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Xi's visit to advance ties in South Asia

Updated: 2016-10-11 08:58
By AN BAIJIE (China Daily)

President will meet with leaders of BRICS countries during summit

President Xi Jinping's upcoming trip to Cambodia, Bangladesh and India will be "an important diplomatic activity" aimed at boosting ties with South Asia, a senior diplomat said on Monday.

Kong Xuanyou, assistant foreign minister, said at a news conference in Beijing that it will be the first state visit of a Chinese president to Bangladesh in 30 years. It will also be Xi's first visit to Cambodia since becoming China's top leader in late 2012.

Xi will make state visits to Cambodia and Bangladesh on Thursday and Friday, according to the Foreign Ministry, and then fly to Goa, India, for the Eighth BRICS Summit over the weekend.

"Bangladesh is China's important partner in the South Asian and the Indian Ocean region, and the visit will be a milestone for the China-Bangladesh relationship," he said.

During Xi's visits, China will sign a number of cooperative documents with Cambodia and Bangladesh regarding the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, which focuses on improving infrastructure and boosting interconnection, Kong said.

Xi already visited some South Asian countries, including India and Sri Lanka, in 2014 and Pakistan last year.

Li Baodong, vice-foreign minister, said the BRICS Summit in India is expected to boost confidence in global economic growth.

"Through this meeting, China expects to send a positive signal of higher confidence," he said.

China also hopes to raise the influence of BRICS members and developing countries in international affairs, to safeguard peace and stability, he added.

During the summit, Xi will meet in bilateral talks with leaders from other BRICS members, including Russia's President Vladimir Putin and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to reach consensus on global governance, Li said.

Jiang Jingkui, director of the Center of South Asian Studies at Peking University, said that the South Asian region, which is not a traditional focus for China, has become increasingly important in recent years, especially after China put forward the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.

"To some extent, the South Asian region is also one of China's backyards," he said, adding that northern South Asia is a key part of the (Silk Road Economic) Belt and southern South Asia of the (21st Century Maritime Silk) Road.

Bangladesh has been eager to advance the China-India-Myanmar-Bangladesh economic corridor, and Xi's visit will bring more practical cooperative results for the two countries, Jiang said.

Jin Yong, deputy head of the Communication University of China's School of Foreign Studies, said that the large South Asian population means huge market potential for China, an important prospect given the current global economic sluggishness.

Densely populated Bangladesh has more than 150 million people, while India has the world's second-largest population, he said.

Many Chinese textile companies have moved their factories from South China to Bangladesh to save labor costs, and such cooperation has bound the economies of the two countries more tightly, he added.

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