Promising Corona vaccine, China readies land version of string of pearls. China calls for trans-Himalayan network from Nepal to Afghanistan. China is pushing for Bangladesh-Pakistan friendship

China has done three things in recent days that concern India strategically. China has got Bangladesh and Pakistan to bury their mutual dislike. China has halted or slowed down disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). And, China has held a foreign minister-level talk with Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan and suggested that they should form a block for greater cooperation.

A sudden jump in Chinese diplomatic activities in India's neighbourhood has been seen under the shadow of two-month-long Ladakh standoff. China found itself isolated during the standoff particularly after the Galwan incident, in which 20 Indian soldiers died in a fierce clash with Chinese troops. China admitted to casualties on its side but without declaring the number of dead and injured soldiers.

Satellite imageries and intelligence inputs of different countries besides India's diplomatic outreach across the world made Chinese isolation more visible.

India followed up its diplomacy with measures like stepping up scrutiny of Chinese smartphone applications and showed intent to deepen its engagement with forces having interest and stake in the Pacific Ocean region, particularly the South China Sea.

India's neighbours except for Nepal, and of course Pakistan, remained officially neutral but their deeper engagement with New Delhi showed that they too understood India's position. This happened despite China promising huge investments not only in Pakistan but also in Bangladesh and Nepal.


Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi held a virtual meeting with his counterparts from Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday. Here, he called for greater cooperation and support for China's President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) while promising that when China develops coronavirus vaccine, it would share the doses with these three countries on priority basis.

Beijing also floated the idea of extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Nepal and Afghanistan and turn it into a trans-Himalayan connectivity network. Simply put, China offered massive investment in core infrastructure in Nepal and Afghanistan, provided they become part of the bloc.

China advised both Nepal and Afghanistan to learn from China-Pakistan cooperation and relation, with Wang Yi asserting that having good neighbours is "good fortune". China has been presenting itself as a benevolent neighbour and a friendly country to all of India's neighbours.

This Chinese outreach in India's neighbourhood mirrors what India did in March with Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosting a videoconference meeting of SAARC - the grouping of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

But back then India had called for collective efforts to contain coronavirus pandemic in the region. Pakistan had been represented by not by its prime minister but the health minister.


What China seems to be pushing is a creation of non-India grouping in India's neighbourhood. It has the backing of Pakistan and confidence of the OP Sharma Oli's government of Nepal. Its move to get Bangladesh and Pakistan talk and engage holds the real key to the success of Chinese design.

Bangladesh has deepened its engagement with China but that has happened on bilateral basis with China pumping in millions of dollars as investment. What stood out in the recent Bangladesh-Pakistan talks -- where Kashmir was also "discussed" -- is the assertion by Imran Khan that both the countries share "common religion and culture".

The truth is Bangladesh rebelled against Pakistan to protect its Bengali culture, which an Islamic Pakistan was not ready to accept. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has always snubbed Pakistan as her core opposition vote bank is pro-Pakistani forces.

China is pushing Bangladesh to join a front that is ideologically against the political constituency of Sheikh Hasina. Similarly, the Oli faction is facing fierce opposition in Nepal for going pro-China antagonizing India. Still, Chinese move appears to be a territorial version of its string of pearls policy.