Sri Lanka, China, India and Yuan WANG 5
Asia News Agency
China’s research vessel Yuan Wang 5 at Hambantota Port left Sri Lanka last week bringing an end to the diplomatic saga of preceding weeks.
Delhi, writes MK Bhadrakumar (former Ambassador) is adjusting to the ‘new normal’ after Sri Lanka allowed the ship to dock in its port at Hambantota. In a balancing act and conveying goodwill towards India, Sri Lanka issued ‘provisional approvals’ for Adani Green Energy to invest over $500 million in two wind projects in Mannar and Pooneryn in the northern region.
‘Chinese ship is only doing what western navies do all the time’
In any case, “India knows the Chinese ship is only doing what western navies do all the time — replenish stocks of drinking water, food, etc., for long voyages in the vast ocean. In good measure, the Chinese ambassador in Sri Lanka reminded us that in 2014 a Chinese survey ship visited Colombo.”
As a growing power, Bhadrakumar writes “India cannot be oblivious to the looming challenge of western dominance of the Indian Ocean under the shadow of neo-colonialism…..Sri Lanka is genetically similar to India — fiercely independent and determined to preserve its strategic autonomy. It needs — and deserves — India’s fullest backing. And it is in India’s self-interest too to act in line with the ‘big picture’.”
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s introspective remarks
Meanwhile, “External Affairs Minister Jaishankar has since made some introspective remarks, while on a visit to Bengaluru. He tactfully picked a regional newspaper to transmit his message far and wide. First, Jaishankar distanced himself from the notion that the Indian Ocean is ‘India’s ocean’. That is a refreshing change of thinking…..
“He advised the Indian elite to reconcile with the reality that India ‘cannot claim exclusivity in the region.’ This was a huge remark, as at one stroke, he rejected the vestiges of zero-sum mindset vis-a-vis China in the South Asian region. His message in the Sri Lankan context is that there is enough space in the ‘emerald island’ for Indian and Chinese presence.”
Furthermore, says Bhadrakumar “he said the docking of the Chinese ship at Hambantota doesn’t have to be a ‘flashpoint’ between Delhi and Beijing. At one stroke, he distanced the government from the ill-informed media people and churlish think tankers. With reference to China’s footprint in the region, he remarked that ‘in international politics, each country plays a game, and we need to play our strengths’……
“The Colombo elite understood Jaishankar’s message, as evident in Wickremesinghe’s outpouring of gratitude and relief to reassure Delhi that Sri Lanka will be mindful of India’s legitimate concerns as a neighbour and emerging global power. He has made a big overture to the Indian leadership by constructively engaging with the Adani Group…….
“Beijing is also attentive. Jaishankar’s reference to ‘Asian Century’ in his remarks from Thailand on August 18 has been keenly noted. With a new world order taking shape, EAM’s Thailand speech signalled that Indian diplomacy is proactively resetting the compass. The Indian Army’s participation with the PLA in Russia’s mammoth Vostok 2022 ‘strategic command exercises’ in western Pacific in September is just the right thing to do.”