China’s SAARC Interests

  • China is pushing for admission to SAARC as was evident in Kathmandu Summit. Chinese presence in Sri Lanka can be seen in all aspects of its economic life. In addition to the development of Hambantota and other Columbo ports, Chinese have made massive investments in vital sectors like telecommunications, railways, petroleum refineries, offshore oil and gas exploration, power and energy. Chinese cooperation in Sri Lanka is even more important in wake of Western antipathy to Rajapakse dispensation.
  • India needs to take cognizance of the situation especially with Sri Lanka pitching for China’s inclusion in SAARC.  It has to reassert to the southern neighbour, that India cannot indefinitely support Sri Lanka in international challenges if Indian security interests are jeopardised by former continually. India has to examine China’s growing influence in consultation with US, Japan and European powers.
  • Nepal is also proceeding on similar lines as Sri Lanka in demanding SAARC membership for China. India should not ignore China’s growing economic and strategic muscle in Nepal. The new railway line from Lhasa to Shigaste in Tibet is highly strategic as it lies close to China-Nepal border. A road link to Lhasa to Kathmandu is also under construction. Furthermore, Nepal has also been asked by China to not to let Tibetan refugees escape persecution.
  • India needs to put a firm foot forward and make clear to Nepal that regional integration is not possible via SAARC given stubbornness of Pakistan and can be thought-of by BIMSTEC.

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