China in the Afghan Imagination

Rustam Ali Seerat, Research Scholar (International Relations), South Asian University, New Delhi

China though geographically close to Afghanistan, has been a distant land, politically and socially . The Afghan people have little knowledge about China. The socio-political distance extends to the era prior to the decline of China in the 18th century. Though the Silk Road had connected Central and West Asia to Chinese lands and commodities were flowing along the Silk Road, from China to Europe, passing through the Muslim world of present-day Afghanistan. However, economic exchanges brought less of China’s political influence in the region. Even with the re-emergence of China in the latter half of the twentieth century and the flow of its products into the Afghan market, the socio-political influence of China on Afghanistan remains limited. Socially, culturally and politically, China is still a far and mysterious place for Afghans. Continue reading “China in the Afghan Imagination”

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Opening Doors Southwards: China’s Increasing Presence in Nepal

Aakriti Vinayak, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi  

China is making its influence keenly felt in Nepal today. China is using different strategies from road connectivity, hydroelectric projects to using soft power as an approach to forge linkages with Nepal. China’s concentrated effort to use soft power diplomacy in Nepal – with heavy investments in religion, education and tourism – has been a success on the high tables and between the government elites, relations have been institutionalised. One sees a prospective future for Nepal where there is an attempt to tilt more and more towards China – on almost every front – economic, cultural and regional. When Nepalese president Bidya Bhandari released the Nepalese edition of the book, Governance of China by Chinese president Xi Jinping, Upendra Gautam the General Secretary of China Nepal Study Centre said that the event befittingly heralds Nepal and China relations into the 21st century kinship where soft power plays a paramount role (Gautam 2016).

Under former Nepalese prime minister Prachanda, China started using Buddhism as a tool of soft power by Continue reading “Opening Doors Southwards: China’s Increasing Presence in Nepal”

Doklam Reminder: Need for Indian Redial in South Asia

Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy

The standoff between Indian and Chinese forces at the Doklam plateau in Bhutan is now over a month old and though diplomatic efforts have continued, no early solution appears to be in sight. India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, is in Beijing for the BRICS NSAs meeting. It is possible that on the sidelines, he will be able to engage with Yang Jiechi, his counterpart in the special representative mechanism between the two countries. One should remain hopeful that these talks in Beijing will lead to a satisfactory resolution of the impasse and pave the way for relaxing tensions between the two countries. Confrontation will be damaging to the interests of both countries and is best not allowed to persist.

Such confrontation is also not in the interest of Bhutan, India’s neighbour with which there is a special relationship of mutual trust and understanding. The two countries have shared security interests, acknowledged in the revised bilateral treaty concluded in 2007. Any threat to Bhutan’s security will always be a major concern to India and similarly a security challenge to India will impact Bhutan as well. China’s encroachment on Doklam is often characterised as a security threat to India, particularly to the narrow Siliguri corridor linking India’s North-East to the rest of the country. But it is also a threat to Bhutan whose main communication links south also traverse the same Siliguri corridor. The action taken by Indian forces in Doklam is in response to a serious security threat to both countries. Continue reading “Doklam Reminder: Need for Indian Redial in South Asia”

China’s SAARC Bid and Implications for India

Gauri Agarwal, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies 

Pakistan’s support to China for full membership to SAARC and India’s refusal to entertain the bid is a case of the use of geopolitics to pursue selfish aims. Whether China will be accepted or not remains to be seen, but what China brings to the table needs a careful cost-benefit analysis.

SAARC’s Shortcomings

The importance of SAARC as a regional organization is recognised by all leaders. But there is a frank acknowledgement that the organization has failed to live up to the hope and aspiration of one-fifth of humanity. Continue reading “China’s SAARC Bid and Implications for India”

Tibet’s Place in China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative

Tshering Chonzom Bhutia, PhD, Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

By now, China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is familiar to scholars and officials around the world. It has become the catchphrase for all of China’s international outreach, including conferences, seminars, and delegation visits to and from China. However, China has not completely reassured its neighbors. The various terms and phrases that have been used to refer to this idea embody the contention surrounding it – from the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and Maritime Silk Route (MSR), to One Belt One Road (OBOR), to the current BRI. More broadly, some describe it as “strategy,” others call it a “project” with the Chinese now settling on “initiative.”

Having played an important role in the whole Silk Route trade route historically, India finds China’s attempt to revive it in the modern context without any consultation with Delhi troubling. Continue reading “Tibet’s Place in China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative”