The continent of Asia, especially the Indian Subcontinent, is seeing subliminal diplomatic battles between India and China. The media is full of news from Afghanistan about how China and Pakistan have indirectly come to power in this highly strategic and mineral-rich country. Many are expressing worries about threats to Indian influence and investments here. However, Afghanistan is not the only diplomatic battlefield.
A week back, India and Maldives inked the largest ever infrastructure initiative, The Greater Male Connectivity Project. GMCP is the largest infrastructure project in the Maldives, funded by India with a grant of $100 million and a Line of Credit of $400 million. It is considered a big boost to bilateral ties between the two countries and a setback to China’s efforts to further entangle the Maldives in their debt trap. Already, the government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, which replaced pro-China Abdulla Yameen, is considered a very close friend of India.
In Sri Lanka, pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in 2019. Initially, he sent positive feelers to India but then sided with China. Later, Rajapaksa took Sri Lanka on a Chinese loan spree. Consequently, under soaring inflation, steep currency devaluation and foreign exchange crisis, Sri Lanka has recently declared an economic emergency, empowering the government to set food prices and seize food stocks.
With the emergency coming as an eye-opener, Sri Lanka has finally sent Milinda Moragoda as High Commissioner to take charge in New Delhi. Colombo had kept the post of its High Commission chief vacant since January 2020. Moragoda has now called for frequent joint military drills and high-level exchanges as well as utilisation of the $50 million counter-terrorism Line of Credit by India. This change in Sri Lankan foreign policy is believed to have upset the CCP hierarchy in Beijing.
Nepal saw a major power shift after their Supreme Court dismissed the government of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. He is considered China’s vassal. However, after assuming power, the new Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is giving one setback after the other to China. After clarifying that China cannot take India’s place as a special neighbour, PM Deuba has formed a committee to look into the border issues with China. It comes as China occupies Nepalese land at several places in Dolakha, Gorkha, Humla, etc.
Although the setback to Indian interests in Afghanistan due to the Taliban take over under the mentorship of China-Pakistan cannot be denied, the success of Indian diplomacy and intelligence agencies across the Indian Subcontinent must be appreciated.