India will focus on diplomacy with its neighbors this year, including Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, to hold its ground and status in South Asia, a strategy that Chinese observers said is likely to fail.
India’s diplomatic engagement will focus this year on Bhutan, with its Prime Minister Narendra Modi planning to visit the small Himalayan nation wedged between India and China, the Hindustan Times reported on Saturday.
The report said the high-level exchanges between the two countries befits 50 years of their diplomatic relations, and India will also step up development assistance to Bhutan this year with new projects in hydropower and infrastructure, and the completion of ongoing projects.
Modi is also planning to visit Bangladesh and Nepal in the coming months to showcase his government’s support to South Asian partners, and these visits are being planned amid China’s relentless push to make inroads into Himalayan states and attempts to implement projects in Bangladesh under China’s Belt and Road initiative, the Economic Times reported on Sunday.
Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that India wants to maintain relations with its partners in South Asia, but those countries may not listen to India.
Hu said Nepal’s election with pro-China KP Sharma Oli taking office as prime minister for the second time this February was a heavy blow to India, and other South Asian countries including Sri Lanka and the Maldives have been actively participating in China’s Belt and Road initiative.
“The current geopolitical pattern in South Asia reflects India’s diplomatic failure, and India could reverse its passive situation in the region only by sincerely joining the Belt and Road initiative,” Hu said, warning that India’s partners in South Asia will diminish if it continues its pro-West policy.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang on Monday expressed China’s willingness to develop Sino-Indian relations, following remarks from the spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs last week that India is willing to work with China to develop relations based on commonalities, while dealing with differences.
China is willing to work with India to boost political mutual trust and mutual cooperation while properly managing differences based on the important consensus reached between their leaders, Lu said.