The Indian Ocean region affected by COVID-19 and the Afghan withdrawal from the United States: Jaishankar

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the coronavirus pandemic are the two events that have posed the greatest recent challenges for countries in the Indian Ocean, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said.

He was speaking at a conference in Abu Dhabi where Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also appealed for help on behalf of indebted countries in the region most affected by the pandemic.

“The US withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves the immediate and extended region grappling with serious concerns about terrorism, radicalism, instability, drug trafficking and governance practices. Considering proximity and sociology, we are all affected in one way or another, ”said Mr Jaishankar, addressing the Indian Ocean Conference, hosted by India Foundation based in Delhi, and attended by leaders and delegates from the Gulf region to the Pacific. He is.

“The consequences of China’s growing capabilities are particularly profound because of the extrapolation of its inner harmony to the outside world … On the other hand, we have also witnessed heightened tensions over territorial issues across Asia. The agreements and understandings of yesteryear now seem to have question marks, ”he added.

Mr. Jaishankar also spoke of a shift in the position of strategic power of the United States and a new “caution” in the region, as well as the rise of China and a number of territorial disputes in Asia, the most worrying global trends. Without mentioning the 20-month-old military standoff between the PLA and the Indian military after the Chinese transgressions over the real line of control in Ladakh, Jaishankar said there was a need to move towards a “multipolar Asia.” “In a” plurilateral world “.

Speaking of the rise of extremism and terrorism in the region, Rajapaksa said the “Easter attacks” carried out by IS-inspired terrorists in Sri Lanka in April 2019 showed that terrorism cannot be contained in any area and that it “spreads nation-to-nation with ease,” unless it is held back. He proposed a regional mechanism in Indian Ocean countries to share intelligence and cooperate more in the fight against terrorism.

In their speeches, Maldives Vice President Faisal Naseem and Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa were keen to mention the impact of COVID on small islands like theirs, as well as the need for more sustainable fishing practices for their economies.

Mr Rajapaksa said the loss of income from tourism, expatriate remittances and exports had hit the Sri Lankan economy hard, and support from creditor countries and financial institutions was needed to overcome the current crises.

Comparing the global effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on health with the relatively silent global response to appeals for help regarding the economic impact of the pandemic, Rajapaksa said it was time to “the richest countries and multilateral financial institutions” to step up and guarantee debt repayment waivers are given to the most vulnerable states affected “disproportionately”

“Countries that have contracted large debts to finance their development are now in a difficult position without being able to repay their debts. Compared to the role played by the World Health Organization, no agency has played a global role to help these countries which must increase their expenses to face the pandemic, while they are already burdened by debts ” , did he declare. Sri Lanka’s largest debt is owed to sovereign bonds, and its debt to China is around 10% of the total.

Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa last week visited India with a similar request for economic aid, and India reportedly agreed to a “four-pillar” approach to help Colombo with lines of aid. credit for fuel, food and medicine, while considering a long pending application for a currency swap deal to address Sri Lanka’s balance of payments problems.

However, India has yet to respond to the call for a waiver or moratorium on debt repayment for at least three years, as requested by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama also expressed deep concerns over the economic impact of the COVID crisis on tourism and criticized travel bans imposed by countries whenever a “new variant is discovered “.

Addressing the conference via video link, he said the world could not afford to “continue to shut down” every few months, and the turmoil in the global economy is being felt by the poorest nations and the most vulnerable.

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