NEW DELHI: The question of whether India is losing influence in South Asia to China has assumed added significance in light of the recent election victory by an anti-India leftist alliance in Nepal.
The coalition forged between the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) is known for its ties with Beijing.
“Changing global politics and the rise of China have affected Nepal’s political dynamics,” Mallika Shakya, a Nepali academic at the New Delhi-based South Asia University, told Arab News.
Happymon Jacob, assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Arab News: “China’s growing presence in South Asia has disconcerted India in its traditional sphere of influence.”
He said New Delhi’s “visionless policy in South Asia has cost us very dearly, not only in Nepal but also in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.”
Jacob added: “In Nepal, the unwarranted economic blockade over a year ago has cost us dearly. In the Maldives, the way we tried to interfere in its domestic affairs has alienated us.”
New Delhi-based journalist Suman Sharma said: “India wants to be seen not to be losing ground to China. The strategic partnership with the US is aimed at counterbalancing China.”
India’s former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal told Arab News: “The relative loss of India’s influence in its neighborhood is due to China, which is a highly destabilizing force in the region.”
He said: “Smaller neighbors use the China card in order to have the best of both worlds, and we have to live with it.”
Jacob said: “China is a rising power, so it’s natural that small neighbors will turn to it. But it wouldn’t have happened so quickly had India been careful in dealing with the neighborhood.”
He added: “In a hurry to be a strong ally of a receding power — the US — New Delhi isn’t involving itself proactively in the region.
“Why did we let China negotiate between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the issue of Rohingya repatriation? India should’ve done that.”
But since “China is an inevitable superpower in the region, a confrontational attitude will do no good,” Jacob said. “We need to engage and balance China.”