Modi’s Mongolia visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is about to embark on an itinerary of three Asian nations: China, Mongolia and South Korea. Of the three, Mongolia has been the least visible in the radar of Indian diplomacy, though its strategic importance to India cannot be overemphasized. Mongolia is a big country, sandwiched between two far bigger countries – Russia in the north and China in the south. Its area is 15.66 lakh sq. km. (India’s is 32.87 lakh sq. km.) but it has a very small population of just 30 lakh. Hard to believe that Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to visit Mongolia since independence. Maybe this northern neighbour would not have been taken notice of unless India’s security environment was drastically changed by a belligerent China.
Indeed, it is China which has brought the two countries closer. Mongolian leaders are eyeing China with suspicion and are chary of China’s intentions. China now accounts for nearly two-thirds of Mongolia’s exports and about 60 per cent of its foreign investments. Mongolia wants to reduce its over-dependence on China. And it is here that India can play a positive and constructive role. As economic growth has picked up and the process of urbanization has become faster, Mongolia is witnessing a boom in the building and construction industry. Companies from all over the world, including some from India, are there competing for a larger slice of the cake. As the demand for housing will continue to grow in the coming years, many more are trying to come in.  And as expected, China is far ahead of all others countries in the race.
As the challenge of China is not just military but also economic, India has to play a more positive role in the economic development of her neighbours. Modi is expected to announce a substantial financial package for Mongolia during his one-day stay at Ulan Bator. It may be recalled that Mongolia was one of the first countries to sign a uranium deal with India but not much progress has been made in this field. According to the estimate given by the Ministry of Mining of Mongolia, the country has a uranium reserve of 1,35,000 tonnes. India may profitably tap this source. But nuclear cooperation apart, India will have to view Indo-Mongolian relationship in a larger perspective and engage with Mongolia more constructively in consonance with New Delhi’s policy towards all neighbours – stretching from Afghanistan to Australia. Despite its small population, Mongolia is too important a country to be ignored.
Friday, 15 May, 2015



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