During a visit by Bhutan’s foreign minister to Beijing last month, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said that his government hoped to establish official diplomatic relations with its neighbor and work to solve their long-running border dispute. In an email interview, Tilak Jha, a doctoral student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, discusses China’s outreach to South Asia.
WPR: How extensive are China’s ties across South Asia, and how does China’s South Asia outreach fit with its broader foreign policy?
Tilak Jha: Beijing’s South Asia policy has two major aims, reinforced by the region’s role in China’s ambitious infrastructure and integration initiative across Eurasia, known as “One Belt, One Road.” First, China aims to engage India economically to take advantage of its growing market. But second, China aims to exploit India’s own diplomatic and economic failures, specifically its inability to break down regional trade barriers, by developing ties that undermine India’s role in South Asia. Since South Asia borders China and is one of the world’s most populous and fastest-growing regions, these goals fit neatly with China’s wider foreign policy objective of maintaining regional stability for its own domestic security and sustainable economic development.