India needs to be extra cautious in the wake of the emerging situations in its neighbouring nations. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal one after another have crossed all limits in their political and economic engagements so that they now remain dangerously on the verge of collapse. However, Bangladesh is an exception among the neighbours.
Barring Pakistan, they are all looking to India for help even as their ally for some time China remains inactive and seems reluctant to offer them assistance as expected despite their distress calls. It is a lesson for poor countries like Pakistan that foreign investments and loans will bring immense strain to the nation’s economy unless they are utilized to earn a sizeable revenue.
Misguided leaderships in both political and economic spheres coupled with rampant corruption, nepotism and religious or ethnic discrimination have plagued these poor nations. To stay afloat, the governments having no long-term planning continued to invest in least viable projects by using borrowed money from international monetary organizations and wealthy nations with astute business interests.
What we see in Sri Lanka today is the nemesis of the successive governments there in over a decade. Their inept management of the state’s finance with excessive dependence in outside resources ultimately pushed its people to the wall.
Sri Lankans have been reeling under non-availability of essential items, including medicines and energy, for weeks since the government failed to pay for imports. The worst-ever economic crisis in the Island nation and high inflation caused steep rise in prices of essentials. People across the country came out in protest against the government. In Colombo, protesters assembled around the official residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and demanded his resignation. The government is seeking $3 billion in monetary assistance to bring the situation under control. Finance Minister Ali Sabry said negotiations with the International Monetary Fund will take place this month.
Meanwhile, India extended assistance worth $ 2.5 billion to Sri Lanka to help overcome the crisis. India’s more troublesome neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan are waking a tightrope as both countries’ political and economic performance is abysmal. They were left out of the prime US aid list even before the US pull-out in August. It is a fact that economic aids for both the countries were trickling down over the years.
The US administration has not recognised the current Taliban government in Kabul and is yet to release the Afghan money from its bank. With no monetary assistance from the western countries as before, Afghanistan plunged into a very severe economic crisis, leading to starvation, malnourishment among children, healthcare collapse, diseases and deaths.
The present Afghan situation is avoidable but the Taliban government is not taking any steps in that direction and is hellbent on implementing archaic rules in the country which is not acceptable to the developed nations. Pakistan as always is in a political turmoil but this time its army and ISI let the political parties fight it out. It’s very unusual in Pakistan as the army used to be very quick in grabbing power whenever the elected government stumbled a little. Allegiance to America, India bashing and Kashmir issue had been the characteristics of all previous governments in Pakistan however the Imran Khan government drifted away from the US. It is not yet clear whether the US has included Pakistan in its new list of allies after Biden came to power.
Pakistan’s trade ties with China and Russia could be an irritant for the US which had given it billions of dollars to provide logistics during the Afghan war and to eliminate terrorists bases in Pakistan’s North West Frontier. Political uncertainty in Islamabad after Imran Khan dissolved the Assembly made IMF announce the suspension of its programme in the country till a stable government is formed in Pakistan. Already, Pakistan has to pay back a foreign debt of $2.5 billion on account of principal and mark-up obligations.
India’s concern over the developments in Myanmar and Nepal is not unfounded as the both the countries have an umbilical connection with the main land India. Myanmar has been saddled with ethnic conflicts and the tug-of-war between political leaderships and the army.
The uprising in the capital Naypyitaw against the coup in February 2021 was initially suppressed by the military leaders but violence spilled over to her places and it has now become a civil war. Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya minority has created ruckus across the borders. India and Bangladesh called for restraint on the part of Myanmar as the region witnessed the exodus of Rohingya refugees. Thousands of Rohingyas were killed and over seven lakhs fled to Bangladesh following an army crackdown in 2017.
BY: KS Rajagopal