Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Félix E. Martín

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Iqbal Akhtar

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Thomas A. Breslin

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Lynne M. Webb

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Geopolitics, Buffer states, Security studies, Small states, Nepal, India, China

Date of Defense



This dissertation analyzes the relevance and importance of small buffer states for contemporary International Relations. It argues that sub-systemic interactions reinvigorate the role of buffer states in regional security. Using the case study of the triadic relationship among India, Nepal, and China, this study explains the evolving role of buffer states. The technological innovations in weapons systems, transportation, and communication have extended the reach of potential adversaries, rendering intermediate territorial space less significant than in the past. Thus, it is hypothesized in this dissertation that increased sub-systemic rivalry reinvigorates differently the relevance and significance of buffer states. The role of such states has evolved from an overwhelmingly geographic concept based on spatial discontinuity between larger rival powers to that of a fluid political space in which Great/Middle Power rivalry and competition play out.

The research utilizes a mixed research design, specifically called the convergent parallel design. Data was collected based on specific critical junctures between 1990-2017. For quantitative analysis, data on trade, foreign direct investment, and foreign aid were collected; for the qualitative data analysis, foreign policy statements, press releases, and media briefs were used. Incorporating the Kruskal-Wallis Test and content analysis, both the results of the qualitative and quantitative analyses were collectively interpreted. Results demonstrate that during critical historical junctures, material and rhetorical engagements of both China and India invigorate within the buffer state of Nepal. In periods that India increases its material and rhetorical engagements, China concomitantly decreases its material engagement all the while increasing its rhetorical engagement. In essence, buffer states maintain relevance through the externalization of interactions between larger powers in the form of dynamic rhetorical and material engagements. In this case, Nepal maintains its relevance as a dynamic political space for interactions between its neighbors, India and China.







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