China has held its third multilateral meet with South Asia countries to take forward closer cooperation on fighting COVID-19 and coordinating their economic agendas, reflecting a new approach in Beijing’s outreach to the region.
The third meeting was held virtually on 6 January, and most countries in the region participated while some of the countries including India, Bhutan, and the Maldives. The virtual meet was mainly focused on anti-epidemic cooperation and poverty reduction cooperation.
This was the third dialogue, with Pakistan and Nepal participating in all three summits. These countries’ participation showcases China’s emerging alignment in the region towards Nepal and Pakistan. The first such meeting was convened in July by China and was attended by Pakistan, Nepal, and Afghanistan.
The second meeting was attended by China, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, respectively. Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are the five countries that participated in the third dialogue. The meeting saw the representatives share their experience on anti-epidemic and poverty relief. They have also discussed dealing with the pandemic’s impact, resuming economic and trade cooperation, dealing with non-traditional security challenges and advancing sustainable development.
The previous summits saw discussions on utilizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative to boost their post-COVID-19 economic recovery. There was consensus about creating a joint response mechanism for countries linked by land ports; this will also see greater information sharing and international cooperation. In the quadrilateral dialogue with Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, China expressed its intentions of extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan and talked about grand plans to take forward an economic corridor with Nepal, the Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network. The Chinese official expressed intentions of using the four countries’ geographical proximity, which was connected by mountains and rivers, and offered to share China’s expertise and capacities on COVID-19 vaccines. China has been trying to use this platform to create a consensus on a wide range of issues and problems faced in the pandemic era.