New Delhi’s outdated strategic mentality cannot “dampen the strong enthusiasm” in the region for deepening cooperation with Beijing, Chinese state media has claimed.
The Global Times, an excitable tabloid that often reflects party thinking, said the formal handover of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease had stirred alarm in New Delhi.
“Indian media outlets still regard China’s acquisition of the port, which provides access to Indian Ocean sea lanes, as a ploy to create more Chinese strategic and economic footholds in the region,” said the article. “Maldives has just inked a free trade agreement with China. The construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is being earnestly pushed forward despite terrorism and political instability.”
The port handover is the second massive regional development this month.
A controversial Sino-Maldives free trade deal was among 12 bilateral agreements penned during President Abdulla Yameen’s three-day state visit to China.
The Maldives opposition cried foul after the country’s first FTA was rushed through parliament last month, but the government says it will open up the world’s largest consumer market for tariff-free fish exports. The Maldives also committed to waive import duties for Chinese goods.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed called the deal “disgraceful” and warned it could destabilise the Indian Ocean region.
“It would be too narrow-minded of India to see China’s cooperative activities as exploitative strategies to squeeze its sphere of influence in South Asia,” said the Global Times, barely concealing its glee at its neighbour’s apparent discomfiture.
“Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other regional countries are also willing to intensify ties with India if the latter can satisfy their needs for growth.
“Disappointingly, New Delhi insists on a zero-sum mentality, interpreting any activity by Beijing from a geopolitical perspective.”
There has been no official comment from India about China’s FTA with the Maldives or the port handover. But this is the second time the Global Times has taken aim at India in as many weeks.