All Roads Lead North
China, Nepal and the Contest for the Himalayas
A Nepali writer reflects on what the suffocating embrace of both India and China has done to his homeland.
During the June 2020 territorial dispute over Kalapani, India blamed tensions on a newly assertive Nepal’s deepening relations with China. But beyond the accusations and grandstanding, this reflects a new reality: the power equations in South Asia have been redrawn, to make space for China.
Nepal did not turn northwards overnight. Its ties with China have deep historical roots built on Buddhism, dating to the early first millennium. While India’s unofficial 2015 blockade provided momentum to the rift with Delhi, Nepal has long wanted deeper ties with Beijing, to counteract India’s oppressive intimacy. With China’s growing South Asian and global ambitions, Nepal now has a new primary bilateral partner–and Nepalis are forging a path towards modernity with its help, both in the remote borderlands and in the cities.
All Roads Lead North offers a long view of Nepal’s foreign relations, today underpinned by China’s world-power status. Sharing never- before-told stories about Tibetan guerrilla fighters, failed coup leaders and trans- Himalayan traders, Nepal analyst Amish Raj Mulmi examines the histories binding mountain communities together across the Sino-Nepali border. Part history, part journalistic account, Mulmi’s is a complex, compelling and rigorously researched study of a small country caught between two neighbourhood giants.
‘A concise modern history of the complicated triangle of Nepal, China and India relations and how a focus on one of Nepal’s neighbours always needs to factor in the other. As informative as this big picture history is, it serves to highlight Mulmi’s skill at focusing on individuals.’ — Maximillian Morch, Asian Review of Books
‘A journalist’s scholarly research takes the long view on a small country’s foreign relations, even as it often finds itself caught between two neighbourhood giants. … What remains unclear is how Nepal will navigate the future as it is caught between the past and the future when China is likely to be assertive and at times an adventurous interventionist. Mulmi has written a book with a long shelf life.’ — Kallol Bhattacherjee, The Hindu
‘In All Roads Lead North, Amish Mulmi examines the rich history of Nepal’s global engagement through its northern border, marked as it is by trade, cultural exchange, political manoeuvring, and occasional conflict, even war. Whether he be writing about Kathmandu’s Lhasa traders or the ordinary inhabitants of the remote Himalayan borderlands, Mulmi fuses meticulous on-the-ground reportage with his vast knowledge of history. As such, he corrects the common understanding of Nepal as a satellite of India, and places the nation in its proper geopolitical context. This book introduces readers to Nepal anew.’ — Manjushree Thapa, author of Forget Kathmandu
‘By a deft combination of long-range historical perspective and scrupulous reportage, Mulmi turns the searchlight on Nepal’s ties with Tibet and China. His tightly crafted narrative and argument revises much of the received wisdom on the recent trajectory of Nepal’s foreign relations. This book should be required reading for everyone in New Delhi dealing with Nepal and for anyone interested in understanding China’s growing footprint in the subcontinent.’ — Srinath Raghavan, author of The Most Dangerous Place: A History of the United States in South Asia
Amish Raj Mulmi's writings have been published in The Himalayan Arc: Journeys East of South- east and The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018; and by Al Jazeera; Roads & Kingdoms; Himal Southasian; India Today; The Kathmandu Post and The Record. He is from Pokhara in Nepal. This is his first book.