While South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan abstained in a UN vote condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nepal surprisingly backed the resolution to demand that Moscow withdraw its troops. It was a rare move for Nepal, which normally maintains a “neutral” stance on global conflicts. The tiny Himalayan nation also enjoys good relations with Russia and the West. Kathmandu’s support for Ukraine has sparked a debate in Nepal about changing the country’s foreign policy. Bhutan and the Maldives also voted in favor of the UN resolution, in a move appreciated by the West.
Reasons for policy change in Nepal
Experts say Nepal’s “anti-Russian stance” is a result of its recent tilt towards the United States. Recently, Nepal’s parliament approved a $500 million (455 million euro) grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to pro-China American parties in the country who opposed the move and staged anti-China protests. Americans across the country.
Yubaraj Ghimire, editor-in-chief of Deshsanchar.com news portal, says DW that Nepal is definitely on the side of the West, and this indicates a change in the country’s foreign policy. Shortly after the UN vote on the war in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and thanked him for his government’s decisions to endorse the MCC and the UN resolution.
But some analysts are of the view that Nepal is only trying to play down its dependence on its powerful neighbors China and India. “As a landlocked country sandwiched between two great powers, it is natural for Nepal to feel anxious,” said Nishchalnath Pandey, director of the Kathmandu-based Center for South Asian Studies. DW. Nepal sees Washington’s aid as a way to keep China and India at bay, as Beijing and New Delhi vie for greater influence in the Himalayan nation.
Small nations feel threatened
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has worried many non-aligned countries, who see it as an act of war by a large country against its small neighbour. Nepal faces similar threats from China and India. Experts say it would be difficult for countries like Nepal to remain impartial on events such as the war in Ukraine. “Nepal’s support for the UN resolution should not be viewed through the prism of an aligned or non-aligned conundrum,” said Indra Adhikari, a strategic analyst in Kathmandu. DW. “Nepal supports justice, world peace, UN charters and international laws.
Kathmandu’s position in such crises, however, has not been consistent; for example, he did not criticize Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and abstained in a UN vote deploring the occupation. But Adhikari argues that this was due to the Chinese-backed communist government in Nepal. Ghimire warns that Nepal could face tough times if Russia emerges victorious from the ongoing conflict with the West and becomes a major player in South Asia. Whatever the outcome, the Ukraine crisis has heightened the risks for countries like Nepal that are heavily dependent on regional and global powers.