Each country, including Nepal, must get to appreciate the geo political, geo economic and geo psychological implications in each’s national interest. This requires sustained in depth strategic, multi disciplinary research studies in country by each country.
What I truly appreciate in Madhu Raman Acharya’s presentation is the effort to integrate the UN ESCAPs long standing vision of an Asian Highway and Asian Railway connecting all countries in Asia starting at Tokyo and ending at Istanbul. No doubt this grand vision of the 1960s was initiated by Japan and so it is appropriate to have Japan (and South Korea) as active participants in the building of trans Asia infrastructure, which should also include Asian Waterways; about which UN ESCAP had also started to visualize on opportunities in the 1980s particularly concerning the Mekong, Gangese and Brahmaputra rivers.
I say this because President Xi Jinping’s vision of a Silk Road Economic Belt and New Maritime Silk Route gives primary emphasis to linking China’s western region with Europe. It excludes any reference, whatsoever, to the ancient and medieval Southwestern Silk Route. Nepal’s diplomacy must seek to promote this notion as a broader Silk Road Economic Belt linking Nepal and South Asia to Europe.
Just having roads connectivity at Tatopani, Rasuwagadi, Nhechung, Olangnchola, Khimtangka, Lamabagar and Yari etc does not suffice to make them a Silk Road. Why? The Silk Road Economkic Belt and the New Maritime Silk Route as has been conceptualized are for connectivity to Europe (Rotterdam) via Samarkand, Tehran, and Istanbul. Moscow onward to Duisburg and then Rotterdam by land. As for by the maritime route it is via Haikou and Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Kolkata, Colombo, Nairobi, Suez Canal to Athens and then on wards to Venice and to Rotterdam by land from Venice,
It can also revive Nepal as the bridgehead economy with the extension of the Silk Road to Bihar and UP. Equally, it will help make Nepal a transit state for north eastern South Asia’s (better known as the SAGQ sub region) trade and commerce into Central Asia.
Nepal must, first and foremost, sign an agreement to extend the 1956 km Qinghai-Lhasa and the Lhasa-Shigatse (253 km) railway to Nepal’s border at Khasa by 2019 and, thereafter, to Kathmandu and Bhairawa by 2022.
Nepal should also link its North South five riverine road corridors with roads in Tibet for balanced regional development and faster economic growth. Points are Rasuwagadhi (Rasuwa District); Nhechung (Mustang District); Olangchola (Taplejng District); Khimthangka (Sankhuwasabha District); Lamabagar (Dolakha District) and Yari (Humla District).
Religious tourism will boom into Nepal with millions arriving each year with land connectivities to Lumbini, Muktinath and Kailash Mansarovar.
Nepal must start planning China oriented export zones and industrial districts in each of the 5 major urban centers connected to roads to Tibet.
MOFA is advised to use SAIM to undertake long term applied research on the costs and benefits of the Silk Route and how we may set up the Hills and Mountain regions as the new growth centers created by the intersection of the North South Riverine Corridors with the Mid Hill East West High Way their connectivity to Tibet and beyond to Yunnan and Sichuan.
China is attempting a renaissance of its global position as a Super Power and Civilization with the revival of the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Route. It is the only country that does not have a regional economic bloc. Neither do Japan and South Korea but they are allies in defense with USA.
China is being counter veiled by US its New Silk Route plan and by India with wanting to open, since the advent of Modi, its land mass to multi modal transit and transshipment transportation and communication to integrate South Asia with its own economy. Inviting the Chinese Silk Route into Nepal will accelerate Nepal’s vision to serve as the bridge economy linking South Asia to Central Asia as well as linking the Himalayan economies of India and Nepal as an integrated South Asian Green Economy.
Not including the South western Silk Road into the Silk Road Economic Belt grand strategic vision will further marginalize the land locked Himalayan economies from full participation in the emerging new global order as centre's of innovation for a unique Asian Green Economy given that the Himalayas are Asia’s Water Tower facing acute security and development challenges from Climate Change and Global Warming.
Let us hope that Japan and S Korea will also join the AIIB and be actively engaged in SAARC and BIMSTEC to fund the massive financial need for the Asia’s infrastructure development and R & D, which is estimated to be in the region of $ 1.2 trillion between now and 2025 to involve 50 countries and near about 4.4 billion people.
Only by working in partnership with Japan and South Korea will there be geo psychological confidence in China’s geo strategic policy of ‘peaceful rise’ and ’shared prosperity’, as it will be based on multilateralism suited to the emerging new multi polar world rather than be subject to bilateral pushes and pulls from China going it alone.
In this manner too will the North East and South East Asians trust the new security and financial architecture sought by China under the banner ‘Asia for Asians’. Such a thrust will give new psychological momentum to all its neighbors.
Last, but by no means the least, SAIM is ready and willing to create the SAIM Development and Asian Cooperation Institute to undertake all manner of development research, publications, conferences, dialogues and dissemination on the benefits of integration in the field of inter regional, regional, sub regional and national regional integration studies and serve as a national think on the subject. SAIM has a MOU with Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India’s biggest think tank, to jointly study on integrating the SAGQ sub region. It is being considered for funding by EU.
I request the Government of Nepal and the FNCCI, CNI and FNCSI and other interested federal and nonfederal private sector organizations to come forth to fund the Institute and support it by serving on its Council of Trustees; Board of Eminent Advisors and Panel of National and International Consultants. Pending this innovation, it is recommended that a project fund be provided specifically to research on the Silk Road Economic Belt and Nepal’s national interest with financial and technical assistance from ADB, WB, UNDP and UN ESCAP.
This is based on Rana's recent comments. Excerpts of comments of Rana on paper The Silk Route: Enhancing Nepal China connectivity presented by Past Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Madhu Raman Acharya in a recent workshop.