Colombo, January 24 (NIA): M.K.Bhadrakumar, a former Indian Foreign Service officer, who had held key positions in the Indian foreign policy making establishment, says that India must realize that China’s relationship with Sri Lanka is not necessarily India-centric as some Indians “blithely assume.”
Writing in Indian Punchline Rediff Blogs, Bhadrakumar says that as a global trader, China takes an abiding interest in the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. But if China were to use its presence in Sri Lanka to promote sub-nationalism in Tamil Nadu or threaten India’s security, it becomes a hostile act, he says.
“But that is not the case,” he points out.
And importantly, India is not against Chinese development projects per se in Sri Lanka, the former Indian Ambassador says, and refers to a comment made by an Indian official in The New Indian Express that Chinese projects become a problem for India only if they are a security threat to it.
Bhadrakumar points out that US President Donald Trump would not waste time over Hillary Clinton’s “pivot strategy’ in Asia.
“He will negotiate with China bilaterally since he thinks that’s more beneficial for America. He has no interest in promoting ‘values’ or ‘defining partnerships’. He is an avowed isolationist and is unlikely to lose sleep over ‘maritime security’ in Indian Ocean,” the Indian diplomat says, presumably alluding to a tendency in India to hang on to the coat tails of the US.
“That (Trump’s stance) leaves us pretty much alone to figure out our way forward,” he says.
Bhadrakumar advises Indian policy makers to “analyze regional developments rationally and with realism and how they’d impact on India’s vital interests and core concerns.”
“Atavistic fears have no place in geo-strategy,” he asserts.
And then he goes on to list the questions Indian policy makers must ask themselves in regard to Sino-Sri Lankan relations from the Indian stand point: Does China have legitimate interests in Sri Lanka?; If so, what are they? Are they detrimental to Indian interests? Does China undercut Indian interests in Sri Lanka as a matter of regional policy? If not, can India and China cooperate and coordinate in regard of their respective Sri Lanka policies within an overall paradigm of strengthening regional security and stability?
Modi Shows the Way
Bhadrakumar sees a ray of hope in a recent speech made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in regard to India’s relations with China.
“Modi gave expression to a desire to work with China, eschewing zero-sum mindset. Differences should not mean that we cap and roll back mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Modi went on to say: “We inhabit a strategically complex environment. In the broad sweep of history, the changing world is not necessarily a new situation. The crucial question is how do nations act in a situation where the frames of reference are shifting rapidly? Our choices and actions are based on the strength of our national power. Our strategic intent is shaped by our civilizational ethos of realism, co-existence, cooperation and partnership.”
“In our engagement with China, as President Xi and I agreed, we have sought to tap the vast area of commercial and business opportunities in the relationship. I see the development of India and China as an unprecedented opportunity, for our two countries and for the whole world.”
“At the same time, it is not unnatural for two large neighboring powers to have some differences. In the management of our relationship, and for peace and progress in the region, both our countries need to show sensitivity and respect for each other’s core concerns and interests.”
This throws the doors open to Sino-India cooperation in many areas
Ambassador Bhadrakumar referred to a Facebook post by a friend which said that 276 Indians were killed and 835 injured in railway accidents in India since the time the Modi government came to power and asked: “Whatever happened to China-India cooperation to modernize Indian Railways? Why should Masood Azhar and his mentors be given veto power over India-China cooperation?”
(The featured picture above shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping)