China excludes Maldives, Bhutan from South Asia poverty alleviation program

China last week launched a new poverty alleviation program directed at South Asian countries which didn’t include the Maldives, Bhutan, and India

Jul 13, 2021
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China

China last week launched a new poverty alleviation program directed at South Asian countries which didn’t include the Maldives, Bhutan, and India. The initiative, first proposed by Chinese Foreign Ministers Wang Li in April is being seen as another Chinese attempt to create an alternate block in South Asia that pointedly leaves out country that are seen as close toIndia. 

The China-South Asian Countries Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre was launched on Friday last week in China. Envoys of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh had participated in the inauguration ceremony in China. 

A statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “The center 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.” 

However, the new initiative is widely being seen as another attempt by China to increase its influence in the region India considers as its own sphere of influence. 

Dinesh Bhattarai, a former diplomat and foreign policy expert in Nepal, called it a “Minus-India initiative.”

 “We are talking about development in the South Asian region without involving one of the largest countries, India. It is a minus-India initiative. China has also excluded Bhutan and Maldives,” he was quoted as saying by Wion. 

Without involving India, he said, “We can’t talk about South Asia development.” 

Importantly, the initiative was envisioned by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Li during an April meeting that he had held with foreign ministers of South Asian countries regarding cooperation in the Covid-19 crisis. All the three countries--India, the Maldives, and Bhutan--had not attended the meeting. 

Ever since India stopped Covid-19 vaccine exports - following the deadly surge of Covid-19 in India April end - China has increased its engagement in the region to not just fill the breach with its own Sinopharm vaccine but further increase its footprint. 

(SAM)