This article was originally published in The Global Times.
India’s plan to provide loans to the Maldives to help the island nation repay its debts to China will likely turn out to be nothing more than an old trick that will lead to India becoming a new creditor for the Maldives.
India is considering offering the Maldives up to $1 billion in loans to help it repay its debts to China, on condition that the island nation agrees to distance itself from China, the Nikkei Asian Review said in a report on Wednesday, citing unidentified Indian government sources.
The sources revealed that “India is in talks with the Maldives, offering low-interest loans over several installments in exchange for stronger security ties, including the permanent deployment of Indian military personnel in the island nation.”
It is not surprising that India, which has long regarded the Indian Ocean as its own backyard, would cook up some scheme to increase its influence in the Maldives. But instead of giving the island nation a genuine helping hand, what India truly wants is to misrepresent China’s efforts to improve infrastructure in countries and regions along the route of the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), including the Maldives.
With Chinese investment as well as advanced technologies and management skills, the likes of the Maldives can get on the fast track to develop their own economies. India’s intention, judging by the Nikkei Asian Review report, is to force the Maldives to pick sides. This will subject the island nation to a new creditor that simply wants to maintain its clout in the Indian Ocean.
It’s easy to see that taking new loans to pay off old ones yields no real benefits, especially considering that even this meaningless gift comes with the condition of cutting links with China.
Such a zero-sum ideology essentially runs in the opposite direction from a future of growing interconnectedness. It is hoped that both India and the Maldives can open their minds and embrace the China-proposed BRI and the irreversible trend of joining hands in advancing the global economy.