen KP Sharma Oli said that the report did not mention anything about the military partnership. But in ongoing discussion on the document senior leaders of the party has opposed on the MCC compact and are demanding to introduce MCC in the document. Indo-Pacific Strategy is ongoing debate in Nepal since foreign minister Pradeep K. Gyanwali meet US state secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington. After the meeting deputy spokesperson of State department released the statement stating as the Nepal as member of the Indo-pacific Strategy. Although the statement is out from the department website but the tweet of the deputy spokesperson is in archive now. The defense department release the report in June 2019; stating Nepal as the new member of the strategy. After that leaders of the NCP have strong position against the Strategy. Although government has not release the diplomatic note against the report leaders of the NCP are demanding to oppose it. In 2017 Nepal signed the MCC compact with US of 500 million dollars. Now it is in debate that the US is entering to Nepal to stop China and BRI through the cooperation. The MCC, describes itself as an “independent U.S. foreign assistance agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty.” But, many of US defense report state that the MCC as the defense strategy. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia at the US Department of State David J Ranz on his Nepal visit himself has said that MCC is one of the most important initiatives being implemented in Nepal under the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Now government and US embassy are giving clarification saying that the MCC is not the part of IPS. In this periphery of circumstance, small communist group outside the parliament are opposing the MCC. Right wing Nepali Congress the main opposition of the parliament strongly backs the MCC compact. There are at least three opinions inside the NCP. Party chair and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali are in favor of endorsing MCC as soon as possible. But the standing committee member Bhim Rawal and Dev Gurung are strongly opposing the Compact. Whereas with next chair, Prachand other leaders are silent or in mid point. They are stating, the compact should be in favor of the national interest. Hiranyalal Shrestha a Veteran diplomat in short discussion with this author; worried about Nepal going on IPS. “Nepal should keep balance relation with its neighbor and other nation. We should not be the part of the any military cooperation of any nation targeting to our next neighbor,” former ambassador of Nepal to Russia and former leader of the NCP added, “Nepal should not be the card of any nation against our neighbor.” Shrestha argued that Nepali leaders should be aware of the US policy to stop China in the South Asia. “Nepal has principle of non-aligned we should maintain it,” he added. In Nepal, there is a conspiracy that opposition voice of US IPS and MCC is backed by the Beijing. In this circumstance Beijing has cleared that China never opposed the foreign aids in Nepal. In a press conference held on January 3, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has said, “We welcome any international assistance to Nepal if it is for economic cooperation. We would like to see the ratification process of the MCC and the Nepal government takes a positive decision for its interest.” It is cleared that the Nepal used to throw the China card against the India and Indian cards against the China. Now the situation has been changed. China and India

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