Daily Mirror - Print Edition

Countries reconsider engagements with China, favor India for stability

16 Mar 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

In recent years, a notable shift has been witnessed in global dynamics, particularly concerning business partnerships and infrastructure projects. Amidst this transition, one significant narrative emerges: China's diminishing reliability as a business partner. Various countries have started reconsidering their engagements with China, opting for alternatives that promise stability and trustworthiness. Among these alternatives, India emerges as a promising contender, showcasing its reliability and commitment to fostering sustainable partnerships. It is therefore important to look into the growing apprehensions surrounding China's reliability, evidenced by canceled deals and negotiations, particularly in the context of Sri Lanka's recent decision to favor Indian companies over Chinese counterparts.

The cancellation of contracts and renegotiation of deals with Chinese firms have become recurrent themes in global business discussions. Sri Lanka's recent move to scrap an energy tender awarded to a Chinese firm exemplifies this trend. Originally financed through an Asian Development Bank loan, the project faced temporary shelving two years ago due to concerns raised by India regarding China's involvement. This pause reflected growing apprehensions regarding China's expanding influence in neighboring states, prompting Sri Lanka to reassess its partnerships.

On March 1st, Sri Lanka officially terminated the contract with the Chinese firm, redirecting the construction of three solar and wind hybrid power generation facilities to an Indian company. The decision, supported by an $11 million Indian government grant, underscores Sri Lanka's pivot towards more reliable partners. The choice of U-Solar, a Bengaluru-based Indian renewables company, further solidifies India's position as a dependable ally in the region.

India's proactive involvement in Sri Lanka's energy sector extends beyond this recent development. It marks the culmination of a series of strategic initiatives aimed at bolstering bilateral ties and countering China's growing influence. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in March 2022 paved the way for the third Indian-backed energy project in Sri Lanka, showcasing India's long-term commitment to the region's development.

The significance of India's ascendancy as a reliable partner is further underscored by its growing influence in Sri Lanka's strategic decision-making. Earlier this year, Sri Lanka imposed a one-year ban on Chinese "research vessels" from entering its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) following objections raised by India. This move not only reaffirmed Sri Lanka's allegiance to India but also dealt a significant blow to China's ambitions in the region.

India's success in securing key projects and influencing policy decisions in Sri Lanka reflects a broader trend wherein countries increasingly seek alternatives to China's engagement. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), once touted as a transformative force in global infrastructure development, is now marred by setbacks and failures. The cancellation of projects and growing skepticism surrounding BRI highlight the inherent risks associated with China's approach to international partnerships.

China's pursuit of dangerous geopolitical ambitions through business deals is starkly evident in its engagements with countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In Bangladesh, for instance, Chinese investments in infrastructure projects such as the Padma Bridge and the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway have raised concerns about Beijing's growing influence. Similarly, in Pakistan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) exemplifies how Chinese business deals are leveraged to advance strategic interests, often at the expense of local autonomy and sovereignty. Sri Lanka's experience with Chinese investments, notably the Hambantota Port project, serves as a cautionary tale, revealing how debt-trap diplomacy can ensnare countries in unsustainable financial arrangements, ultimately undermining their economic and political independence. These examples underscore the multifaceted nature of China's business engagements, which transcend mere economic transactions to serve as instruments of geopolitical coercion and control.

Countries around the world are increasingly coming to the realization that projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are often neither viable nor sustainable in the long term. Initially hailed as a transformative force in global infrastructure development, BRI projects have faced mounting scrutiny due to their lack of economic feasibility and environmental sustainability. Many nations have found themselves burdened with unsustainable debt levels as a result of participating in BRI projects, leading to concerns about sovereignty and economic stability. Moreover, the environmental impact of BRI initiatives, including deforestation, pollution, and habitat destruction, has raised alarm bells among environmentalists and local communities alike. As a result, an increasing number of countries are reassessing their involvement in BRI and seeking alternative avenues for infrastructure development that prioritize economic viability, environmental sustainability, and local empowerment.

As countries reassess their alliances and prioritize stability and transparency, India emerges as a beacon of reliability in an uncertain landscape. Its emphasis on bilateral cooperation, sustainable development, and mutual respect resonates with nations seeking dependable partners. The shift away from China towards India signifies not just a strategic realignment but a reaffirmation of shared values and aspirations for a brighter future.

The changing dynamics of global business partnerships highlight a significant trend: doubts about China's reliability as a business partner are on the rise. The cancellation of deals and the rise of alternatives, such as India's growing influence in Sri Lanka's energy sector, emphasize the growing dissatisfaction with China's international engagement strategies. As nations adapt to this evolving landscape, India's appeal as a trustworthy partner gains traction, signaling a new era of collaboration and economic growth.