Mongolia should soul-search on hosting separatist figure

By Wen Dao Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/8 23:58:40

The Hindu reported this week that Mongolia is seeking "clear support" from India to break away from China's recent "blockade." The Mongolian ambassador to India, Gonchig Ganhold, said China has raised tariffs on Mongolian trucks passing through Chinese territory, which he claimed is an "overreaction" to Mongolia's reception of the Dalai Lama in November, despite China's opposition.

Hiking over-land transit charges, according to foreign media, is among a series of countermeasures China has adopted to punish Mongolia for its "erroneous action" in defiance of China's warning. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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