China has set up its alternative to SAARC and BIMSTEC that is called the China South Asian Countries Emergency Supply Reserve and Poverty Alleviation Cooperation and Development Centre. It was established in China on July 8th, 2021 as a result of the meeting of the foreign officials of China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (excluding India, Bhutan, and the Maldives). The center is now established in the Southern Chinese city of Chongqing.
The China South Asia grouping:
- The emergency reserve aims to prepare a common strategy for combating the pandemic of COVID-19 through vaccine development and distribution.
- It also aims to create an emergency reserve to combat contingencies caused due to climate change.
India’s response to the Asia grouping
- The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to a question on whether India had been invited to the forum or would it consider joining the China-South Asia center in the future.
- The alliance has been inactive since the Indian led group leader’s summit in Kathmandu in 2014.
- The absence of India from this grouping and also from a series of consultations on COVID relief between the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, and different combinations of all SAARC member countries (other than India and Bhutan) had led some experts to term that it was meant to be a “Minus India” initiative.
- The SAARC summit in 2016, was hosted by Pakistan. But India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan listed Pakistan derived terrorism as the main threat to the region after the Uri terrorist attack on India and announced its boycott of the summit. India alleged Pakistan’s involvement in the attack.
- Due to this reason, there was an indefinite postponement of the summit. India is the only country among the eight SAARC countries that neither requested nor accepted China’s COVID vaccine.
- The 20th SAARC summit will be held in Pakistan, and Pakistan is committed to its process to hold the summit. The date of the summit is yet to be declared.