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How India is meticulously de-hyphenating China’s relations with countries in South Asia

Foreign Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar’s recent three-day visit to the two countries’ southern neighbors has been marked by notable departures from state media and the strategic community from past years. Perhaps for the first time, both have examined China’s presence, influence or interference in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, how it affects India’s relations with the host country, and how New Delhi is tackling its smaller neighbors on this issue. I didn’t talk about whether it should be treated as such.

Whatever the limited coverage the state media gave to the EAM visit, it was a welcome departure from the developmental positives and political iterations of support and support for both countries. In preparation for the visit, Sri Lankan stakeholders, including local media, actively reported that he had written to the IMF about restructuring India’s debt service. weather the ensuing financial crisis.

New Delhi beat China again. A week after a high-level ministerial delegation visited Colombo just before Jaishankar’s visit, Beijing was still considering writing to the IMF on the Indian route, according to reports. Local media have given more space to Chinese delegations complaining to Kandy prelates about the monk’s invitation for the Dalai Lama to visit the country. in the capital. Incidentally, the Dalai Lama’s aide later revealed that there were no plans for the Tibetan leader to visit Sri Lanka any time soon.

do the right thing

EAM Jaishankar explained India’s position on debt restructuring in terms of the country’s ‘neighborhood first’ policy, stating that in Colombo, New Delhi “did not wait for other bilateral creditors (of Sri Lanka)…. It did the right thing to help.This was not just a statement but a repetition of India’s proven position in neighborly relations.

In the immediate context, India dispatched food, fuel and medicines, restructured some of its pending repayments, and took several months off when its southern neighbor was hit by an unprecedented economic and foreign exchange crisis last year. totaled a whopping $3.9 billion. Over a year later, it’s still less than half, if not less, than the rest of the world combined.

Thus, after the former government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa defiled organic fertilizers imported from Chinese opponents without informing and educating local farmers in advance, New Delhi was hurriedly When it came to rushing fertilizer, I didn’t hesitate. An unprecedented man-made disaster on the front lines of agriculture. India has not allowed national pride or personal ego to get in the way.

Even without all that, when the pandemic hit the world, India first rushed medical supplies, including test kits, and then vaccines to neighboring countries, starting with the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The ancient philosophy of “global brotherhood” of ancient India, better identified as “Vasudeva Kudumbagam” (Sanskrit) and “Yaadhum Oore, Yavarum Kelir” (Tamil), two of the world’s oldest languages. The bottom line is, in fact, New Delhi vaccinated its neighbors first, even before it vaccinated its own people, who have killed tens of thousands and sickened hundreds of thousands.

It also flowed towards India, from India’s revived commitment to the Global South, of which all three belonged as G20 presidency this year. Such an Indian approach is both a necessity and a possibility in her ever-evolving 21st-century world order, especially in the post-pandemic world, beyond its geographical neighbors.

Thus, New Delhi did not make a deal with China, which was controversial and not friendly to India, especially to the Sri Lankan people. That means that the Maldivian government of President Ibrahim Solih has been friendlier to India than most previous administrations, starting with President Abdullah Yameen’s immediate predecessor, who is still in jail on corruption charges. I admit that I was thinking.

That is why India rushing a shipment of oxygen to Sri Lanka at the height of the pandemic is unprecedented by any standard. For the Maldives, New Delhi shipped a shipment of drinking water when a fire destroyed the only desalination plant in the capital Male’ in December 2015. Oxygen and drinking water are both freely available commodities and nature’s gifts to humanity, but there were times when communities were short of them and governments had to press the SOS button for help. .

When India helped two countries among other neighbors and far-flung countries, for example Brazil and many others with Covid vaccines, both Maldives (Yameen) and Sri Lanka (Gotha Rajapaksa). was ruled by a president. It also considered and proved to be unfriendly to India. Yameen said after the government asked New Delhi to take back two helicopters given as a gift to deploy in humanitarian missions such as medical emergencies and cyclone evacuations from isolated islands. became a person and an adversary.

stuck in the middle

As EAM Jaishankar and other Indian spokespersons have reiterated, the New Delhi aid is a “humanitarian aid” to the affected people and a relief to the otherwise bogged down local government. clearly different from The immediate mention was of course Sri Lanka, but New Delhi has likewise proved its worth by providing Covid assistance and providing flood relief to historical enemy Pakistan Jaishankar ‘s recent twin state visits proved this point precisely in both his one capitals.

