As the Great King of Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah, puts it – “Nepal is a yam between the two big stones”. Certainly this context is even more relevant today. Nepal is a land between the two giants – India and China. Both are emerging superpowers of the world in terms of sociology-economics to the current science & technology. But to our dismay, Nepal has not been able to utilize this opportunity and is significantly lagging behind.
Compared with its neighbors, Nepal remains sluggish in economic development as well as investments in research and development [(1) and “Report notes China’s influence in emerging Asian science zone,” News & Analysis, J. Mervis, 20 January, p. 274)]. While China and India have made substantial progress in science and technology, Nepal, sandwiched between the two countries, lags in basic science and technology infrastructure, high-quality education, retention of talented researchers, and qualified manpower.
China and India support Nepal’s development primarily by providing physical infrastructure. However, military assistance has overshadowed other aid. China has promised to provide military aid of US$7.7 million and to establish a military academy in Nepal. Likewise, India has resumed military assistance and promised to provide more military supplies in the future (2). In contrast, support is dismal for Nepal’s higher education, science and technology, and research and development. Furthermore, scientific cooperation between Nepal and its large neighbors is negligible (3)
Instability, corruption, and lack of technological development, as well as frequent disasters, have undermined economic development in Nepal. Because of the lack of research and development investments, about 40% of Nepalese who have master’s and Ph.D. degrees are teaching instead of conducting their own research (4). Thousands of talented Nepalese emigrated during the conflict and are now reluctant to return home because of limited opportunities.
After a decade-long conflict, Nepal is undergoing peace and a state-restructuring process. Rather than competing to provide military assistance to a country heading toward peace, China and India should foster innovation and economic prosperity by supporting Nepalese science and technology and research and development. An impoverished and uneducated Nepal is a greater threat to its neighbors than a Nepal that is enriched and educated.