The US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Mr Donald Lu said, “Concerning Chinese loans to countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood (Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka), we are deeply concerned that loans may be used for coercive leverage”. This was ahead of the India, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan trip of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while Lu was addressing a special press briefing.
The US official informed that the US is talking to countries in the South Asian region including India to take their own decisions, and discretions and not feel compelled by any outside partner, including China.
The top American diplomat is travelling to New Delhi on a three-day official visit from March 1 to 3 to participate in the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that will focus on reinforcing multilateralism and deepening cooperation on food and energy security, sustainable development, counter-narcotics, global health, humanitarian support, and disaster management, gender equality and women empowerment.
Mr Lu also expressed the perspective of the White House on India’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine Conflict. The top US officials and diplomats for the region emphasized that the US doesn’t think that India is going to recede relations with Russia in near future and hopes that India might be able to influence Russia to end the conflict with Ukraine.
Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar publicized that the Board of China Development Bank (CDB) has granted a credit facility of about USD 700 million for the country, which is facing one of its worst economic cataclysms in a generation. This loan comes on top of the USD 30 billion that Pakistan already owes China and Chinese commercial banks. This may help to unlock bailout cash from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by securing the finances. According to IMF data, Sri Lanka owed China’s Exim Bank USD 2.83 billion or 3.5% of the island’s external debt by 2020.
“We have had serious conversations in regards to China, before the latest scandal over the surveillance balloon and in the aftermath. So, I fully expect those conversations will continue,” Lu said while responding to a question, there has been a serious conversation between India and the US on the issue of China.
According to the US Department of State, “On March 3rd, the secretary will be participating in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Asian Quad, which is the United States, India, Japan, and Australia. Lu persisted that Quad is not a military coalition. “The Quad is not, indeed, an organization that is opposed to any single country or group of countries. The Quad aims to promote activities and values that support the Indo-Pacific – free and open Indo-Pacific, but Indo-Pacific that’s prosperous and supports the values that these four countries represent,” he said in response to a question raised.
The US official strongly refuted the claims that India avoids the use of war when it comes to Russia. He said India uses the word “war” quite often. “You heard Prime Minister Modi say, in August, now is not the era for war. You heard External Affairs Minister Jaishankar say in September, at the UN, that we need this war to end through diplomatic means and along the principles of the UN Charter, reinforcing territorial integrity and sovereignty”. “And then, in November the Indian Defence Minister said that the threat to use nuclear weapons by Russia is unacceptable and at odds with the basic tenets of humanity. So, I don’t particularly see any reluctance to use the word ‘war.’ I think they use it all the time,” Mr Lu said added while asserting it further.