Chinese Diplomacy in South Asia | Daily News

Chinese Diplomacy in South Asia

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the Chinese Envoy to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the Chinese Envoy to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong

China’s robust integration and engagement with the South Asian region is centred around shared peace and green development along with the policy of coexistence, equality and rule of law. Largely underpinned by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), investments in infrastructure for connectivity, trade, tourism, science, technology, health, education and a comprehensive plan for economic recovery in post-pandemic era has been Beijing’s focus.

China recently hosted a ‘foreign ministers meeting’ of five South Asian nations–including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. To push forward cooperation, China announced the creation of the China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, set up a Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre, and held an E-commerce Cooperation Forum on Poverty Alleviation in Rural Areas.

The six countries’ foreign ministers gave a thumbs-up to active participation in the spirit of openness and inclusivity. They unanimously decided to keep tabs on the development of the COVID-19 situation in India, and expressed their willingness to continue to provide support through respective channels in consultation with India.

The meeting became the first high-profile platform to thwart any attempt to politicise the issue of pandemic origin, vaccine-making and its distribution. South Asian countries supported the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stance on making vaccines a global public good, and carrying out continued vaccine cooperation with the participating countries in a flexible manner. Even the importance of the co-production of the vaccines was discussed.

Led by China, all countries agreed to deepen cooperation for the BRI, open their borders under the premise of pandemic prevention and control for smooth trade, keep the industrial and supply chains stable and secure, and give a stronger boost to economic recovery to improve the people’s lives. They stressed the importance of tackling poverty, food security and other non-traditional security fields to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups of society.

Asian economies will remain an anchor for multilateralism and play a key role in bolstering pandemic control, keeping industry and supply chains efficient and stable, and promoting trade and investment, said Li Baodong, the secretary-general of 2021’s Boao Forum for Asia.

Socio-economic ties

If traced back to 2019, the Second China-South Asia Cooperation Forum—a platform to further enhance socio-economic ties between China and South Asia—was held in Yuxi, in the Yunnan Province. The forum’s discussion topics revolved on closer cooperation in terms of interconnectivity, business, poverty reduction, finance, and people-to-people exchanges.

China plans to build an important passageway, opening to South Asia through the Tibet Autonomous Region. This plan is envisaged in the outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for national economic and social development and the long-range objectives through the year 2035.

It is the result of China’s efforts in South Asia that regional countries including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Nepal want to boost their collaborations in every sector.

Bangladesh’s President, Abdul Hamid, told the Chinese Defence Minister, Gen Wei Fenghe, that China is one of the most important development partners of Bangladesh, and relations between the two countries are gradually expanding in various fields–including trade and investment. He mentioned that Chinese investment in various sectors, including infrastructure and communication, is playing a very significant role in the socio-economic development of Bangladesh.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wanted to work together with China to promote construction for the BRI. Talking to China’s new ambassador to Sri Lanka, Qi Zhenhong, Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka always bore in mind the firm support from China in the island country’s fight against terrorism and the post-war reconstruction. He desired to study China’s developmental path and model, and strengthen cooperation with it in key areas related to people’s livelihood, such as rural areas, science and technology, education, and investment.

Trade and infrastructure development

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, eulogised China for its friendliness and cooperation in helping Pakistan to bolster its economy in the pre and post pandemic arena during a meeting with the Chinese ambassador, Nong Rong. Seeking opportunities in deepening access to the Chinese market, the Foreign Minister also stressed the need to speed up the completion of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. He also maintained that CPEC was a transformational project and hoped that the ambassador, with his experience in trade and infrastructure development, will fast track the projects and promote the industrialisation of Pakistan. China’s robust engagement with the region needs to be integrated with pragmatism and developmental reciprocity.

- The Nation Pakistan