China’s ‘win-win’ diplomacy riles India

The Sri Lankan government has cleared one more Chinese project – the expressway linking the southern port city of Hambantota with Matara, which will be the second phase of the previous Chinese-funded project that connects Matara with Colombo. This was one of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s pet projects – connecting his hometown with the capital.

The Chinese government-owned CTG is open to funding $50 billion worth hydroelectric power projects in Pakistan

The Chinese government-owned CTGC is open to funding $50 billion worth hydroelectric power projects in Pakistan

At the ceremony marking the launch of the new project on Saturday, President Maithripala Sirisena said China is a “very close friend” and Sri Lanka has “a lot of respect” for China for providing development assistance. He vowed to work with China to “further strengthen” the ties between the two countries and promised continuity with the previous government’s policies.

To be sure, the developments in Sri Lanka must come as a morality play for the Indian foreign and security policy establishment. Indeed, the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (which mentored the Narendra Modi government’s Sri Lanka policy from behind the scenes) must be feeling shell-shocked.

What happened to the Tibetan scud missile India hoped to fire at China by getting Sirisena to host the Dalai Lama in Colombo? Mum is the word in Delhi.

It will be good fun to read again a commentary on the implications of the “regime change” in Sri Lanka last January, featured on the website of the Vivekananda Foundation: “More than anything else… Sirisena will have to recalibrate Colombo’s equations with Beijing. Over the past half a decade, Rajapaksa had deftly used the Chinese card against India… Rajapaksa allowed the Chinese large stakes in vital sectors of Sri Lanka than necessary… Sirisena had promised to review that policy.

“Fortunately, the [Indian] foreign policy establishment appears to be thinking on its feet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first leader to call Sirisena and congratulate him. India’s high commissioner to Colombo Yash Sinha also was the first off the block to go and meet the new President [Sirisena].”

Evidently, Sirisena has a mind of his own and Modi and Sinha’s goodwill gestures notwithstanding, Sri Lanka has no intentions to curb its relations with China in deference to Delhi’s wishes.

The point is, China-funded projects in Sri Lanka created over a hundred thousand jobs during the past 5-year period. It appears that 90 percent of the labor force in the Chinese-funded projects consisted of the local youth, many of whom have been trained by the Chinese companies to handle new technology.

Be that as it may, another report coming in from Pakistan is even more of an embarrassment for the Modi government than Sirisena’s China policies.

Delhi has let it be known that it is displeased with the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in which Beijing has pledged to invest $46 billion. India’s grievance is apparently that some of the projects in the Economic Corridor are located in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas of Pakistan, which India claims as its territories.

Now comes the startling report that the Chinese Leviathan specializing in dam construction, China Three Gorges Corporation [CTGC], is open to funding $50 billion worth hydroelectric power projects in Pakistan, many of them in the so-called Indus Cascade on territories that India claims to be its, such as Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Delhi’s demarche to Beijing to lay off Indian territories (within Pakistan) is being ignored. However, the curious part is that CTGC has a Pakistani subsidiary known as China Three Gorges South Asia [CSAIL] in which the International Finance Corporation [IFC] headquartered in Washington holds a 15 percent stake. The CTGC chairman Lu Chun was quoted during a visit to Islamabad in April as saying,

“Pakistan is one of the most important overseas markets of CTGC, we are pleased to contribute to the development of Pakistan’s economy, along with IFC. China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Limited will grow together with Pakistan’s economy, and proactively explore new cooperation opportunities across the region.”

In sum, the Chinese company is joining hands with a member of the World Bank group to fund power projects in Pakistan. What can Delhi do now? Lodge protest with Washington?

Trickier than the above two unhappy instances is going to be the latest Chinese proposal for building an Economic Corridor from Tibet to India via Nepal. It is one of those “win-win” projects that Delhi will have difficulty to stonewall. The problem is that both China and Nepal are keen on it but Delhi is apprehensive that the project may undercut India’s calculus that Nepal falls within its “sphere of influence.”

Of course, given the Chinese diplomatic ingenuity, it is entirely conceivable that there will be downstream “win-win” proposals at some point to have the Tibet-Nepal-India Economic Corridor extended to Bhutan and Bangladesh as well.

Oh, these Chinese and their “win-win” projects in South Asia! The Modi government’s South Asian diplomacy is landing in a cul-de-sac. Its twin-objective has been to get Beijing (and the international community) to tacitly accept the South Asian region as India’s “sphere of influence” and, secondly, to dissuade India’s small neighbors from cozying up to China.

China is ignoring the Indian entreaties, while the small South Asian countries apparently love to hold the Chinese hand.

India’s retaliatory steps so far – new defense pact with the US, strengthening of US-Japan-India trilateral forum, naval deployments in the South China Sea, Indian warships calling on Perth, proposed naval exercise with the US and Japan in the Bay of Bengal and so on – do not appear to impress the Chinese. If anything, they might be inspiring Beijing to conjure up all-the-more seductive “win-win” projects in the South Asian region.

