India responds to Mongolia’s SOS on Chinese sanctions

[TNN] NEW DELHI, Dec 9: Assuring Mongolia that India is sympathetic to the problems being faced by it, Delhi has said it will help the country utilise the $1 billion financial assistance offered in 2015 to tide over the economic sanctions imposed on Ulan Bator by China in retaliation for inviting Dalai Lama.

Answering questions, the MEA spokesperson said: “We are ready to work with Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty. During the visit of the PM to Mongolia in May 2015, he had conveyed to the Mongolian leadership that India will extend support in diverse fields. We had announced a credit line of US$ 1billion. We are closely working with the Mongolian government to implement the credit line in a manner that is deemed beneficial to the friendly people of Mongolia by its leadership”.

However, India is careful to steer clear of the Mongolia-China spat, mentioning that Mongolia’s crisis owes as much to its debt-servicing problems as to other factors. “We have a long spiritual relationship with India,” Gonchig Ganbold, Mongolia’s ambassador, told TOI.

“Its important India raises its voice against China’s unilateral measures which are hurting our people, specially when severe winter is upon us.” Silence, he said, could be construed as giving China a “pass” for its behaviour.

The envoy held talks with Pradeep Rawat, MEA joint secretary (east Asia). But it is not yet clear what kind of support India can give Mongolia, whose two biggest neighbours are China and Russia. Government sources said India was committed to support Mongolia, without clarifying whether that would entail a public statement sure to anger the Chinese. After the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia for the ninth time in November, which Ulan Bator allowed in the teeth of official Chinese opposition — Mongolia suddenly found all official interactions with Chinese officials cancelled.

Trucks crossing into China’s autonomous province of Inner Mongolia are now charged 10 yuan each, and 0.1% of the worth of the cargo if it is beyond 10,000 yuan. China’s actions hold unhappy portends for China’s One-Belt-One-Road policy, if countries on its periphery can be arbitrarily subjected to sanctions. Mongolia has a long history of defying the Chinese system, despite them being so dependent on Beijing for transit. But China is more able to enforce its views on Mongolia now, as a superpower. Russia is unlikely to be of much help because Moscow does not at present feel the need to disagree with Beijing.