India tacitly warned its neighbours as well as the Indian Ocean nations of China’s debt-trap diplomacy on Thursday.
‘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.
PM Modi spoke through video-link at a ceremony to mark the inauguration of the new building of the Supreme Court of Mauritius in the capital of the Indian Ocean nation, Port Louis, on Thursday. He joined Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth to virtually inaugurate the building that New Delhi helped build with a $28.12 million grant.
The Prime Minister emphasized the distinction between the ways in which India and China have supported development projects in other countries, albeit without referring directly to the Communist country.
He cited examples of India’s support for development projects not only in Mauritius and neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan, but also in Niger, Africa and Guyana, South America.
The PM further added 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 development lessons’ was the ‘only motivation’ for New Delhi to promote the pursuit of prosperity in other nations. ‘That is why our development cooperation is not subject to any conditions. It is not influenced by political or commercial considerations, “said the Prime Minister.
Beijing has financed a large number of infrastructure projects in several countries in the region of South Asia and the Indian Ocean, as well as in Africa, as part of its Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI), thus building strategic assets across continents. But Chinese President Xi Jinping ‘s ambitious cross-continental connectivity initiative has also been criticized around the world for exposing 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 the 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.
Over the past few months, Beijing has spurred Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s Government in Kathmandu to stifle its relationship with New Delhi by ratcheting up the Nepal-India border dispute. It is extending its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to Afghanistan to Kabul. It also offers loans to the tune of $6.4 billion for a number of infrastructure projects across Bangladesh, apart from extending the scope of its trade concession to the least developed nation.