Recently, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister said that a six-nation grouping launched earlier this month was not meant to exclude India.
About China-South Asia grouping
- Name: The grouping is called China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve, and a Poverty Alleviation and Cooperative Development Centre.
- 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.
- Evolution: The grouping evolved as the outcome of a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in April 2021.
- After Bangladesh requested vaccines from China, Foreign Minister of China decided to convene the six-nation China-South Asia meeting.
- The centre would deal with economic issues arising in South Asia due to COVID.
- It is an e-commerce economic cooperation forum and an emergency storage facility for vaccines.
- It is being established in the Southern Chinese city of Chongqing.
India’s response to the grouping
- Officially India has not reacted to the two centres set up by China and its immediate neighbours joining the China-led initiative.
- However, this centre is being seen as an alternative to the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which has been inactive since 2014 when leaders of the India-led grouping met in Kathmandu for their summit.
- The 2016 summit was to be hosted by Pakistan but it had to be called off after India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan cited terrorism emanating from Pakistan as a major threat to the region and announced their boycott.
- India is the only country of all eight SAARC nations that has not requested or accepted Chinese COVID vaccines.
China-South Asia Emergency Supply Reserve
- China has also set up this Reserve at Chengdu International Railway Port at Chengdu in July 2021.
- The reserve is a joint stockpile of emergency supplies as part of efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic and other crises.
- The centre is part of efforts to foster longer-term cooperation under China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative.
- Its establishment is also part of a meeting among the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh hosted by Chinese foreign minister in April.