The South Asian region has become a battlefield between India and China in a tussle for power and dominance. While China is building strategic and economic bases in smaller countries, India is coming up with enticing policies to push China away.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the oath-taking ceremony of the new Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and renewed relations with the island nation. India and Maldives relations had reached a ‘low’ as former President Abdulla Yameen was inclined towards China. President Yameen had put restrictions on work visas for Indians and signed a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing. Now, the new Maldives government has promised to withdraw the free trade agreement with China as it was a mistake.
Besides the free trade agreement had been deemed as controversial because President Yameen had signed the 1,000-page document in his Beijing trip last year, in less than an hour without any debate.
India is wary of China’s tactics, of extending its influence in India’s neighbourhood by funding infrastructure projects. And most of its funding has proved to be a debt trap. With countries becoming vigilant to the Chinese hoodwink, this is an excellent opportunity for New Delhi to strengthen economic relations with them.
Down north, India has had a wrestle with China over Sri Lanka. According to the ET “, India helped broker a coalition between Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe to remove Mahinda Rajapaksa from office 2015. Rajapaksa had given China strategic entry into Sri Lanka by leasing out Hambantota port to China and allowing it to build Colombo port and dock its submarines in Sri Lanka.” This has no doubt proved worrisome for India.
China’s chequebook diplomacy has proved challenging for New Delhi.