In what may be seen as a diplomatic move with significant effect on international relations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited newly-elected Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga to visit the South Asian country.
PM Modi’s move assumes significance due to the ongoing Sino-Indian border standoff in Doklam. It is indeed a calculated move, as anti-China sentiment has been growing in the landlocked north-central Asian country. A known China critic, Battulga recently won the Presidential Election on a populist, anti-China platform.
Indian diplomats have welcomed the PM’s move, saying that Modi, who extended a line of credit of USD 1 billion to Mongolia during his visit to Ulaanbaatar in 2015, put China under tremendous pressure by inviting President Battulga to visit New Delhi.
Earlier, the AFP explained the current political scenario in Mongolia in a report according to which China’s slow economic growth rate has badly affected the Mongolian economy in recent times. China, which purchases 80% of Mongolian exports, decided to import lesser amount of Mongolian products in 2015. In 2016, Mongolia’s economy grew by just 1%, prompting the top political leadership in Ulaanbaatar to take necessary steps in order to reduce the country’s dependence on China. Ahead of the Presidential Election, Battluga assured his countrymen that he would try hard to boost the national economy by strengthening trade ties with other countries.
Ties between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar worsened further in November 2016 when the Buddhist-majority Mongolia invited Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit the country. China immediately closed an important border with Mongolia, leaving many Mongolian truck drivers stranded at the border. Although Ulaanbaatar promised that it would never invite the Dalai Lama to visit the country, Beijing’s move hit the bilateral relations hard.
In such a situation, Battluga’s victory in Presidential Election has created an opportunity for India to boost ties with Mongolia. Senior Professor at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu J Mohan Malik explained: “President Battulga’s victory provides an opportunity for strengthening bilateral ties which are now part of the broader spectrum of the Sino-Indian geopolitical rivalry for the support of small and middle powers.”
PM Modi has also informed the newly-elected president that India is eager to expand its presence in Mongolia. In a letter to President Battulga, he said that many Indian companies are ready to open offices in Ulaanbaatar. T Suresh Babu, the Indian Envoy to Mongolia, has confirmed that President Battulga accepted PM Modi’s invitation and he will visit New Delhi in near future.
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