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China’s Engagement With South Asia: Regional And Global Implications

South Asia Studies Centre

University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

And

Association of Asia Scholars

New Delhi

Panel Discussion on:

“China’s Engagement with South Asia: Regional and Global Implications.”

4-5 February, 2013

At

University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

The Panel Discussion began with Prof. B.C. Upreti (Director, South Asia Studies Centre, University of Rajasthan), who spoke about ‘China and South Asia: Dynamics of its Emerging Perception and Role in the Region’. He discussed about the emergence of China as a global, political, strategic and economic power and its implications for the South Asian region. China being a close neighbor to as well as being one of the largest economic and trading partners for most South Asian nations, its economic growth model has had a wide-ranging effect on these countries. He deliberated on how the region has its own security, diplomatic and economic interests with China. Though there are areas of competition and conflict, but mutual cooperation areas also exist. China has indeed, followed a non-interventionist policy over the years and has its own reasons to maintain balance within the South Asian region. To what extent however, China can play the role of a facilitator is important, considering whether it will open new opportunities or challenges in the years to come.

Next, Prof. B.M. Jain, (Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur) deliberated upon, ‘Patterns of Geo-strategic Primacy in China’s South Asia Policy and India’s Response: A Critical Inquiry into China’s Notion of Soft Power’. He argued how China’s rapid ascendency to power in the international world order has changed Asia’s security architecture in which India can play a rebalancing role owing to China’s changing South Asia Policy. He too, like the previous speaker dwelled upon the fact that China asserts natural claims over the region since it shares long borders with India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. The speaker hypothesized that China’s incremental political, strategic and economic role will facilitate its assertive role in Asia. He concludes on the note that India’s emerging global power status through steadily forging strategic networking with its neighbours within the framework of soft power will be undermined and that will be China’s strategic focus.

Ms. Hoimonti Barua (School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi), spoke on ‘China-Bangladesh Relations’ where she started off by explaining China’s aspirations to play a dominant role in the political and military spheres, after having emerged as an economic giant.  She then dwelled upon the history of the Chinese and Bangladeshi relations which go back as far as the mid-1970s. Their friendly relations have been consistent till today, marked by signing of several agreements in almost every sphere. China has taken initiatives to improve connectivity, especially through infrastructure along with trading. She also glided through developments in 2012 between the two nations, quoting figures regarding total import-export figures, infrastructural projects and number of scholarships to facilitate cultural exchange. She concluded by briefly discussing the impact that these developments might have, for India, in the long run.

Dr. Madhu Rajpat (Associate Professor, University of Lucknow) discussed ‘Simo-Bhutan: A Study in Political and Economic Relations since 1949’. She introduced the topic by stating that the two nations have never shared smooth relations as such, especially when the trust was eroded with the Annexation of Tibet. In the 1960s, Bhutan stated loud and clear, that it would focus on strengthening its bonds with India and China. As successful efforts were being made by the Bangladeshis to liaise further with India, care had to be taken, while working on the same, with China. Their friendship and trust though has been maintained over the past few years and the journey of how this emerged and has managed to sustain itself, was dealt with, by Dr. Rajpat.

Karori Singh (South Asia Studies Centre, University of Rajasthan) spoke on the subject of: ‘China’s South Asia Policy: Determinants and Prospects’. He began by explaining that a policy is a reasoned choice which a state makes in dealing with another state or region, and it is dependent on several internal and external factors. Boundary related problems and disputes are often made less problematic due to proper formation and implementation of policy. For China, the global economic crisis, growing presence of US in Asia-Pacific and the attitude/response of neighbouring nations are major external factors. Alongside this, China’s aspirations of becoming a world leader in the economic, political and social spheres form the Chinese policy for South Asia. China’s Policy is to cultivate cooperative and friendly relations with all other nations in the region through bilateralism. He concluded by stating that there is a potential for Indo-China strategic partnerships to be built up, considering they are sensitive towards each other’s concerns.

On the topic of ‘China’s Nepal Policy and its implications for India’, Dr. Satish Kumar (Central University of Haryana) spoke very aptly about how China’s foreign policy towards Nepal in specific has taken an overture in the past few decades. He elaborated on the China-Tibet issue and how that has affected the China-Nepal policy. He then explained how China-Nepal relations can trigger a bitter strategic conflict with India in the future. He elaborated upon India’s policy with the changing scenario of China-Nepal relations and its implications for India.

The last speaker, Dr. Sanjay Bhardwaj (School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi), spoke on ‘Bangladesh-China Strategic Relations: Security Implications for India’. He talked about the strategic relations with special reference to the ‘small state insecurity perception’. He traced the reasons behind the small state fear psychosis and then examined Bangladesh’s strategic relations with China. He also stated how these relations have generated security concerns for India since she has not been having healthy bilateral relations with China. He also discussed the new developments where economic policy plays a major role to determine the relations.

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