Modi’s Empty Promises May Have Pushed Mongolia Into China’s Arms
Does Mongolia now wish it hadn’t taken Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s posturing against China seriously?
In May 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mongolia. It was the first time an Indian Prime Minister had visited the country. During this trip, Modi announced a credit line of $1 billion and talked about expanding support to the country as well as trade. Shastri Ramachandran, in The Citizen, makes the argument that not only was this support not forthcoming, but the promises led Mongolia into a crisis vis-à-vis China.
PM Modi’s billion-dollar pledge came as a big boost to Mongolia, which is locked between China and Russia, and overwhelmingly dependent on the former. Time was when Mongolia was in clover, with the Russians and Chinese competing to win them over; and Mongolia could leverage its ties with one power for bargaining with the other. If Moscow failed to respond to a felt need, Ulaanbaatar could always seek Beijing’s help; and vice versa. Lately, that has changed. Russia and China have become allies and Russia too is more dependent on China as the greater power especially in the aftermath of the US-led sanctions triggered by the retaking of Crimea. As a result, Ulaanbaatar can no longer call on the Kremlin to help when Beijing is uncooperative.
Modi’s visit to Mongolia was supposed to be a message to China, especially with respect to its involvement in Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean region. It was meant to convey that India could interfere in China’s backyard as well.
In November 2016, the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia for the ninth time. China made its unhappiness known to Mongolia, which ignored the country’s warnings, buffered by its perceived support from India. But this time, China put in place an economic blockade that crippled Mongolia and when it turned to India for help, it received nothing more than appeasing words.
Modi Sarkar was in a funk. There was no trace of the muscle the Prime Minister had displayed to much applause in Ulaanbaatar in May 2015. Any action to ease Mongolia’s difficulties would have meant inviting China’s wrath. Predictably, the political leadership turned a deaf ear to Mongolia’s desperate plea for help. As a result, on December 21, Ulaanbaatar apologised abjectly to Beijing. Mongolian Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil promised that the Dalai Lama will no longer be allowed to enter his country.
In this round, Ramachandran writes, India’s message to Beijing proved to be nothing but hollow posturing and China won this round while Mongolia found itself in the unenviable position of ending up as collateral damage.
(Source: The Citizen)
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