The US Congress recently received a report which has hinted that China may make some changes in its ‘South Asia policy’ in near future.
The report says that the changing geopolitical landscape in South Asia will prompt the top political leadership in Beijing to make those changes. For long, the Asian giant has maintained friendly ties with Pakistan to put India under tremendous diplomatic pressure. The US Congress believes that the main reason behind this policy is to thwart India’s rise as a challenger to China’s dominance in the region. However (as per the report), the rise of terrorism has changed the political equation in South Asia and China will have to shift its strategy in order to protect its own people.
According to the report on the US-China relations prepared by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, if China really wants to emerge as a big player in the region, Beijing will have to maintain cordial ties with India. Otherwise, it will not be possible for China to influence the regional geopolitics only through its “One Belt, One Road” connectivity initiative, adds the report.
The report clearly says: “China is actively engaged in cultivating influence in South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), although it does not publicly articulate a formal South Asia ‘strategy’.”
Meanwhile, the Commission has admitted that Beijing had no other option, but to exploit the India-Pakistan rivalry in order to check India’s rise as an economic power. “The overall balance of power between China and India currently is in China’s favour, and Beijing intends to keep it that way. China’s primary mechanism in this regard is its support for Pakistan,” states the report.
The Commission has predicted that counter-terrorism efforts will bring China ‘closer’ to India in the coming days. Maintaining healthy ties with India will certainly help China keep other global powers (Japan and the US) out of the region and enhance its access to the Indian Ocean, it argued.
At the same time, the Commission stated that Beijing might also misread the situation and try to follow its current policy to corner India in the region. In that case, it will not be possible for Beijing to boost its engagement with South Asia. Such a decision may also allow India, which maintains ‘friendly’ ties not only with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, but also with Japan and the US, to emerge as the lone competitor of China in South Asia.