Kosh Raj Koirala, Republica
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Although policymakers and the strategic community in New Delhi seem convinced that the alignment with the US is a fitting response to Chinese ‘assertiveness’, in reality it is only likely to further destabilize South Asia to India’s economic and strategic loss. In fact, China started becoming assertive in India’s neighbors after New Delhi sought to align itself with Washington, especially after it reached the civil nuclear deal in 2008. Since, China has made greater inroads into South Asia through its various soft power strategies. This includes not only public diplomacy but also economic levers like trade, aid and investment in major infrastructure projects. Nuclear-armed Pakistan has been a long-time ally of China in South Asia. The way Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives have welcomed Chinese overtures over past few years indicates that they are also unlikely to give up their constructive engagement with China. Thus China’s strategic presence in South Asia is bound to grow unless New Delhi rethinks its coercive diplomacy in the neighborhood and seeks to regain its soft power.