Prime Minister Modi seems to be taking the dragon head on by making subtle references to China’s aggressive moves. Even though, PM Modi has been calling for co-operation between India and China in his speeches, he has raised issues of convergence with other nations concerning China. Therefore, India has systematically tightened its hold against the Chinese.
In another such development, the US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, has showered praise on India’s prime minister regarding his statement about massive debts at the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore on Saturday. During the dialogue, Prime Minister Modi gave a slightly subdued speech as far as alleged Chinese hegemony is concerned. He stated that better Sino-Indian relations are in the greater interest of Asia and the world. He shrewdly highlighted that India and China have dealt with their disputes in a mature manner and have ensured a peaceful border. These positive comments were welcomed by the Chinese government. However, in his speech Prime Minister Modi criticised governments that put other nations under the burden of exorbitant debts. PM Modi added that, “they (governments) must empower nations, not place them under impossible debt burden. They must promote trade, not strategic competition. On these principles, we are prepared to work with everyone.” There is a global concern regarding China’s debt diplomacy. China has doled out massive loans to several countries including Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Reportedly, these countries are reeling under the impossible burden of such debts. Prime Minister’s condemnation of the practice of debt diplomacy has been taken by many as a clear reference to China especially in respect of its Belt and Road Initiative that involved giving out sizable loans to other countries.
The US defence secretary James Mattis has taken this one comment about predatory loans, in what was otherwise a slightly subdued speech, very seriously. In fact, he has keenly highlighted it and the US seems to be treating this comment as a vindication of what the US has been propagating all along.
James Mattis stated that “He (Modi) made a really good point there about the dangers of accepting loans that are too good to be true, and being forced into another agenda”. Mattis added that a country could lose its sovereignty and freedom from debt more than a soldier with a bayoneted rifle. Therefore, Mattis referred to how the Chinese policy of debt diplomacy is impinging upon sovereignty and economic freedom of other nations. The Americans seem to be eager to take India on board for an overt Indian opposition to alleged Chinese hegemony.
This is not for the first time that Prime Minister Modi has silently countered the Chinese by focusing on convergent issues concerning China’s unfair foreign policies. India has already entered into significant pacts with major ASEAN countries and has also extended support to the ASEAN demand of rules-based security infrastructure in the South China Sea. Now, PM Modi’s successful attempt in putting across the ills of China’s debt diplomacy is testimony to the fact that India has been able to corner the Chinese on key issues without much fanfare. The fact remains that India needs to counter the Chinese at many levels. American support is indispensable in order to challenge Chinese hegemony. PM Modi’s strategy of speaking about co-operation and still acting sternly in order to safeguard India’s interests seems to be giving really good results. India has managed to isolate China by bringing other countries on board and now the US itself seems to be pushing India to play a much more active role. It seems India has achieved yet another major diplomatic breakthrough by cornering China at a global level.