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President Xi to visit South Asia

By Colin Speakman ( Updated: 2014-09-18 17:03

The economic relations are paramount between large neighbors and it is been remarked that if China crosses a river by feeling the stones, India crosses a river by feeling China. This is a reference to the size of China's sovereign wealth funds and India's slowing economic growth at a time of badly needed infrastructure development. Hence China could supply both technical knowledge and finance for transport projects in India. President Xi will be keen to promote trade and to get to know the new Indian leader, President Modi, sworn in on 26 May this year. Modi has recently visited Japan for diplomatic meetings so Xi's visit is timely.

Pakistan is the 44th largest economy on same nominal measure as puts India 10th, but its population of 186 million is the 6th largest. Its economy can be described as fragile thanks, in part, to militant activity in the country. Pakistan and China have shared an all-weather relationship for many decades, though like India, the current President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain,  is relatively newly in post in since last year. As neighbors, they meet in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, alongside other "Stans" that border China. Pakistan and China share a common need to counter terrorism in their border areas, and a practical one to link the Western region of China with Pakistan through a major train project. Investment by China in Pakistan would be most welcome to boost economic activity. We should expect President Xi to discuss several cooperation projects.

Sri Lanka is not going to feature high up in any economic data about the global economy. It is a lower middle income developing country compared to China as upper middle income and the Middle Kingdom seeking to reach developed economy status in the next decade. Sri Lanka has a modest sized population of 20.5 million but it has doubled in the last 50 years, partly explaining low income per head. Sri Lanka is not, of course, a neighbor of China in terms of borders, as it is an island lying south of India. Yet one important connection is China's interest in opening up a maritime Silk Road in which this nation can play a useful part. More generally, China sees an opportunity is assisting the lower middle income countries, whether in South Asia or in Africa, with technological know how and financial assistance. This was the basis of China signing a Strategic Cooperative Partnership last year. It will be the first ever visit by a Chinese President to Sri Lanka and will be seen as a positive development by its own leader, President Rajapaksa after his visit to China in 2013..

So three very different countries - one very important itinerary for President Xi.

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