Senior officials from Sri Lanka, Nepal start China visits; closer ties expected
Published: Mar 25, 2024 07:45 PM
China Sri Lanka Photo:VCG

China Sri Lanka Photo:VCG

China Nepal Photo:VCG

China Nepal Photo:VCG

Senior officials from Sri Lanka and Nepal began their official visits to China on Monday, with Chinese analysts expecting their trips to further enhance the two countries' ties with China and to promote cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to cope with the various challenges in their economic development.  

Meanwhile, some people in India who have always viewed Sri Lanka and Nepal as being within New Delhi's sphere of influence are paying close attention to the visits. Analysts stressed that friendship and exchanges between China and Sri Lanka and Nepal are long-standing and are not targeted at any third party. They said that regarding other countries as being within one's own sphere of influence only exposes one's hegemonic mentality and goes against the trend of the time. 

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena arrived in Beijing on Monday for a six-day official visit to China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang. Gunawardena was received by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister and former ambassador to India Sun Weidong upon his arrival, according to the videoclip released by CGTN on Monday. 

Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha is also expected to land in Beijing on Monday. His official visit to China is scheduled from March 25 to April 1. 

According to a previous briefing by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, the visit is Shrestha's first overseas trip after taking office as Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Lin said China stands ready to work with Nepal to take this visit as an opportunity to deepen political mutual trust, pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, expand exchanges and cooperation in various areas and strive for new progress in building a China-Nepal strategic partnership of cooperation.

Talking about the Sri Lankan prime minister's visit, Lin said the leaders of the two countries will have an in-depth exchange of views on carrying forward traditional friendship, deepening political mutual trust, expanding practical cooperation, and international and regional issues of common interest.

Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that both Nepal and Sri Lanka, as important countries in South Asia, have maintained close cooperative relations with China for a long time, and the exchanges and friendship between China and these two countries have basically not been affected by the changes in their domestic politics.

Both Nepal and Sri Lanka are currently facing a lack of momentum in their economies, and both regard China's development as an important opportunity for their own development, and both seek to further synergize their strategies with BRI, so as to inject more impetus into a sustainable and healthy economic development, Qian said. 

According to Qian, Nepal is seeking more cooperation with China in infrastructure construction, cross-border trade, agriculture and poverty alleviation. Sri Lanka also hopes to further communicate with China on easing its debt pressure.

The visits come against the backdrop of extensive hype over claims of a "debt trap." 

Ahead of the Sri Lankan prime minister's China visit, Indian media hyped Colombo's decision to halt recurring visits by Chinese research ships to Hambantota port as being a result of "India's security concerns." They also hyped concerns over China's "debt diplomacy," when China is actually not the largest creditor to Sri Lanka.

"It's apparent that India regards Sri Lanka and Nepal as being within its own sphere of influence, but when the two countries ran into difficulties in their pursuit of development, India did not help solve their problems," Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday. 

According to Zhao, Sri Lanka and Nepal are facing pressure from India, but both are seeking to maximize their interests and both will try their best to seek deeper cooperation with China.

China is either a neighbor or close to many South Asian countries, and China respects the will of these countries to independently develop their diplomatic relations, Qian said, noting that China has developed normal political and economic relations with these countries that are not targeted at any third party. 

India's belief that its neighbors should remain within its sphere of influence is a very arrogant view with a hegemonic mentality, and is also not in line with the trend of the times, Zhao said.