China holds third South Asia multilateral meet in new push

China has held its third multilateral dialogue with countries from South Asia 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 dialogue, held virtually on January 6, brought together every country in the region barring India, Bhutan and the Maldives, and was aimed at “anti-epidemic cooperation and poverty reduction cooperation”, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

All three dialogues have been attended by Pakistan and Nepal, which are emerging as two lynchpins in China’s regional strategy. The first such meeting was convened by China in July, and was attended by Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan. This was followed by a five-member grouping in November attended by China, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The January 6 meeting was attended by all five countries that have taken part in these dialogues — Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — and was a follow-up to the two earlier meetings, Ms. Hua said.

“In this meeting, the representatives shared their experience on anti-epidemic and poverty relief,” she said. “They talked about dealing with the impact of the pandemic, resuming economic and trade cooperation, dealing with non-traditional security challenges and advancing sustainable development, and reached an initial consensus.

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