DPG Policy Brief

China’s Inroads in India’s Eastern Neighbourhood

Date: February 07, 2024
China’s quest for “wealth, power” (fuqiang) and “rejuvenation” (fuxing) carries strategic implications for its neighbouring countries. Various policy instruments pursued by the Chinese government over the past two decades and more have been aimed at creating new opportunities for expanding its economic and strategic footprint across continents. It is, therefore, important to analyse China’s strategic inroads in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

In this policy brief, the author examines the progress of China’s methodical inroads in India’s eastern and southern neighbours – Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

China’s longstanding interest in India’s neighbourhood has undergone a perceptible change under President Xi Jinping’s leadership since 2012, driven by the ambition to emerge as a power centre in the regional system.

The paper then goes on to examine the range of China’s influence operations across these five countries, and the stakes involved for India in each.

The paper concludes that while Beijing has effectively used its financial and economic leverage in India’s neighbourhood for deepening its influence, its regional assertions are also being challenged by India and the US. The broad trend among these countries reflects a nuanced approach, differentiating between economic needs and strategic choice. It is imperative for India to continue to deepen its engagement with these vital neighbours combining the elements of trade, investment, business and economic cooperation, soft power and cultural outreach, and enhanced border security.

To read this Policy Brief Volume IX, Issue 5, please click China’s Inroads in India’s Eastern Neighbourhood”.