Mincing no words, the Indian high commission to Sri Lanka on Saturday gave an earful to Chinese envoy to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong, pointing to his recent remarks as “violation of basic diplomatic etiquette” which “may be a personal trait or reflecting a larger national attitude”. The Chinese ambassador had written in ‘Sri Lankan Guardian’ and said that Sri Lanka “overcome aggression from its northern neighbour 17 times” in an apparent taunt to New Delhi.
The Indian high commission in a series of tweets stated that it had noted the remarks. The high commission further added that Zhenhong’s view of “Sri Lanka’s northern neighbour may be coloured by how his own country behaves,”
China, which is the northern neighbour of India has taken a series of aggressive actions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, including the infamous Galwan incident. In the 2020 Galwan incident, India lost 20 of its soldiers while China also lost four of its soldiers but the figure remains doubtful given Beijing’s track record on transparency.
The Chinese envoy had written the article on “One-China Principle to Yuan Wang 5”, calling on countries to abide by the principle and how the spy vessel that recently docked in Hambantota port was for “scientific research”. India and the US had pointed out security concerns to Colombo over the visit of the spy vessel. The vessel was still allowed to dock by Sri Lanka, despite several flip-flops that included withdrawing permission at one time, only to grant it back later.
Interestingly, remarks of the Indian mission highlighted that “opaqueness and debt-driven agendas are now a major challenge, especially for smaller nations. Recent developments are a caution.”
China-led “debt trap” is something that has been a worry in the region and the world, and countries from Central Asia to South Asia have suffered from it. The “debt trap” is mega infrastructure projects that have been built by Chinese loans but lead to enormous debt which has impacted the economies of many countries.
The current economic turmoil in Sri Lanka has also been attributed to Chinese actions. In 2017, Sri Lanka signed a deal on the Hambantota port, under which a Chinese state-run company, a 99-year lease of the area raising concerns. The statement said, ” Sri Lanka needs support, not unwanted pressure or unnecessary controversies to serve another country’s agenda.”
While Chinese envoys globally have been indulging in undiplomatic behaviour, also known as “wolf warrior diplomacy”, this is the first time in the region at a Chinese ambassador has publicly indulged in such uncouth behaviour against India