China seeks to expand free trade area to South Asia in quest to dominate all Asia

Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches a guard of honour upon his arrival for the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 25, 2014.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches a guard of honour upon his arrival for the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 25, 2014.

Geologically, the Himalayas are regarded as the boundary of South Asia. As China lies to the north of the Himalayas, it is certainly not a part of South Asia and it has never claimed that in history.

However, a Reuter’s report says that China is very interested in having its status raised from “observer” in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC now consists of such full members as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It is interesting that China has borders with most SAARC members including Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan so that many regard some parts of it as within South Asia, but South Korea, a country entirely outside South Asia, is also interested in SAARC full membership.

For those who regard China as having the ambition to conquer the world, China’s interest in infiltrating into South China is quite natural. What about South Korea?

According to Reuters, SAARC has an urgent need for enhancing economic cooperation as it is a region with a fifth of the world’s population but barely any shared roads, fuel pipes or power lines.

For years China has been building roads, power stations, etc. and supplying weapons to some SAARC members. It’s a part of China’s efforts in building the Silk Road and the Silk Road of the Sea. The Silk Road was an ancient trade link on land between China and the parts of the world to the west of China. It is no longer useful as marine shipping is much easier and more cost effective.

However, now the sea route between China and those parts has become China’s trade lifeline and there is the danger of such route being blocked by the United States’ superior navy. Rebuilding the Silk Road and development of a new Silk Road of the Sea are now vital for China’s survival.

Ports and especially military bases along the Silk Road of the Sea are of great strategic significance for China.

On the other hand, through enhanced cooperation in building roads, railways, power stations and grids, and other infrastructure, the SAARC will provide a vast market and lots of cheap labour.

That is why not only China but also South Korea is interested in joining SAARC.

Reuters report only mentions that Pakistan wants to allow South Korea to become a full member in addition to China, but says nothing else about South Korea joining SAARC.

It describes China’s great interest in joining SAARC. It says, “Earlier in the week, the Kathmandu bureau of Chinese state news agency Xinhua distributed a newspaper that devoted several pages to promoting China’s full membership.”

It in addition quotes a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman as saying, “China attaches great importance to SAARC’s status and function. China is also willing to elevate the level of its relationship.”

The following is the full text of the Reuters report:

When eight South Asian leaders gather for a summit in Kathmandu on Wednesday, they will meet in a conference centre donated by China to its cash-strapped Himalayan neighbour Nepal 27 years ago.

In the decades since it built the modernist brick and glass hall, China has massively stepped up its presence in South Asia, supplying ports, power stations and weapons.

China’s advance has been aided by bickering between India and Pakistan that stymies almost all attempts at integration in a region that is home to a fifth of the world’s population but has barely any shared roads, fuel pipes or power lines.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not welcomed Beijing’s renewed suggestion its status be raised from “observer” in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), in which India is presently the only major power.

SAARC summits bring together leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Modi’s hope of using the group as a counterweight to China is unlikely to gain traction at the two-day Kathmandu meeting, with officials saying Pakistan is blocking deals to increase transport and energy connections.

Pakistan mooted the idea of upgrading China’s and South Korea’s status in the organisation at a meeting of SAARC foreign ministers on Tuesday. It was quickly rebuffed by India.

“We need to first deepen cooperation among SAARC, before we try and move it horizontally,” an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said. He said several countries agreed.

China has sent Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and is expected to make a statement during the summit.

Earlier in the week, the Kathmandu bureau of Chinese state news agency Xinhua distributed a newspaper that devoted several pages to promoting China’s full membership.

The paper cited serving and former Nepali ministers expressing support for the proposal.

“China attaches great importance to SAARC’s status and function,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday. “China is also willing to elevate the level of its relationship.”

The geographical limits of South Asia are not fixed – Afghanistan was included as a member in 2007, while Myanmar, which borders India and Bangladesh, merely observes. But the Himalayas are generally seen as dividing China from the subcontinent.

“There are many other possibilities in between observer status and full membership, we are happy that China has shown interest,” Nepal’s communications minister Minendra Rijal told Reuters, adding the issue needed consensus.

Source: Reuters “China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas”
 


Categories: Trade & Investment

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5 replies

  1. Yes, I can witness it here in my own country Uganda as they expand there many branches in Africa. I love China

    Like

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