Nearly half a world away from Ukraine is a landlocked Himalayan country also dwarfed by giant neighbours, but with a population more than that of Australia. Nepal is buffeted by its own geopolitical clash between the United States and China over an American infrastructure grant that has significantly polarised opinion, leading to unruly street protests in Kathmandu.
Last week, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on the Ukraine crisis saying: ‘The recognition of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent entities goes contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter. Nepal opposes any use of force against a sovereign country in any circumstance and believes in peaceful resolution of disputes through diplomacy and dialogue.’
In what way, if any, are these seemingly disparate events in Nepal and Ukraine related? Between the end of World War II in 1945 and 1960, some three dozen new states in Asia and Africa achieved autonomy or independence from their erstwhile European colonial rulers. Though colonialism ended, you cannot properly comprehend contemporary international relations or geopolitics without referring to an empire that harkens back even further than the pre-Cold War period. Indeed, many have pointed out that the current Russian invasion of Ukraine is in fact a reassertion of an imperial mentality.
Read more: Lest we forget, David Seddon
Geography as a discipline is subjective and impacted by political trends and power equations of the day. To say, for instance, that the Himalaya of Nepal represents one static point and the Tarai plains constitutes the other static end of that spectrum, is now a likely misrepresentation of current reality.
Such assertions were more viable during the Cold War, power is much more fungible now. The more important question today seems to be: What are the imperial influences that Nepal is currently subjected to? What are the ambiguous aspects of Nepal’s sovereignty?