India Makes Its Presence Felt Through Humanitarian Assistance

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris France on July 14.

As a major power in South Asia, the administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is stepping up efforts to heighten its involvement in the region through humanitarian assistance and other means. India is wary of China’s increased presence there but finds it difficult to compete with China when it comes to economic clout.

According to data released by the Chinese government, its external assistance between 2013 and 2018 reached 270.2 billion yuan. This is equivalent to about ¥5.28 trillion, or an annual average of just below ¥900 billion.

In contrast, India’s aid assistance budget to its neighboring countries and African nations has remained around 50 billion rupees, or about ¥85 billion, after peaking at about 70 billion rupees, or about ¥119 billion, in fiscal 2019.

India is therefore putting more focus on assistance in the field of maritime security, through such measures as providing patrol boats to Maldives and training Sri Lanka’s coast guard.

In Nepal, however, which is sandwiched by China and India, India is proposing to build a cross-border railway connecting the eastern Indian city of Raxaul with Kathmandu, to compete with China’s railroad construction plan to link the Tibet Autonomous Region with Kathmandu.

There is lingering anti-Indian sentiment in Sri Lanka, partly because India’s intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in 2009, failed to improve the situation. But India is unwavering in its efforts to prioritize Sri Lanka, which is a key strategic location for India.

When Sri Lanka’s economic crisis deepened last year, India extended humanitarian assistance worth $3.8 billion, or about ¥532 billion. This massive amount of aid, beyond an ordinary scale, was apparently provided with the aim of approaching Sri Lanka, seizing the opportunity that President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who intends to balance China and India, came to power following the collapse of the pro-China administration of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.***

An official of the Indian foreign ministry said India stands with the Sri Lankan people, who are trying to overcome the crisis.

Leaders of India and Sri Lanka agreed in a summit meeting on July 21 on development projects, including the construction of an oil pipeline from southern India to Sri Lanka.