Friday 19th July 2024
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Friday 19th July 2024
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गृहपृष्ठOpinionPerception of Russian Aggression in South Asia: Crisis strikes Nepal

Perception of Russian Aggression in South Asia: Crisis strikes Nepal


Introduction

We all agree that Ukraine and Russia conflict has far-reaching legal and economic consequences. It has prompted many countries to re-evaluate their relationships with these two nations and have opted for alternative food and energy sources. The Ukraine-Russia war is not limited to these but its geopolitical ramification has expanded to an intricate global affairs.

This war shows no sign of abating after almost two years, despite international condemnation and efforts to bring peace. Of the six resolutions of the UN emergency sessions, Nepal supported four and abstained in two. While discussing many of the United Nations Security Council resolutions in future Nepal’s position on this issue would push us in a difficult foreign policy approach.

Dilemmas

Two prominent dilemmas exist in this. European vision is on one side which advocates as Russia being a clear threat to a free, peaceful and democratic Europe. Besides, NATO expansion is bolstering it.

The Russian Vision says Ukrainian government a ‘racist organization’ discriminates against and violates the rights of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. To the Russians the military means in Ukraine are justified to protect its ethnic population. Besides, Russia considers NATO expansion as a threat. Due to above one cannot be hopeful of any reconciliation soon.

Impact on South Asia

In global and regional perspective there are both tangible and intangible impacts of this yet unresolved war.

The Russian (as many west countries view) act of aggression and Ukraine’s reaction to this has threatened the balance of power situation. After the Cold war, the insecurity and trust deficit have led many European countries anxious on their territorial security, economy, and fuel and food security. Such anxiety in European countries is natural as they are heavily dependent on imported oil and gas from Russia.

Ukraine suffers from an uncertain exit strategy. With an excessive effort, the continued conflict has drained them. The recent 50 Billion US Dollars loan to Ukraine has raised everyone’s eyebrows about the antagonistic approach towards Russia by confiscating her wealth. The sour relations of west and Russia due to this war would remain irremediable for uncertain time with many complicated geopolitics. Kremlin’s outreach with Beijing and Pyongyang has larger implications.

As a testimony of mutually assured destruction ( MAD ) phenomena the importance of nuclear proliferation ambition of strategic defense mechanism in medium-power states has increased. The glaring example is Pakistan and India’s frequent war mongering that keeps South Asian region at tense.

The conventional weapons shortfall has made defense system critical to some nations. South Asia’s current reliance on Russian military hardware is high. Russia has been the source of nearly two-thirds of all Indian arms imports, and India has been the largest Russian arms importer. Other countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, also buy a considerable section of their inventory from Russia. Other issues such as Inflation, impact on industrial manufacturing due to lack of raw materials and growing negative impact on two ways trade with both Russia and Ukraine is self-explanatory.

Impact in Nepal

Socio economic impact. The Kantipur Daily (June 28 ) published a tragic news item saying ten Nepali youths killed recently in that war may add to many more tolls which was accounted before. Our youths in search of attractive jobs abroad were found recruited in Ukraine and Russian armed forces giving Nepali society painful news of their deaths, injury, disappearances and being detained as prisoner of war.

Notwithstanding, this phenomenon is criticized at home the Nepalese embassy at Moscow or the MOFA has not been able to establish their credibility in addressing those. Government to government relation is affected as both countries are giving unclear promises.

The demonstration in front of the Russian embassy in Kathmandu was not a pleasing moment. The large size bill board in front of the US embassy at Kathmandu exhibiting ‘we support Ukraine’s sovereignty’ has been found questioning where one Nepali youth is fighting with other Nepali youth in the foreign battle ground.

Psychological impact

The war on both sides violates international humanitarian laws and protocols as it targets critical civilian infrastructures such as homes, hospitals, schools and supermarkets displacing a huge population. One can well imagine the catastrophe where elderlies, women, children are affected. Nepal, a peace-loving country underscores these international humanitarian crises and be emphatic but cannot really influence the warring parties pragmatically. The country is aware the escalation of the conflict leading to a humanitarian crisis could result more complexities in future, and the psychological impact of any war is permanent.

Economic

Many least developed countries’ ( LDCs) economy is dependent on International donors. Donor countries and major world financial institutions are not sure how to respond to the reconstruction of the devastated Ukrainian oblast and on the other side continue to contribute to the developmental projects of LDCs.

Inflation

Global South bears the brunt of the war more intensely, especially after the unprecedented global pandemic. The hike in fuel prices has impaired the balance of payments situation, destabilizing economic and fiscal conditions and increasing inflationary pressure. The inflation rate forecasted by the IMF for 2021 was 4.7%, up to 8.8% in 2022. A popular narrative portrays Russia for worsening the economic crisis, and Russia in turn blames the West‘s sanctions preventing it from exporting Russian fuel and grains for the downturn. Irrespective of the side one chooses, the poorest countries face the direst consequences of these events. The World Bank predicted 60% of the poorest countries were already in debt distress because of the global COVID 19 pandemic. International capital markets including those of warring countries are badly affected by increasing food and fuel prices, lower tourism revenues and maintenance of sustainable industries due to unavailability of raw materials.

Geopolitical challenge

South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal voted to support the UN resolution condemning Russian aggression. South Asia is divided in this regard. Nepal is part of international organizations and forums where the conflict may be discussed or influence decision-making. Shifts in global diplomacy could indirectly affect Nepal’s interests and positions in international forums. Nepal may also face pressure or diplomatic challenges in its international relations due to alliances and positions taken by other countries involved in or affected by the conflict.

Slim Trade Picture

As the statistics show, in 2022 Nepal exported $1.85M to Russia. The main products that Nepal exported to Russia were Tea ($663k), Knitted Carpets ($558k), and Percussion ($28.3k). Over the past 5 years the exports of Nepal to Russia have increased at an annualized rate of 23.4%, from $646k in 2017 to $1.85M in 2022. There is nothing observed after the start of the war.

Similarly, in 2022, Russia exported $14.1M to Nepal. The main products that Russia exported to Nepal were Potassic Fertilizers ($5.52M), Spice Seeds ($3.25M), and Seed Oils ($3.2M). Over the past 5 years the exports of Russia to Nepal have increased at an annualized rate of 94.6%, from $506k in 2017 to $14.1M in 2022.

During 2022, Nepal had a large net trade with Russia in the exports of Vegetable Products ($666k), Textiles ($587k), and Instruments ($30.1k).

During 2022, Ukraine had a large net trade with Nepal in the exports of Animal and Vegetable Bi-Products ($8.71M), Vegetable Products ($8.43M), and Metals ($913k).

In 2021, Ukraine’s exports grew by almost 20 million dollars compared to 2020. But in 2022, as Russia started its full-scale war, this number fell by 35%.

Education

The main area of cultural and humanitarian cooperation is the education of Nepalese youths in Ukrainian universities, as well as visits to Nepal of Ukrainian citizens for tourism and religious purposes are hampered. The Nepalese students striving to achieve the quality education in Russia and Ukraine are badly impacted with great uncertainty for any prospective scholarship.

Conclusion

Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the exchanges of visits and interactions at various levels, any diverse cooperation projects and prospects have been badly affected. There will be a continued negative impact due to these. We must admit that too much of the blood has been wasted.

We should be hopeful that Ukraine Russia should end their differences soon, and relieve everyone from inflation and global instability.

(Sharma is a retired Brig General and has also served as a Former spokesperson of Nepal Army)





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