China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas | Reuters

When eight South Asian leaders gather for a summit in Kathmandu on Wednesday, they will meet in a conference center donated by China to its cash-strapped Himalayan neighbor Nepal 27 years ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches a guard of honour upon his arrival for the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

In the decades since it built the modernist brick and glass hall, China has massively stepped up its presence in South Asia, supplying ports, power stations and weapons.

China’s advance has been aided by bickering between India and Pakistan that stymies almost all attempts at integration in a region that is home to a fifth of the world’s population but has barely any shared roads, fuel pipes or power lines.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not welcomed Beijing’s renewed suggestion its status be raised from “observer” in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), in which India is presently the only major power.

SAARC summits bring together leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Modi’s hope of using the group as a counterweight to China is unlikely to gain traction at the two-day Kathmandu meeting, with officials saying Pakistan is blocking deals to increase transport and energy connections.

Pakistan mooted the idea of upgrading China’s and South Korea’s status in the organization at a meeting of SAARC foreign ministers on Tuesday. It was quickly rebuffed by India.

via China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas | Reuters.

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