India deepens ties with China's neighbour Mongolia; commits to timely completion of oil refinery

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said his country was fully committed to the timely completion of an oil refinery project in Mongolia, a country sandwiched between giant neighbours China and Russia that has been seeking to come out of their bear hugs and reach out to "third neighbours" like India

Dec 02, 2021
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External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar welcomes a Parliamentary delegation led by Mongolian Speaker, Zandanshatar G

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said his country was fully committed to the timely completion of an oil refinery project in Mongolia, a country sandwiched between giant neighbours China and Russia that has been seeking to come out of their bear hugs and reach out to "third neighbours" like India.

Kovind termed the project, financed by New Delhi,  as “a symbol of their strong bilateral cooperation and strategic partnership.”  The remark came when a visiting Mongolian parliamentary delegation met him on Wednesday in New Delhi.  The delegation is led by Gombojav Zandanshatar, Chairman of the State Great Hural of Mongolia

“As Mongolia’s ‘third neighbor’ and ‘spiritual neighbor’, India looks forward to continued cooperation to further deepen its strategic partnership with Mongolia,” he said, underlining the shared civilizational, historical, spiritual, and cultural ties. Ideals of democracy and freedom, he said, strengthen our bonds. 

Mongolia, a landlocked country in East Asia, shares borders with both China to its south and Russia to its north. It also has large deposits of uranium and other rare earth materials, raising its importance among major world powers. Beijing has heavily invested in the country’s mining sectors. 

However, India’s importance grew there, when the Mongolian leadership decided to diversify its crucial sectors and sought to lessen dependence on China. In 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the country—becoming the Indian prime minister to do so —and signed over a dozen agreements in several sectors, including announcing a $ 1 billion Line of Credit to develop an oil refinery there. 

The oil refinery project, near Sainshand in southern Dornogovi province, is being undertaken under an Indian Line of Credit of US$1 billion. Its capacity will be 1.5 million metric tons per annum and is expected to be completed by 2022.

Calling Buddhism a “special connect” that binds the two countries, he noted that India’s National Mission for Manuscripts has undertaken to print Mongolian Kanjur manuscripts and also extended assistance for digitization of Buddhist manuscripts at Gandan Monastery (SAM)

Mongolia was among the first countries to receive the Covidshield/AstraZeneca India-made vaccines, along with India's South Asia neighbours, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Nepal. 

Why was Mongolia an important country in the Modi-initiated Act East Policy? The most immediate explanation was that Mongolia seemed to be a “geopolitical card” in India’s push against China’s increasing political and economic influence, according to a research paper on Mongolian Politics by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 

(SAM)

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