Is South Asia losing faith in China?

Written By: Puniti Pandey
Delhi, India Published: Oct 03, 2018, 11:14 AM(IST)

File photo: Chinese flag. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

Despite the rising apprehension for China among the South Asian countries, the Dragon may never want to lose its supremacy over the subcontinent.  It will try to maintain its grip over the countries through its massive debt trap.

The recent defeat of pro-China government in Maldives has added to the list of the nations who have developed an anti-China rhetoric in South Asia.

Amid rising concerns that the country may fall into a debt trap, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, during the election campaign, had assured the people that his government would review Chinese investment.

The Maldives, which moved closer to China since 2013 after Abdulla Yameen took to power, had received significant grants and loan from China's Belt and Road Initiative. The Island nation also renovated the international airport in the capital of Male and a bridge connecting the airport to town with the help of funds from China.

While the new government in the Maldives seems to reassess its relation with China due to its immense financial assistance, Solih, at the same time, is expected to improve its ties with India.

Two other Muslim majority nations in the subcontinent had also fought elections with a promise to keep a check on China's growing influence in their countries.

China's great ambition to emerge as one of the biggest economies has compelled it to invest billions of dollars in the development project in South Asia.

To maintain its stronghold over the subcontinent, China has initiated projects in several South Asian countries. 

One of such projects was recently struck down in Malaysia after the new government assumed office in May.

The change of power in Malaysia after May 9 elections, which swept aside the government of Najib Razak and reinstated Mahathir Mohamad, has eliminated China backed energy pipeline and a rain project along peninsular Malaysia's eastern coast to reduce the national debt that grew under Najib's rule. 

The projects were part of China's ambitious "Belt and Road", but Mahathir said the deals undertaken by Najib were too costly and unfair to Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the recent reports from Pakistan have hinted on the country's growing uneasiness with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Imran Khan has assured greater transparency with the country's project with China and promised that the contracts with Beijing would be made public.

Expressing concern over the deals with China, his government said the agreement was "badly negotiated" and overly favoured China.
 
The reports suggest that Pakistan which is reeling under massive debt may rethink its position on the Chinese Silk Road. 

Pakistani officials say they remain committed to Chinese investment but want to negotiate on price and affordability.

But in a setback to Islamabad's desire, Beijing is only willing to review projects that have not yet begun, Reuters reported.

Debt-ridden Pakistan may find it very difficult to renegotiate its deal with China as it has already taken massive loans from Beijing. Also, Pakistan's worsening relations with the US may force it to bow down before the demands of Beijing.

In a recent meeting held in Beijing in August, China clarified that the new governments in Malaysia, Pakistan and Maldives were free to decide if they would want to continue with Chinese investment in the projects. It also added that the countries should be ready to compensate for the debts borrowed from China in case they retreat from the projects.

Despite the rising apprehension for China among the South Asian countries, the Dragon may never want to lose its supremacy over the subcontinent. It will try to maintain its grip over the countries through its massive debt trap.

As seen in the case of Sri Lanka where it had to sell its Hambantota Port to China after it failed to clear off the funds that China had been pumping into the country for years.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Puniti Pandey

A new entrant in the journalism field, Puniti Pandey works with the WION Digital Team. Social and Political injustice along with degrading natural resources concerns her a lot.
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