China Develops with Neighbors (‘Common Prosperity’), India Develops at the Expense of Neighbors (‘Beggar Thy Neighbor’)
Posted on February 16th, 2024

Dilrook Kannangara

Chinese and Indian development models are completely different. Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, etc. achieved success thanks to the Chinese development model. Indian development model does not have that feature. Therefore, Sri Lanka cannot become India’s Hong Kong. Teaming up with India only leads to worse poverty, debt, economic disaster and unemployment for Sri Lanka.

The Chinese model is based on ‘common prosperity’ even before the concept was spelled out. It benefits not just China but also China’s neighbors and partners. Singapore was an under-developed fishing village in 1965 but thanks to trade with and investments from China it became one of the most developed countries in the world. Same goes for Taiwan despite political tensions, Hong Kong (before unification in 1997), Macau, etc. China is the largest trading partner of them. In addition, China is the largest trading partner of South Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Russia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Australia, etc. If not for Chinese trade, Australia would be a third world nation. Even distant nations in Africa (Rwanda is a case in point) have achieved remarkable development thanks to China. This is no accident. It is due to the economic policy China follows towards itself and towards its partners. As a result, a large number of countries have joined China’s BRI and RCEP groups.

Unfortunately, this is not the model followed by India. The model followed by India can be termed ‘beggar thy neighbor’. India uses exploitative and restrictive trade practices towards its neighbors. As a result of this disastrous model and India Only” approach, India’s neighbors didn’t benefit from India’s development. Nothing at all. Unlike China India failed to rally its neighbors due to this greedy and overbearing policy towards its neighbors. SAARC, BIMSTEC and other regional initiatives either failed or stagnated. It gets worse. India deliberately disrupts regional countries’ economies. Examples include Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives whereas China engaged in no such disruptions.

Another problem with India is its regular interference in politics and other domestic affairs of all its neighbors. India uses it to disrupt, destroy and scuttle development. China follows no such policy towards its neighbors. By interfering in internal matters, India profits in various ways. For instance, economic disruption and social chaos in Sri Lanka has been used to poach and/or smuggle fish, gold, gemstones, etc. from Sri Lanka. India-fueled chaos and security threats have pushed all neighboring countries backward in attractiveness in doing business and starting a business. In doing so India tries to emerge as the only destination in South Asia that is attracting investments, entrepreneurs from foreign nations and technology transfers.

The third major problem with India is its militant approach to regional security based on outdated ancient Indian military doctrines at a time when naval warfare was unheard of. The Indian Ocean” is not India’s Ocean. Other independent countries have the right to engage in commercial and military activities in the Ocean. Research vessels do not pose security threats. Docking a warship or a submarine does not pose any security threat. Let alone a Chinese vessel, India is often riled even when a regional warship (e.g. Pakistan) docks in Sri Lanka! These are quite normal occurrences in the modern world. Unfortunately, India gets agitated when it happens in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan or Bangladesh. With such a revisionist approach, there is little India’s neighbors can expect from it.

The fourth and most crucial matter is India’s past performance in mutual agreements with Sri Lanka. Sadly, India never kept its part in any mutual agreement between the two nations. The same goes for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, China and Nepal, and they have put distance between themselves and India. At the very minimum India has no regard whatsoever for Sri Lanka’s maritime boundary. Indian poachers invade Sri Lanka’s territorial waters everyday ably sponsored by the Indian national and state governments and the military. The opposite is not tolerated. India disregards the Constitution of Sri Lanka and the legal framework. Indian impositions resulted in constitutional amendments and law changes in Sri Lanka with no benefit for the island nation. No other country has so brazenly interfered in internal matters.

Due to these factors, Sri Lanka stands to lose it all than gain anything from closer economic ties with India. Not just Sri Lanka, but all regional countries are facing drain of their economic resources and opportunities due to India.

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