India subtly warns nations of China's debt trap diplomacy

PM Modi says India's support to development projects in other nations is not guided by commercial or political considerations
Last Updated 31 July 2020, 04:18 IST

India on Thursday tacitly warned its neighbours as well as the Indian Ocean nations of the debt trap diplomacy of China.

“History has taught us that in the name of development partnerships, nations were forced into dependence partnerships. It gave rise to colonial and imperial rule. It gave rise to global power blocks. And, Humanity suffered,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, taking a subtle dig at the predatory lending practices of China.

Modi was speaking through video-link at a ceremony to mark the inauguration of the new building of the Supreme Court of Mauritius at the capital of the Indian Ocean nation, Port Louis, on Thursday. He joined Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth to virtually inaugurate the building, which New Delhi helped build with a grant of $ 28.12 million.

The Prime Minister underlined the distinction between the ways India and China supported development projects in other countries – albeit without directly referring to the Communist country.

He cited examples of India’s support to development projects not only in Mauritius and neighbouring countries, like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan, but also in Niger in Africa and Guyana in South America.

The Prime Minister said that India’s approach to development was “mainly human-centric” and it wanted to work for the welfare of humanity. “India is making development partnerships that are marked by respect, diversity, care for the future, and sustainable development,” he said, adding: “For India, the most fundamental principle in development cooperation is respecting our partners.”

He said that “sharing of development lessons” was the “only motivation” for New Delhi to support pursuit for prosperity in other nations. “That is why our development cooperation does not come with any conditions. It is not influenced by political or commercial considerations,” said the Prime Minister.

Beijing has been bankrolling a large number of infrastructure projects in several countries in the South Asia and Indian Ocean region as well as in Africa, as part of its Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI), thus building strategic assets across the continents. But Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious cross-continental connectivity initiative also came under criticism from around the world – for exposing the smaller participating nations to the risks of being caught in debt traps.

Even as its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is engaged in a stand-off with the Indian Army along its disputed boundary with India in eastern Ladakh, China has renewed its bid to further spread its tentacles in South Asia and Indian Ocean region. It has of late been offering new loans and economic packages to support not only development projects, but also to help smaller nations to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, including to India’s neighbours like Sri Lanka and Maldives, even as they are finding it difficult to come out of the debt trap the Communist country already put them in with BRI projects.

Beijing over the past few months nudged Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s Government in Kathmandu to sour its relations with New Delhi by ratcheting up Nepal-India boundary dispute. It is reaching out to Kabul to extend its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to Afghanistan. It is also offering loans to the tune of $6.4 billion for several infrastructure projects across Bangladesh, apart from expanding the ambit of its trade concession to the least developed nation.

(Published 30 July 2020, 15:51 IST)

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