As China involved other countries in its poverty alleviation initiative in the South Asian region, it excluded not just India but also Bhutan and Maldives

The China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre was launched in China and ambassadors of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to China were invited but not India.

“The centre aims to pool strength, integrate resources, and exchange wisdom to support and help the South Asian countries' economic development and livelihood improvement, jointly promoting the cause of poverty reduction,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Dinesh Bhattarai, former diplomat and foreign policy expert said it’s a “minus-India initiative”.

Speaking to WION, Bhattarai said, “We are talking about development in the South Asian region without involving one of the largest country, India. It is a minus-India initiative. China has also excluded Bhutan and Maldives.”

Questioning the framework of the initiative, he said, “Without India, we cannot talk about South Asia development. South Asia is Indo centric and the centrality of India cannot be overlooked. All the counties face the problem of poverty. China is looking for avenues to work in South Asia trying to intensify its engagement, presence, influence in the South Asian region. I don’t know how pragmatic the framework of the initiative will be without India.”

According to the Chinese foreign ministry, ambassadors said poverty alleviation and development are an important task and a prominent challenge of the South Asian countries, so the centre initiated by China is set up at a most opportune time.

Former Nepal’s ambassador to China, Leela Mani Paudyal believes India should not hesitate to participate as there is a lot to learn from China.

“It is a welcoming initiative for South Asian nations that they can learn a lot from China's unprecedented success in poverty alleviation drive. Poverty is a menace of humanity and a common challenge of the world,” Paudyal said.

“I think South Asian countries can tremendously benefit from this initiative. Regarding India, I am not aware of the detailed arrangements, but I think India should join this group and benefit from China's learnings. If India wishes in my mind the group should be flexible and accommodative to involve India in the initiative,” he stated.

Experts believe the establishment of an institution to alleviate poverty in South Asia without the participation of India sounds like a far-fetched dream.

Recently, the National Human Rights Commission in the report titled 'State of Working India 2021: One year of COVID-19' (2021) had said 23 crore Indians have been pushed into poverty in the past one year.