ICS Occasional Papers

China’s Engagement and Embroilment in South Asia: Limits and Possibilities

This paper explores China’s strategic interests in South Asia by focusing on Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It examines China’s foreign policy objectives with respect to these three countries and highlights the obstacles and apprehensions Beijing currently faces in its bilateral relations with them. The paper emphasises how China’s role in South Asia has undergone a transition from assuming a largely non-interfering stance to more direct engagement. With increased involvement in the countries’ domestic politics and security issues, China has clearly expanded and intensified its engagement in Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. This increased involvement in the countries’ domestic politics and getting roiled up in their domestic political and security issues has often proven counter-productive for China. Nevertheless, China’s influence in the region and its ability to recalibrate should not be underestimated. In China’s broader strategic goals, it appears that it is willing to forego economic returns for strategic gains and an increasing influence in India’s neighbourhood. Ultimately, China’s engagement in South Asia adds another dimension to the complex bilateral dynamics with India and intensifies the India-China contradictions within the region.

Keywords: China, BRI, South Asia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka



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