Countering China In South Asia


This paper looks closely at how Chinese bilateral trade, investment, political and military ties with the “non-nuclear five” nations have evolved and how that may affect India’s ambitions in the region. Recommendations are offered for India on how they may retain their supremacy in the region despite an ambitious and resourceful China. This paper analyses how China is becoming increasingly influential beyond just trade and other economic ties with its neighbor in the South Asian region. It reviews the drivers of  China’s recent and rapid rise in the region as well as the themes, partners, and tools that regulate its engagement with the region. Another major goal of this paper is to analyse and review the Sino-Indian relations and their implications for the region of South Asia and the impact it has on India’s foreign policy to deal with the increasing Chinese influence in South Asia.

Keywords: New Era or Third Era, Neighbourhood First Policy, Global North and Global South, QUAD, SAARC, BIMSTEC


China’s presence is now felt in every corner of the world, including the Global North and Global South alike. China’s growing economic capabilities and interdependence are pushing it to protect and promote its expanding interests abroad through a combination of traditional and new instruments. In South Asia, China aims to expand its economic activity and enhance its strategic presence, secure overland energy routes to avoid maritime chokepoints and check India’s rise through strategic encirclement. After several decades of limited engagement, China has rapidly deepened and diversified its relations with the South Asian Countries. It garners political, diplomatic, economic, and security influence over the region. China has also become increasingly entangled in various domestic processes of the South Asian democracies, from shaping public opinion to influencing policy making. China’s objective in the region is twofold: to encourage policies and interests that are favourable to itself, and to pre-empt decisions that would go against its core interests. 

The infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which consists of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the Trans-Himalayan Muti-dimensional transport network might be the most visible aspects of China’s presence, reflecting its financial might through considerable investments, development assistance, and increased trade. But there are more subtle or even hidden aspects of Chinese Influence. China’s diplomats, senior Communist Party of China (CPC) officials, and its media have engaged in multiple projects to exercise soft power, shape narratives, intervene in domestic politics, and mediate bilateral issues. The nature and scale of these efforts may vary depending on the environment of the host countries, but increasingly China is willing to get involved despite challenges, creating opportunities for itself to actively shape this geopolitical region.

Even as the Chinese influence grows globally, pushback and opposition to it have also escalated, often driven by increasingly ideological and passionate narratives. China’s influence has become progressively salient politically. From Europe to Australia, Zimbabwe to the Philippines, and from Taiwan to the Solomon Islands, anti-China sentiments have become significant. Major global powers have been deploying countermeasures to thwart over and covert the Chinese influence.  

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Author: Sayan Bandyopadhyay