India told China that it will not intervene in the political crisis in the Maldives, and that it expects China to reciprocate the same “strategic trust” by not crossing the “lines of legitimacy”, The Indian Express reported on 28 March.
The statement comes on the tail of a report that helicopters of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army intruded into India five times in 2018, along with another 40 transgressions in 2018 alone.
“The days when India believed that it could influence South Asia and prevent powers like China from expanding their clout and sphere of influence are long gone,” The Indian Express quoted a senior government official as stating.
According to the report, the officer said:
India can’t claim sole proprietorship of the region. We can’t stop what the Chinese are doing, whether in Nepal or the Maldives, but we can tell them about our sensitivities and our lines of legitimacy. If they cross it, the responsibility for violation of this strategic trust will be upon Beijing.
India’s Stance an Attempt to Cajole Beijing?
The Indian government has made efforts to cajole Beijing, attempting to “reset” the relationship with China after tensions spiked during the Doklam standoff in 2017.
Apart from India’s statement that it would not intervene in the Maldives, India has also asked its senior government officials to not attend or participate in events commemorating 60 years of exile of the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama.
According to the 2 March report in The Indian Express, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had requested Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha in a note dated 22 February to issue a “classified circular advisory advising all Ministries/Departments of Government of India as well as State Governments not to accept any invitation or to participate in any proposed commemorative events” for the 60th anniversary of the exile of the 14th Dalai Lama from Tibet.
The note came ahead of Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s visit to Beijing in February to hold a bilateral dialogue, the first after the Doklam standoff last year.
India’s attempts to appease Beijing come close on the heels of the 11th Joint Economic Group meeting between Indian and Chinese commerce ministers on 26 March. India has attempted to increase its exports to China, but no statement indicating change to that effect was made by the countries after the JEG meeting.
The Indian Express adds that India’s decision to avoid military intervention in the Maldives crisis is supported by the United States and the European Union. Both the world powers have left the decision to intervene, up to India. The report adds that the Indian government seems agreeable with “riding out the political storm” till the general elections.
Furthering the thought that India is attempting to ease tensions with China is India’s apparent lack of concern with Beijing constructing new roads in the Doklam plateau, through the Chumbi Valley, coming closer to India.
The Indian Express quoted a senior government official as stating:
I doubt the Chinese will try to change the status quo in Doklam again. They understand that the region is sensitive. In any case, as long as what the Chinese do doesn’t prejudice the India-Bhutan-China trijunction, it won’t materially change anything.
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