A face-saving exit route for India’s diplomacy seems to be to join China’s “win-win” projects and to influence them from within. Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who said – ‘The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend’?

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Categories: Asia Times News & Features


  • dgupta

    Purely economically speaking, China is genuinely trying to help the South Asian neighbours while India is pulling their legs.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    During the elections that defeated Mahinda Rajapakse, a RAW agent was kicked out of Colombo, allegedly for tampering with the elections. Rajapakse lost those elections by a narrow margin of 450 thousand votes from a total of 15 million votes.
    Unlike previous elections, the turn out from the Tamil and Muslim voters was massive. Yet Rajapakse lost by only 450 thousand votes to a coalition (not to one single person) backed by Sirisena.
    When this coalition came into power they immediately halted all Chinese projects, the main one being the Colombo Port city. The Sirisena coalition based this action on environmental issues. The problem was that this investment was cleared for all contingencies and was well on its way. The Chinese company involved in this project, slapped Colombo with a penalty charge for violating a contract.
    The charge was a few million Sri Lankan Rupees per day for as long as the project is suspended.
    Part of the reason for the regime change came from New Delhi. The new Hindu nationalist party, the BJP (Bharata Janata Party) objected to two Chinese submarines docking in Sri Lanka on two different days. New Delhi claimed that was a threat to her national security.
    Months later Modi goes to China and inks 22 billion dollars worth of investments for India. Suddenly China’s presence IN India was not a “national security concern” for India. New Delhi continued her double standard of what is a security concern and what is not when she voiced “concern” when China decided to invest around 45 Billion dollars into Pakistan’s economy and used the Gwadar port in Pakistan, that China built to dock one of her submarines.
    It is becoming clear that New Delhi arbitrarily decides when security is an issue for India and when it is not. India also has joined the US in trying to “contain” China on issues that have little concern for India (the South China sea) but protests too much when China either invests with India’s neighbors or does not buy India’s version that the Indian ocean is her backyard. Thankfully Colombo is coming to her senses.
    As for the BJP and the Gujarati style of Hindu Nationalism, it back fired when Indian courts charged the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa with corruption charges and put her in lock down,while deftly avoiding the larger corruption issues of other state Chief ministers like Mayawati of Utter Pradesh who was using state funds to build effigies of herself across India’s most populated state.
    When the Tamil citizens protested, some with their lives, Jayalalithaa was released, her rival party the DMK defeated and she emerged the (Dravidian) victor. Modi learned a lesson when he came with folded hands, to congratulate the Tamil Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and by doing that, acknowledge Tamil Hindu nationalism

  • IAF101

    Oh, here you are Bernard – peddling your RAW BS about your master Rajapakshit getting thrashed ? Well what can I say – he thought he was smart and powerful, looks like he learnt a new lesson about who is smarter and more power than he is.. Too bad that he had to learn the lesson the hard way – but that is what happens when the mouse starts to think it is an elephant.

    New Delhi is not run by the dullards like your friend above believes – so while your master Rajapkashite was “over smart” – Sirisena also knows where the “line” is. No more Chinese submarines are docking in Sri Lankan harbors lately ? I wonder why Bernie ?

    If the Chinese getting a contract to build a road is a major victory for Sinhalas – then you clearly don’t understand the game enough to have any clue about India’s motives or India’s objectives.

    Real Politik is an endless chess games inside a chess game. Nations like China and India have millions of paws – Sirisena doesn’t.

  • IAF101

    Is that why India is the largest trading partner of most South Asian nations ?? Even Pakistan which doesn’t offer India basic trade rights imports via Dubai massive amounts of Indian goods!

    Even today without Indian ports accepting Sri Lankan transshipment business – Sri Lanka’s Hambantota and Colombo ports would be bankcrupt in a week as Sri Lanka’s local imports are hardly 1/10 of the capacity they are planned for.

    China is only helping itself with its maritime silk route – a project that will never get off the ground without India’s co-operation and there is NOTHING Sri Lanka, Nepal or anybody else can do to force India to accept Chinese “trade” routes

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    As a Somali person I do not think you have any say in this issue do you?

  • Murali Krishnan Seshan

    Strategic Foreign Policy Without A Vision Will Lead To A Catastrophic Disaster In Terms Of Influence.

  • Fernando Martinez

    Whats wit da rainbow?

  • JonnyG

    “Is that why India is the largest trading partner of most South Asian nations ?”

    You’ve been living in a cave too long. China is currently the largest trading partner of all SAARC member states.

    “China is only helping itself with its maritime silk route – a project that will never get off the ground without India’s co-operation”

    Spoken like a typical Indian, constantly overestimate his own country’s worth. LOL

  • Alex Wijaya

    India only care about dumping its goods on its neighbours, while China is building infrastructures to make india’s neighbours become developed nations.

