Chinese state media chides Mongolia for seeking Indian financial aid

10 December 2016

China's state media Global Times has warned Mongolia of dire consequences for seeking financial help from India and described the move as "politically harebrained" and said it will further complicate bilateral ties.

The newspaper was reacting to a report in The Hindu earlier this week that Mongolia is seeking "clear support" from India to break away from China's recent "blockade."

The report had quoted Mongolian ambassador to India, Gonchig Ganhold, as stating that China has raised tariffs on Mongolian trucks passing through Chinese territory, which he claimed is an "overreaction" to the Dali Lama's visit to Mongolia in November in disregard to China's opposition.

Mongolia caught China by surprise by hosting the Dalai Lama last month for four days, saying that it was purely religious visit.

China countered by hiking overland transit charges among a series of other measures to punish Mongolia for its "erroneous action" of defying China's warning, according to foreign media.

A few days after the Dalai Lama's visit, China suspended indefinitely two sets of talks with the Mongolian side, which is in dire need of Chinese loans for infrastructure and development projects.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Thursday declined to respond on the issue, saying he hasn't heard of any such remark, PTI reported.

"Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia vows to remain a neutral state to benefit from both sides without having to get involved in a major-power competition," the article said.

''However, it also hopes it could seek a "third neighbor," which can enable the country to reap more profits by gaining more bargaining chips. But Mongolia should be alerted that it cannot afford the risks of such geopolitical games.

''Mongolia seems naive about the way international relations work - you cannot harm a country's interests while hoping it can reciprocate nicely.

''Mongolia should know that mutual respect is the precondition to develop bilateral relationships and hitch a ride on China's economic development.

''It is even more politically harebrained to ask for support from India, a move that will only complicate the situation and leave a narrower space to sort the issue out.  We hope the crisis-hit Mongolia will learn its lessons,'' the reports stated.

Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia has vowed to remain a neutral state to benefit from both sides without having to get involved in a major-power competition.

The Chinese foreign ministry didn't confirm or deny these countermeasures or their connections with the Dalai Lama's visit. Spokesperson Geng Shuang said Mongolia should "adopt effective measures to eliminate the negative effects of the Dalai Lama's visit," insinuating the precondition for bringing Sino-Mongolian ties back on track is that Ulannbaatar must realize it was wrong to touch China's red line of the Dalai Lama.

Mongolia, according to Ganhold's statement, simply deemed the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, and there were no political strings attached to his visit.

But since he fled to India in 1959 after his separatist revolt was upset, the Dalai Lama has become a political advocate calling for the separation of Tibet under the guise of religion.

In China's narrative, he is much more a separatist than a religious figure. Receiving him implies endorsement of his deeds, which is highly disapproved of in both government and public discourses in China.

Whether China's countermeasures are real or not, Mongolia should reflect on its ill-considered handling of the case, lacking diplomatic sophistication and making trouble for in-depth cooperation between both sides.

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