External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said it was necessary to acknowledge that China will influence India’s neighbouring countries, and India must not be scared of such “competitive politics”.
There are problems in every neighbourhood, but ultimately “neighbours need each other”, he said when asked about the strained ties with the Maldives at an interactive session with students at the Indian Institute of Management, Mumbai.
There is competition about the growing Chinese influence in the region, but it would be wrong to term it a failure of Indian diplomacy, Mr Jaishankar said.
“We must recognise, that China is also a neighbouring country and in many ways will, as part of competitive politics, influence these countries. I don’t think we should be scared of China. I think we should say okay, global politics is a competitive game. You do your best, I will do my best,” the minister said.
Being a major economy, China will deploy resources and try to shape things in its way, he said, adding, “Why should we expect otherwise, but the answer to that is not to complain that China is doing it,” Jaishankar said.
“I would say today…we should not be scared of competition. We should welcome competition and say I can compete,” he added.
Talking about India’s track record of helping its neighbours, he cited the example of Sri Lanka which was provided assistance by New Delhi when the island nation was hit by a grave economic crisis.
To a question about the ‘India Out’ campaign in the Maldives, Mr Jaishankar urged the audience to “trust” Indian diplomacy.
“Every country has problems in its neighbourhood. It is never as good as they say it is. It is never as bad as they say it is. There will be problems. Our job is to anticipate, assess, and respond. At the end of the day neighbours have relationships with each other,” the external affairs minister said.
Sharp positions are taken in politics, and diplomacy does not always go by those sharp positions, he pointed out.
“At the end of the day, neighbours need each other. History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that,” he added.
Earlier this month, the newly-elected Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw all Indian military personnel deployed in his country by March 15.
The Maldives government also said that a Chinese ship, equipped to carry out research and surveys, will be docking at a Maldivian port for replenishment.
Notably, Muizzu’s first port of call after being elected as president was Beijing and not India.