A top Chinese official has called on India to work together with China to promote regional connectivity in South Asia, stressing that its engagement was “not targeted at any third country” and that both countries were “partners, not rivals” in the region.
While China’s long-pending plans to build a railway line to Nepal have progressed on the Chinese side of the border, the moves have stalled in Nepal. Chinese analysts say privately that they believe Indian concerns are a reason for obstacles to a number of transport and hydropower projects, which they say would boost development in the region.
A railway line from Lhasa to Shigatse — close to the Nepal border — will be completed in the next two years. Nepali officials told visiting Premier Wen Jiabao earlier this year that they believed a rail link will “strengthen ties”.
In what appeared to be an acknowledgement that there was a need for India’s cooperation for such projects to take off, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying, who returned to Beijing this week following visits to Nepal and Bhutan, called for improved regional connectivity with India’s support.
“The need for connectivity can be better met if China, India and South Asian countries work together and avail themselves of the good opportunity offered by the strong growth in the region,” she told China Daily in an interview without directly referring to any particular project.
“From my point of view, China and India are partners, not rivals,” Ms. Fu said, when asked if there was “strategic rivalry in South Asia”.
“China respects India and all other South Asian countries for developing close and friendly cooperation,” she said. “We share a common belief in the principles of equality and mutual benefit in state-to-state relations.”
China’s ties with South Asian countries, she said, were “not targeted at any third country, nor will it hurt the interests of other nations.”
She said China was “ready to expand cooperation with India in promoting regional development.”
On relations with Bhutan, Ms. Fu said boundary talks, which began in 1984, had progressed after 20 rounds of talks. She said both sides were “accommodating and forward-looking”.
Keywords: regional connectivity,