Beijing [China], May 27 (ANI): Even after four decades of robust external economic engagement and over seven years since its flagship project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched, Chinese investments in South Asia continue to generate resistance from member countries.
Sanjay Pulipaka and Mohit Musaddi write for Asia Times that on May 14, the Nepal Army sealed a deal with a Chinese company to construct bridges and tunnels along the Kathmandu-Terai expressway, despite the Public Accounts Committee of the Nepalese Parliament issuing a directive to scrap the contract for violating the "competitive bidding process".
The deal indicates that China's economic engagement is threatening to undermine the institutional balance in Nepal, which is in the midst of an intense political crisis, while Beijing reaps the benefits of sustained engagement of various leaders across Nepal's political spectrum.
Since January 2020, despite the outbreak of COVID-19 and the associated travel risks, there have been at least nine visits by senior Chinese leaders to Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In Asia Times, the authors highlighted that such an uptick in China's engagement with South Asian countries comes amid heightened territorial friction with India, tensions with the US, and Beijing's search for new markets for its exports.
Despite this, Chinese projects are facing significant resistance from the countries. In Bangladesh, an under-construction Chinese-financed power plant witnessed on-site protests over "unpaid wages, working hours and alleged discrimination." Five people were shot dead by the Bangladeshi police during the protests.
Two years ago, one Chinese worker had died in clashes between Chinese and Bangladeshi workers at the Payra power plant, which is funded by Beijing.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court found inconsistencies in a legislative bill seeking to provide special governance frameworks for the China-funded USD 1.4 billion Port City in Colombo, raising concerns that new provisions will reduce the role of elected bodies and limit direct oversight by regulators, writes Asia Times.
In some sections of Sri Lanka, there is a fear that the port city could result in a Chinese colony inside the country.
In Pakistan, Chinese projects face significant resistance in Balochistan, which was exemplified last month when there was a car bomb explosion at a hotel in Quetta in which the Chinese ambassador was staying.
Last year, there were protests by Pakistani labourers working on Chinese-funded projects in Karachi on the issue of unequal pay, and there were protests in Muzaffarabad, a city in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, against the construction of dams by Chinese firms on the Neelum and Jhelum rivers.
It was also reported in 2018 that "some Chinese nationals associated with the Chinese army ... attacked and injured police personnel deployed for their security".
The local populace has been contesting such Chinese-led investment-oriented development strategies in the countries, such as concerns about debt traps, lack of transparency, aggressive diplomacy, and friction due to excessive use of Chinese labour have often resulted in discord at the local level.
The challenge in moving forward is for the recipient countries of Chinese aid to demand greater transparency in project implementation, reduce the number of Chinese workers, and ensure greater local participation, Pulipaka and Musaddi wrote for Asia Times. (ANI)