China should be 'benign' power in S Asia: Indian think tank



Beijing: China should be a "benign" power in South Asia and address India's concerns, especially over its military linkages with the countries in the region, according to a top Indian think tank.

Beijing's military linkages raise concerns in India, Rajiv Kumar Bhatia, Director General of Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), said at a Chinese-government organised conference on "Contemporary world multilateral dialogue: Changing world and China in development".

"It is important for China to be a benign power in South Asia, not thinking in terms of taking up positions which will be helpful to India," he later said, speaking about his presentation and interaction with scholars at the conference.

Any of China's relations in the South Asian neighbourhood, specially military linkages, will cause anxiety and need to be addressed, Bhatia, former Indian envoy to Kenya, Myanmar, Mexico and South Africa, said.

His comments came in the backdrop of China making efforts to develop close ties with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal besides Pakistan, which over the decades has emerged as a close strategic ally of Beijing.

Participants from 22 countries were invited to take part in the conference organised to promote understanding between China and the rest of the world.

Only India and Nepal were invited from South Asia, while Pakistan was conspicuous by its absence at the meeting.

Bhatia said the conference taking place in the aftermath of the once-in-a-decade leadership change in China dealt with issues like global governance and role of emerging countries, security and development of the Asia-Pacific region and the recent 18th Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China.

About Southeast Asia, where China grappled with maritime disputes with various neighbours, Bhatia spoke of concerns about rise of China's military expenditure besides its territorial claims and sought efforts to bring down tensions.

India-China relations would be key to shaping the situation in South and East Asia, he said, adding that China should address the concerns arising out of its rise as a major power, while no such fears were voiced over the rise of India.

For their part, Chinese scholars, while stating that China's rise was an important development, said Beijing will pursue a peaceful path to progress contributing to the peace and stability of the world, according to Bhatia.

Referring to the concerns over China's rise, two Chinese scholars said they can understand the issue causing anxiety and China should take responsibility and address it.

Also, it is important that China share its growth with international community, they said, according to Bhatia.

Bhatia said the conference paved the way for discussion among the leading Chinese and other think tanks.

ICWA, he said, would focus on stepping up interaction with Indian and Chinese think-tanks to work out some common ideas for future.

PTI