  • Qiaobao

    Many China watchers have already observed that China’s foreign policy is very Confucian, but they probably don’t realize this is deliberate. In a recent speech in Pakistan (April 21), Xi Jinping expressly linked China’s win-win policy with two maxims of Confucius: “If you wish to stand, help others stand, if you wish to achieve, help others achieve” (Analects 6:30); and “Don’t do to others what you don’t want others do to you” (Analects 15:24).
    Christians will immediately associate the first as a Confucian form of the so-called Golden Rule of the Gospel, “Do to others as you would others do to you” (Matthew 7:12). In fact, they habitually refer to the negative form “Don’t do to others what you don’t want others do to you” as the (slightly inferior) “Silver Rule”.
    Put together, the Golden rule is the basis of “win-win” policy, and the Silver rule of a “no lose – no lose” policy.
    Then how would one describe “zero sum” policy, which seems to dominate Indian (and US) political thinking?
    Combine the Golden and Silver rules: “Do to others what you don’t want others do to you”

  • asit guin

    China is nature-deputed neighbor
    of India. In 1962, some unwanted incidents occurred in India-china border,
    which could have been avoided by proper diplomatic intelligence. However, in
    1965, when Indian army reached Lahore, an important city of Pakistan, India-china
    border remained peaceful. In 1971, when Indian army reached Dhaka, the then
    capital of East Pakistan, India-china border remained peaceful, calm and quiet.
    In 1993 India-china border agreement is signed. The agreement is such that both
    sides are supposed to continue with their CLAIM, but nobody will take any ACTION
    and status quo will be maintained. So,
    presently India-china border is peaceful calm and quiet. One should be
    realistic before fabrication of fictions and unrealistic story of PROBABLE

  • criticalobserver

    All China’s trade and infrastructure construction policies with various nations are all based on the “win-win” principle. That is why these policies are successful and difficult for hostile third-party countries to sabotage. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, the signed agreements such as the expressway linking the southern port city of Hambantota with Matara, will benefit the people of Sri Lanka, the ruling party as well as the opposition parties.

  • Qasim57

    Don’t mind him Bernard. “IAF101” just seems like another rude Indian.

    Their national character seems quite rude and inhumane. Not a huge surprise that they also top the world in rape statistics. I blame “Bollywood”, nearly every hero just posturing a bunch of horsesh*t attitude and trying to sound tough.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    But I do mind. Not about him but how the internet is now available to the (upper middle class) Indian. The liberal use of vulgar words including how they view their neighbors, is a great case study.
    It is hard to gauge what a nation thinks (generally speaking) by her politicians. But with the age of the internet (part of the age of information) I am amazed at collective comments from regions of the world, Indian websites show a lot of that sense of arrogance and the use of vile words, European websites tend to be far more civil, even when they are under stress. American Websites are less civil but no where close to that of Indian websites.
    What you described is a slice of that culture. What I described is slice of that culture on the internet

  • Qasim57

    India is a huge mix of different cultures(many of which don’t even tolerate each other, let alone non-Indians).

    It’s hard to comprehend why India(as a country, and the certain groups that get to rule India) behave this way.

    The South Indians(i.e. Tamils, etc) are very different from the north, their history, linguistics have little in common, despite both being Hindu. They can’t even tolerate “daleet”/untouchable caste Hindus, let alone other religious groups(Sikh Golden Temple, their Holiest place of worship was stormed, ancient Babri mosque was demolished, church burnt down).

    Then there’s the fact that India has had problems with EVERY SINGLE one of it’s neighbors(wars with Pakistan, China, border shootings with Bangladesh killing 1000+ Bengalis, invading Sri Lanka and funding insurgencies there for decades, putting the squeeze on land-locked Nepal and Bhutan), even inside India the media frequently reports bizarre news like a ‘daleet'(untouchable caste) woman being brutally punished for feeding a hungry dog which belonged to a brahman(high caste). Brahman caste dude said his dog was “useless” to him now.

    In my opinion, this caste system is the fundamental cause, behind Indians behaving this way. It teaches them to treat humans as dirt/worthless(they actually blame “untouchables” for the suffering inflicted upon them – they must have done something wrong in a past life to be born in an untouchable family).

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    What you had described is what India was before the “Hindutva” movement of the BJP. You did touch on it with the Babri Masjid. but now it is much worse than that. It is a concerted effort of government sponsored intolerance. It has gone viral. The number of attacks, church burning, killing,slaughter, intimidation, forced reconversion is gripping India. Indian websites would openly have articles of the VHP reconverting Dalits back to Hinduism. Adivasi are not Hindus but if they convert they are forced to convert to Hinduism (and away from their tribal faith). It is becoming brutal. anything like this happens in Europe or the US it makes world news. When it happens in India it is hushed up.

