Vision Asia: Paramnesia?
When Maithripala Sirisena – a pro-Indian – became the President of Sri Lanka three-and-a-half years ago, various Chinese projects suffered a setback in the Island nation. Perhaps, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi anticipated that the setback could be temporary. So, he visited the neighbouring country in 2017 (in order to get the real picture). The ongoing constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka has proved that the Indian PM’s diplomacy didn’t work, as President Sirisena recently sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – popularly known as a friend of India – and appointed former President Mahinda Rajapakse as the new PM.
After closely monitoring the current state of political development in the Island nation, foreign policy experts have come to the conclusion that ties between the two South Asian neighbours deteriorated in recent times because of New Delhi’s inability to invest a huge amount of money in various development projects in Sri Lanka. Secondly, the top political leadership in New Delhi has failed to adopt a strong policy towards Sri Lanka. For the last one week, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has been playing the role of a mere spectator as the Modi government is yet to make any serious attempts to help Colombo resolve the crisis. According to foreign policy experts, the Sri Lankan crisis helps us realise that the Indian foreign policy lacks a ‘clear strategic framework’. The Indian diplomacy also failed to deliver in the Maldives. Although China didn’t have an embassy in Malé till 2011, Beijing shares close ties with the Maldivian government that came to power in 2017.
In the past, the global community used to condemn a country which tried to influence
weak nations on the basis of military might. During the Cold War, the erstwhile Soviet Union and the US had set many such examples. However, times have changed and the concept of diplomacy has become more open. This transformation allows countries, like China, to influence the weaker nations on the pretext of providing financial aid. China has helped a number of African countries, including Zimbabwe and Kenya, develop infrastructures in recent times. Those countries have received loans from Beijing and have invested the money in major development projects. Sri Lanka and the Maldives have done the same. The Asian giant has not only developed a port in Colombo, but also built artificial islands near the port, apart from constructing highways and railway tracks. It is to be noted that the Maldives had signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China in December 2017. The two Island nations have bolstered ties with Beijing only to strengthen their own economies!
Unlike China, India has failed to win the confidence of neighbouring countries. India has the desire, but not the (diplomatic) ability….. India’s ties with almost all the neighbouring countries have deteriorated in the last four years. Even, New Delhi’s relations with some ‘friendly’ nations have become stagnant during this period. And China has utilised this opportunity to fill the vacuum.
It’s not that India has no wise diplomats. The Indian diplomacy has failed to deliver because of centrifugalness and arrogance. From economic policies to interior policies, a person or a small group makes all the important decisions in New Delhi. As a result, no one dares to give advice to the government. The rulers are highly arrogant about their authority in the decision-making process. So, they are unwilling to accept others’ advice. Unfortunately, their considerations are not enough to deliver the good. That’s why India has been reduced to be a mere spectator in contemporary global geopolitics!
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