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China’s Demand for Full Membership in SAARC, Challenges India’s Dominance

Shagun Sirohi Writes: China’s Foreign policy is making waves all over the world. Its economic success has enabled it to pursue a greater role in the international stage. During the 18th SAARC summit in Nepal, China pitched its voice for joining the regional bloc as a full-member state.

Shagun Sirohi Writes:   China’s Foreign policy is making waves all over the world. Its economic success has enabled it to pursue a greater role in the international stage. China is becoming member of different regional blocs due to its growing economic and military might. China’s active and aggressive diplomacy, trade and investments, many cooperative agreements with SAARC nations is thus enabling it to have a greater influence in south Asia. India needs to re-think its regional strategies as rise of China will impact India. Often it is viewed that the rise of China will decrease India’s influence in South Asia.

China has a status of an observer state in South Asia , however  an observer state can get involve with SAARC members on specific initiatives, but they do not have voting rights. China entered SAARC as an observer in 2005, supported by most member states. However, recently on November 2014 during the 18th SAARC summit in Nepal, China pitched its voice for joining the regional bloc as a full-member state. Pakistan has been in favor for China’s full-membership in SAARC. India’s efforts to block China’s entry into the SAARC, during the SAARC summit, made the struggle all the more evident.

India fears that its neighbors will come together to oppose the country’s interests, particularly under the influence of Pakistan and China. India’s neighbors are attracted to China, because of its greater economic resources, as also it has the potential to counter India. China’s influence can be witnessed even in Nepal. Recently, to enhance strategic ties with Nepal, China has been investing heavily in that country; it has opened land-port between Nepal and Tibet named as Kyirong which will affect the regional strategic balance.

The growing friendship with China and Pakistan is viewed by many as a joint tactic to offset India’s dominance in the South Asian region. One of the most famous project, is China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which strategically aims at providing links between the overland Silk Road and maritime Silk Road. Due to this project China becomes one of the major investors in Pakistan.

The constant growing disputes between India and Pakistan have made SAARC a  failure as a regional forum, for economic and regional integration. India feels that China is taking advantage of this and thus raising its voice for full membership in SAARC. It has been agreed that China’s entry in SAARC as a full-member can give a push to SAARC to grow as a regional bloc as China’s global economic influence can help SAARC in international forum. But, growing alliances between China and Pakistan may work against India and which will hamper the regional progress. It has also been feared that China may block the projects which are both strategically and economically important for India. India dominates SAARC economically and politically, approximately 70 percent of size, population and resources are of India. If China joins SAARC then it will counter India’s influence in the grouping.

SAARC needs to set some guidelines, rules that can limit the relationship of member state with the observers and also India needs to change in its current approach to maintain that position within the region. India needs to set priorities which benefits smaller countries and give a big thrust to the SAARC movement. The current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and his government’s proactive focus is on foreign policy of India and has ushered in a new era of India-SAARC relationship. India has changed its approach towards its neighbors as  for India now neighbors will be its first prioritie

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