Don’t turn South Asian coun­tries into geopo­lit­i­cal tool

Global Times US Edition - - EDITORIAL - By Wen Yi

The point­ing fin­ger of the US turns to the Mal­di­vian ar­chi­pel­ago. The small na­tion has just seen the elec­tion vic­tory of the op­po­si­tion can­di­date against in­cum­bent Ab­dul­lah Yameen, who how­ever is seek­ing to over­turn his elec­tion de­feat. “The US is con­cerned by trou­bling ac­tions by out­go­ing Pres Yameen that threaten to un­der­mine the will of the Mal­di­vian peo­ple, and will con­sider ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures against any­one who un­der­mines a peace­ful trans­fer of power in Mal­dives,” State Depart­ment Spokesper­son Robert Palladino posted on Twit­ter.

These re­marks seem to puff up the air of New Delhi with ex­tra con­fi­dence, as In­dian me­dia be­lieve the US warn­ing was a hint for China. The Mal­dives is seen as In­dia’s tra­di­tional sphere of in­flu­ence by both In­dia and the US.

A power shift in South Asian coun­tries is com­mon and what the other coun­tries should do is ad­just to the flow of po­lit­i­cal change in that coun­try and try to form fa­vor­able re­la­tions with the new lead­er­ship. Risks do ex­ist as co­op­er­a­tion projects with the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment may get re­voked by the new, and it tests the wis­dom of rel­e­vant par­ties to re­tain pos­i­tive mo­men­tum and forge bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

China has not in­ter­fered in the pol­i­tics of an­other coun­try. In the case of the Mal­dives, China wel­comed the In­dian Ocean na­tion to par­tic­i­pate in its Belt and Road in­fra­struc­ture ini­tia­tive and Yameen sup­ported it. When the op­po­si­tion leader who vowed to re­view Chi­nese projects won the elec­tion in late Septem­ber, China also ex­pressed will­ing­ness to deepen mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion with the coun­try and ce­ment their long-stand­ing friend­ship.

Many ob­servers view elec­tions in South Asian na­tions as a head-for- head bat­tle for in­flu­ence be­tween China and In­dia, as in Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Mal­dives.

US strate­gic goals of­ten align with those of In­dia based on Wash­ing­ton’s in­ten­tion to counter China’s rise and ex­port its own po­lit­i­cal stan­dards. US in­ter­ests are bet­ter served by help­ing In­dia get an up­per hand in the re­gion. There­fore the US will sup­port pro-In­dia forces in a coun­try while de­nounc­ing oth­ers. Such in­ter­fer­ence dif­fers fun­da­men­tally with Chi­nese ap­proaches.

China does not see elec­tions in South Asian coun­tries as a win-or­lose game with In­dia. But it does not want to see In­dia, along with the US, view the re­gion as their sphere of in­flu­ence and woo re­gional coun­tries to counter China. They may not be able to thwart China’s rise in the re­gion, but they can put re­gional peace and devel­op­ment at risk.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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