Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday censured China for its debt-trap diplomacy through which it sponsors commercially unsound projects in economically-poor countries to gain strategic leverage there.
FM Jaishankar was responding to a question asked by Bangladesh FM AK Abdul Momen at the recently concluded Munich Security Conference 2022. “China comes forward with a basket of money and aggressive proposals, affordable proposals, and then you have a problem. What to do?” FM Momen asked. Without explicitly naming China, FM Jaishankar recommended resource-strapped countries to not make “uninformed decision” on debt borrowing for critical projects.
“Look, international relations is competitive, every country will look for opportunities and see what it can do. But while doing so, it is in their own interest to be prudent about what they are getting into, to do the due diligence. We have seen countries, including in our region, being saddled with large debt,” FM Jaishankar opined.
“We have seen projects which are commercially unsustainable. Airports where aircraft don’t come. Harbours where a ship doesn’t come. So, I think people would be justified in asking themselves — what am I getting into? And, it is obviously in the interest of the country concerned, but it is also in the interest of the international community because bad, unsustainable projects don’t end there… debt becomes equity, and that becomes something else. So there are real concerns out there. So I think it is very important that all of us make informed decisions, but of course, very competitive decisions,” FM Jaishankar concluded his answer.
This is not the first time that top Indian leadership have raised red flags regarding the Chinese predatory debt traps. PM Modi brought up the issue in 2020 during the virtual inauguration of the Supreme Court of Mauritius financed by India. “History has taught us that in the name of development partnerships, nations were forced into dependence partnerships. It gave rise to colonial and imperial rule. It gave rise to global power blocks. And, Humanity suffered,” PM Modi said in a veiled reference to China. “For India, the most fundamental principle in development cooperation is respecting our partners,” PM Modi concluded.