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31 Jan, 2024 11:00

India should do better than China in its region – foreign minister

New Delhi should have “more confidence” as it competes with Beijing in South Asia, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has said
India should do better than China in its region – foreign minister

India should “welcome competition” and have “more confidence” in the face of growing Chinese influence in South Asia, External Affairs Minister Subhramanyam Jaishankar stated on Tuesday. While acknowledging Beijing’s weight in the region as a global superpower, the diplomat emphasized that New Delhi should not be afraid of competitive politics and should outdo its powerful neighbor when engaging with countries in its neighborhood to address political, economic, and other matters.

India and China are the region's two major powerhouses; they have been locked in a long-standing confrontation that mainly stems from a number of unresolved border disputes. However, since the 2020 skirmishes in eastern Ladakh, which led to casualties on both sides, the two sides have engaged in extensive diplomatic and military talks; however, some friction remains.

”China is a neighboring country, and in many ways as part of competitive politics, influences these countries,” Jaishankar said of its neighbors, while interacting with students at the Indian Institute of Management in Mumbai. “I don’t think we should be scared of China. We should say, global politics is a competitive game – you do your best, I will do my best.”

“We are the first country who helped Sri Lanka in its [economic] crisis,” Jaishankar said. He also cited some examples of success in the region, including Nepal, “which has discovered that the export of electricity to India is an enormously rewarding transaction,” and Bangladesh, which is now allowing India to use its ports.

The Indian diplomat added that China, as a major economy, would deploy its resources and try to shape things to its advantage. “Why should we expect otherwise?”, Jaishankar asked. “At the end of the day, neighbors have relationships with each other. They find understanding. It is in the nature of politics that sharp positions are taken. Diplomacy does not always go by that sharp position,” noted Jaishankar.

The diplomat's comments came against the backdrop of New Delhi's diplomatic row with The Maldives amid the island nation's demands for the withdrawal of around 80 Indian troops stationed there. The demand was made by the government of recently-elected Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, who is seen as close to Beijing.

New Delhi sees Beijing's growing influence in the Indian Ocean Region as another cause for worry. Earlier this month, New Delhi expressed concerns over a Chinese vessel heading for The Maldives to reportedly run a survey operation, media reports have suggested. Male later clarified that the ship would not conduct research in its waters. The presence of another Chinese vessel in Sri Lanka in 2022 was also viewed as problematic by New Delhi.

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