In EAM’s first visit to the Maldives, he skipped the capital, Male. This would have allowed him and India to gain additional media his mileage, especially locally, in an election year. A presidential election is scheduled for his Sept. 9, and there is now a major battle between incumbent Soli and party leader Mohamed Nasheed over his ticket to the ruling party’s MDP. The primary is scheduled for his January 28th.

Outside the ruling party, the opposition PPM-PNC consortium is trailing 6 to 7 after a trial court sentenced their leader and predecessor, President Abdullah Yameen, to 11 years in prison. presidential election. Legal experts are unsure whether Yameen will have enough time to clear his two-stage appeal, fervently giving him a chance to file an acquittal and nomination before the Aug. 3 deadline. I just want it.

Against this background, Jaishankar’s visit to northern Hanimadhoo to initiate work to expand the island’s airport to international standards, as well as his meetings with President Solih and President Abdullah Shahid. , which indicated a complete lack of initiative or comment from the anti-India Yameen camp. , or even the ruling pro-India team Nasheed could feel uncomfortable. Unless, of course, someone wants to find fault with the very idea of ​​the visit, Jaishankar’s fourth since becoming EAM, said the veteran diplomat, doing all the right things and there I stopped.

But it is in the context of Sri Lanka that the dehyphenation of India’s relations with China has been more pronounced, and therefore visible. Aside from known references to China in bilateral talks, other than perhaps the Sri Lankan leader may have briefed visitors on the status of a credit restructuring with that country, India has also been a controversial It seems that a spy ship was put there. Yuan Wang 5′ last year, behind.

With an operational range of 200 nautical miles, Chinese ships could do all that was expected in nearby waters from afar. It may have been for the purpose of being carried out (for replenishment) or to send a political message to Colombo as much as to New Delhi.

In the latter case, Sri Lanka, especially the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN), should be more concerned with all of this island nation’s concerns before they fall directly or otherwise into India’s lap. After all, both countries are on the same page where one’s external security is deeply intertwined with the other’s. This is also the spirit behind the formation of the four-state Colombo Security Council (CSC), with the Maldives and Mauritius as members and Bangladesh and the Seychelles as observers.

While CSC’s mandate is currently limited to non-traditional security areas, there is room, need, and time to expand to include traditional security as well. But that means that all member states have a responsibility to protect the entire region, and therefore care about the security concerns of other countries as much as their own.

willingness shown

Jaishankar of India focused exclusively on bilateral issues during his recent visit. ). In Hanimadhoo, Maldives, Jaishankar said similarly when he observed that India-funded projects (which were selected) “create a pathway to a better lifestyle for the local people”. .

The minister’s discussions in Colombo focused on further assisting Sri Lanka in both economic and limited political spheres, the latter in the context of the unresolved ethnic issue. If left unchecked, direct funding and investment from Western countries through international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank may be further discouraged. Investment and financial support are of paramount importance to Sri Lanka now, and hopefully in the future, than at any time in the past, with Western powers clinging to their post-war attitudes and positions at the UNHRC.

Thus, the two countries began their energy cooperation where they left with the signing of a bilateral agreement during the visit of then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Colombo in October 2021. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and accompanying political avalanche at the time, however, also showed Sri Lanka’s ongoing energy predicament to its value.

In this regard, if the two countries agree to make the coastal Trincomalee in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province an ‘energy hub’, on the ethnic issue, India will reaffirm renewed impetus and urgency for full implementation on the 13th. He supported the efforts of neighboring countries to inject. An amendment to the country’s constitution, facilitated by New Delhi in a bygone era. Jaishankar, in a joint meeting with all Tamil leaders across party identities, first 13- Told them it was necessary to implement A. But that remains a long way off.

The author is a policy analyst and political commentator based in Chennai. Views expressed are personal.

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