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Northeast Asia

China strengthens its grip on south Asia

Pakistan has long been as enamoured of the BRI as India is suspicious. But BRI-related projects are now springing up in the likes of Bangladesh and Nepal, suggesting that whatever New Delhi’s reservations, the Beijing-led scheme is here to stay

If the Belt and Road Initiative has a blind spot, it is surely to be found in south Asia. The region is home to one country that can’t get enough of the project (Pakistan), and another (India) that wants nothing to do with it.

Does this matter? Well, yes and no. On the plus side, Pakistan, which is chronically short of friends and capital, showsno sign of falling out of love with a project that continues to shower it with financial largesse. The list of Chinese-funded and Chinese-built infrastructure projects is long and impressive. 

Take the $2.9 billion, 400-kilometre stretch of the M5 Motorway funded by China Development Bank (CDB) and built by China State Construction Engineering. When the motorway is completed later this year, the cities of Karachi and Lahore will finally be linked, by a project that was first drawn up as long ago as the 1990s.

CDB is the financial driving force behind many of the big local BRI deals. In December 2017, the policy bank was a key player in a 10-year, $700 million syndicated term loan raised for the finance ministry, a deal that included partial guarantees from the World Bank.