China’s Growing Presence in South Asia: Concerns for India
South Asian region, with rich cultural civilization, geo-strategic locations, historical experiences, variety of geographical features, world highest mountain peaks, bank of resources, diversity in language, culture, religious beliefs and customs, colonial legacies, variety of climate zones, dazzling tourist attraction sites, is surely a gateway of success, opportunities and progress. Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh together constitute the South Asian region. China shares common borders with four of the South Asian countries; Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Afghanistan South Asia shares a major role in international affairs and global development. It is a land of great diversity comprising resource rich countries. The region’s total area is nearly two million square miles, home to 1/5th of world’s population. South Asia is one of the most attractive economic destinations. The region serves as a link to South East Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. is manifested with the presence of Indian Ocean in south, Arabian Sea on north-western side, Bay of Bengal on north-eastern side and access to Malaccan Strait and Persian Gulf on south-eastern and south-western side respectively. All these areas hold policy with the major oil imports of China and trade shipping’s passing through these ports. This paper aims at discussing the rising Chinese presence, investments and engagement in South Asia and its underlying interests, with a focus on its impact on the Indian dominance in the region and concerns for India.
Contemporary strategic and economic importance for China. China desires to establish friendly and multidimensional relations with all the South Asian countries as manifested in part of her ‘string of pearls’ strategy. China’s foreign policy is based on maintaining independence, regional cooperation, world peace, good neighborly relations and enhanced unity and cooperation with developing countries. China hopes to develop friendly and cooperative relationships with all the countries on the basis of mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in internal affairs, equality and mutual Some key principles of China’s engagement policy in South Asia are geo-strategic competition with India, energy resource requirement, economic expansion, regime stability, noninterference principles, and resistance to multilateral cooperation. China is also involved in several peace building and security initiatives within the region. China’s policy visà-vis South Asian region is designed at preserving her economic and security interests, most importantly its desire to get access to the Indian Ocean. Access to South Asian markets is important for China’s economy. China desperately wants to secure her energy trade and sea routes as most of its imported oil from Africa and Gulf region passes through the Indian Ocean along with her increasing trade shipping’s with Middle east, Africa and Europe. Therefore, the sea lanes spread around the South Asian region foreign policy. Besides securing her oil, trade and energy interests, china does not want to have any kind of instability in the South Asia countries, due to the large scale of investments by Chinese companies in mining, oil to ensure steady supply of resources/ raw materials to China. China is also cautious of US presence in the region be felt in the region. South Asia also holds the key for stability in China’s south western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet.
China has emerged as an economic giant and an attractive investor for South Asian countries. The trade between China and South Asian countries has increased manifold, as it rose from $5.7 billion in 2000 to $93 billion in 2012, with an average annual increase of over 26 percent where China’s imports from South Asian countries increased from $1.9 billion to $22.6 billion.
in the country, especially in textiles, agro-processing, energy and power, pharmaceuticals, communications and infrastructure development. This will reduce the trade gap between the two countries,”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina China has been carrying out several development projects in Bangladesh In past China collaborated with Bangladesh on numerous projects like, construction of bridges, nuclear co-operation, coal mining project, establishment of Dhakabased Bangladesh-China friendship exhibition center and capacity-building and training assistance programmes for civil servants and security forces personnel. Bangladesh government has recently sought further assistance from China in implementing their Vision 2021 programme. China is also interested in investing in the apparel industry of Bangladesh because it is to high-tech industrialization due to high manufacturing cost there. In the last nine months, China imported $100m worth of clothing items from Bangladesh and their target is to reach $1bn by next year. China is very keen to develop a deep-water port facility at Sonadia and the Chittagong port, which handles around 92 per cent of the country’s import-export trade. As for International Studies South Asia director, Zhao Gancheng, “Developing the port is a very important part of China’s co-operation with Bangladesh, and China is aware of its strategic
China is Sri Lanka’s major defence heavily investing in the infrastructural development and transport sector of Sri Lanka. Recently, both sides have agreed on the extension of a railway, the southern highway, and developing the port of Colombo, where china is already working on the construction of Hambantota port. In addition to that China has granted a development loan of worth $2.2 billion to Sri Lanka and has also agreed to collaborate with them in developing satellite communication capability, space technology and maritime industries. China has also decided to provide defence technology and personnel training to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is also planning to launch a telecom satellite in 2015 in partnership with China Great Wall Corporation, costing $320 million.
China embassy in Maldives was opened in 2011. The relations between both countries got strengthened by visit of the current President Mohammed Waheed to China. Last year in September 2012, China agreed to provide an aid of worth $500 million to Maldives. Recently, the airport project given to the Indian company, GMR, was cancelled and was approached by China. China is investing in IT and communication sector of the country and recently China gave a loan of US $5.70 crore to Maldives to implement its Information Technology (IT) infrastructure project. Tourist arrival adding to country’s economy.
Nepal holds a prime position for China political activities by Tibetan refugees. Nepal and China share strong ties, with the latter deeply getting active in security, economic and political sectors of the country. China’s direct investment in Nepal nearly doubled between 2007 and 2011. China is assisting Nepal in developing hydropower and infrastructure facilities. More than 60 schools in Nepal are offering courses in Chinese. China’s private sector is interested in investing in the tourism sector of the country. Chinese tourist arrival in Nepal has also increased in the last few years. China desires to open up new trade routes through Nepal and has recently promised to increase the assistance.
Formal diplomatic ties do not exist between Bhutan and China. An issue of disputed territory between both the countries has not been settled yet but talks are in progress to settle the issue. Whereas, China is interested relations, putting the border issue at the back burner, and engaging with Bhutan.
Pakistan holds a very vital status in China’s foreign policy. Chinese interests in Pakistan are centered on trade and energy corridors access. Pakistan offers a natural corridor to China for her regional expansion and growth by connecting western region of China to broader South Asian region as Gwadar port can make this dream possible for China. China has made huge investments in Pakistan and the private sectors of both countries are engaged in many joint ventures. With the handing over of Gwadar port to China, the relation between the two friends has become stronger. China is collaborating with Pakistan transportation, aerospace, military, marine industries, cultural sector. Some huge Chinese investments in Pakistan