Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited newly-elected Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga to visit India. The move is seen as a subtle message to China since Battulga is a vocal critic of China who advocated greater economic independence from Beijing during his election campaign.
This comes amidst India’s outreach to Mongolia and a border standoff with China at the Bhutan trijunction.
Nearly 70% of Mongolia’s foreign trade is with China alone. Moreover, 90% of its exports are to China. During the 2017 Mongolian Presidential elections, Battulga had said, “rail and transportation for any country is both a national security and an economic issue”. In a 2014 interview, he had said that a depletion of resources would mean “there will definitely be conflict between the Mongolians and the Chinese”.
Ties between China and its northern neighbor hit a low last year when the Buddhist-majority Mongolia had invited Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to visit. China had reportedly closed off a crucial border crossing after this visit, which had left several Mongolian truck drivers stranded at the border. This had led to Mongolia cracking under pressure and it promised never to invite the Dalai Lama again.