  • Qasim57

    Indeed. This philosophy is most oppressive on Indian nationals themselves. India sarkaar/govt is very skilled at staged media shows, trying to promote “shining India” while the reality inside is very different and incredibly oppressive.

    Imo, China has the best India-facing policy, India’s antics are futile and ineffective as the Chinese continue to take decisive steps, and the Chinese always retain the upper hand on the foreign policy stage. It is because of India’s oppressive attitude that little Sri Lanka also hosts Chinese submarines(which India’s much-bragged-about naval capabilities weren’t even able to detect, until after after the Chinese subs visited Pakistan and Sri Lanka and stayed for weeks).

    But if India does not stop it’s short-sighted and dangerous attitude towards the people it rules, the multiple insurgent movements that already exist will pick up immense steam and create problems that could split India up into separate nation-groups. In a diverse country, you have to be tolerant. If they are oppressive, it leads to civil-war circumstances.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Read your comment. We maybe dealing with 2 different issues.
    1) is India, the nation and her policies. led by politicians in New Delhi
    2) is the rise of “Hindu Nationalism”. Modi is the face of it. Before the BJP was the Congress Party. they are being regularly attacked even though they have lost the elections by a landslide. Everything wrong about India is now blamed on “secularism’ or what many in the forums call “sicularism”. No blame to themselves. all blame to anyone else.
    Gets a bit touchy when Hindu nationalism and New Delhi politics start to become one.
    When Modi was chief minister of Gujarat an estimated 1500 muslims faced a pogrom for a fire that started in a train carrying RSS members. 169 odd people died of that fire, mostly women and children. Modi allowed the killings to go on for 2 days. (the alloted time before calling in the national guard). Police that wanted to help were transferred. Modi also wants to do away with article 370 on Kashmir. Part of the reason Pakistan is getting belligerent with India in Kashmir
    Problem: Once tens of millions of Hindu hot heads think they can muscle in against Muslims and Christians it cannot be easily switched off. Sooner or later a major anti Christian or anti Muslim attack may happen. then all bets are off. IS calls India “Gazwa-e-hind”. she intends to enter India well before Modi came to power. Now it will be a showdown between Hindu Nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism if IS enters India now..

  • Qasim57

    You have some very interesting insights, I must applaud you 🙂

    I was not aware of the “sicularism”, internationally India still proudly brags about being the world’s biggest secular democracy.

    Modi is very shortsighted because once the Hindu mob/mass is made angry and riled up against non-Hindu Indian citizens(which number in tens of millions), this could very well destroy the country(if not the neighborhood).

    What also gravely concerns me is, that the leadership seems just as crazy as the masses. Difference is, leadership has nuclear weapons in their custody. They’ve already made some sick moves in this area.

    Pakistan and India had agreed to keep their missiles and nukes in an “un-paired” state(nuke not installed on missile and ready to launch on very short notice), in order to prevent the nuclear showdown close-calls during the Cold War between the USSR and USA. Now, India has gone back on this agreement.

    They’re fielding nuclear submarines, with nuclear bombs mated with cruise missiles. These Subs can launch from anywhere, and make the nuclear equation much more unstable. Pakistan has also responded to India’s change in nuclear posture, has announced it’s naval “strategic command”(nukes) and is known to be working on sub-launched versions of it’s Babur cruise missile.

    Given India’s vile disgust with it’s population and it’s view that it’s population is a curse rather than an economic asset, perhaps they’d view nuclear war as a solution to their population problem(as long as the leaders are kept secure). Perhaps this is why India made alot of noise internationally when Pakistan tested Shaheen-III missiles that can reach every part of India(including their “strategic islands” in the Bay of Bengal where India’s govt felt “safe” and was building it’s command&control center).

    This nuclear umbrella requires some sane minds to prevail.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Thanks for the compliment. A better term would be “Hindu militant Nationalism” . it is militant in nature and ideology. Hindus love to say that Hinduism teaches that “all paths lead to God” but now every path is condemned except their particular version of Hinduism. The duality is accepted without question. Keep in mind I believe it is a potent number of young Hindus, enough to vote in Modi and the Bharata Janata Party “Bharat” is the Hindu word for India.
    Only my opinion.
    this is not a nuke situation but a calamity for India’s economy Western female tourists are being attacked, Muslims and Christians are being attacked. this is not the time for that kind of nationalism for India. she cannot afford it. Even Germany who went too far, was first a mighty power and yet they could not go to such extremes without a backlash. who knows other Hindus may strike back,. businesses may leave. Media coverage may blow a horror story out of proportion
    contrary to news here in the US there is a Christian revival. Even the illegal immigrants are conservative Catholics. News can do far more damage to a nation than a bomb. This is the age of Information and that is a plus or minus depending on what you do.