India and China’s past disputes over border issues are now moving to the economic front. As China becomes India’s largest trading partner, Chinese construction companies are gearing up to compete for infrastructure work there against local firms and to follow them to growing markets in nearby countries.
Chinese enterprises have already completed infrastructure projects in India worth more than $10 billion and are involved with nearly $6 billion in projects in nearby Sri Lanka. China has become a larger presence in that island nation than even its traditional investor-donors, India and Japan.
India’s discomfort was clear when prospective bidders for the 22-km long bridge that is part of the Mumbai-Trans Harbor Link project were cautioned against linking with Chinese companies, citing security reasons because of an atomic research center and naval installation in the vicinity, ENR has learned.
With Chinese firms taking an aggressive competitive stance, India has expressed concerns that China's growing presence in the “string of pearls” nations surrounding it—Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh—will hurt its own dominant role. Already, the Chinese are also assisting in constructiing Sri Lanka's first coal-fired power plant and are involved in several highway projects.