Modi eyes fiercer rivalry with China over neighbours in second term | Daily News

Modi eyes fiercer rivalry with China over neighbours in second term

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R), speaks to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to a Buddhist Temple in Xian, Shaanxi Province.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R), speaks to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to a Buddhist Temple in Xian, Shaanxi Province.

India to be tested in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh while ignoring Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing for a fiercer tug of war with China over naubouring nations as his second term kicked off on Thursday. Whether India will strengthen its influence in the region will become clearer in countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, while it may distance itself further from Pakistan.

Setting the tone for his regional foreign policy will be the Maldives, where Modi visits on June 7 to 8 as his first international stop.

Modi will address the 87-member parliament during his stay. Cooperation between India and the Maldives will ensure “stability in the Indian Ocean region,” Mohamed Nasheed, a former president who was just selected as the Speaker, said this week.

It is a calculated move, say South Asian analysts, as India and China fight for influence in an area that India regards as its backyard. They see the Maldives as a better diplomatic prize for Modi than Bhutan, the small Himalayan kingdom in South Asia that Modi visited first in his inaugural term.

New Delhi regained a political ally in the Maldives after a presidential election late last year, when pro-Indian President Ibrahim Solih defeated the pro-China -- and openly anti-Indian -- incumbent Abdulla Yameen.

By then, China had made inroads into the Maldives and India’s other South Asian neighbours, ranging from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to Nepal, through its Belt and Road Initiative. India has struggled to match this multimillion-dollar network of infrastructure projects funded by Chinese loans.

Analysts expect Modi’s foreign policies to be tested in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, both of which have governments with close ties to New Delhi, despite some sticking points.

While bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh have strengthened during Modi’s first term, Dhaka is still waiting to resolve a long-standing dispute about sharing water of the Teesta River, which flows along the India-Bangladesh border.

As for Sri Lanka, fishing trawlers from India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu regularly enter Sri Lankan waters in the Indian Ocean, creating diplomatic spats.

“These countries will be looking to Prime Minister Modi to deliver on outstanding bilateral issues, such as finally signing the Teesta River accord with Bangladesh and resolving fishing disputes with Sri Lanka,” said Nilanthi Samaranayake, director for strategy and policy analysis at the Center for Naval Analyses, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.

Nepal also poses a diplomatic challenge. Indian interference in the landlocked-country’s politics resulted in an anti-Indian wave during the December 2017 general elections. A more pro-China left alliance now governs in Kathmandu.

- asia.nikkei.com

 


 

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