Between India and China – Sri Lanka’s Survival Strategy

Foreign policy debt has always been a difficult question for India in its immediate neighbourhood. With Hambantota, the Chinese just raised the bar.

Foreign policy debt has always been a difficult question for India in its immediate neighbourhood. With Hambantota, the Chinese just raised the bar.

There are limits to influence. And there is a certain power of inequality that large nations can ignore only at their own peril. Aid and aid can increase a country’s power (and even win it accolades), but money cannot guarantee a veto when the exercise of sovereignty is concerned.

Only those unfamiliar with the Sri Lankan point of view would have assumed that Indian aid of $ 4 billion to Colombo President Ranil Wickremesinghe may have prompted China to deny him a berth at a time of economic collapse Tracking Vessel, Yuan Wang 5at the port of Hambantota.

Even if Sri Lanka needs (and receives) immediate financial assistance from India, being able to renegotiate a debt restructuring arrangement with China needs to keep Beijing happy.

Clarity on Hambantota?

In a rare intervention, last week President Wickremesinghe spoke candidly and candidly about his country’s ‘strategic location’ as he navigated the early waters around India and China.

“Geopolitics of the Indian Ocean has unfortunately made us a punching bag hambantotasaid Mr. Wickremesinghe, who assumed office in this latest term in the wake of the massive protests triggered by the economic crises and has since given its fair share of controversy and criticism,

He was finding it painful to explain that hambantota There was no “military port” and the Southern Command of the Sri Lankan Navy was based there. “So although we are a commercial port, it shows our strategic importance that many people come to conclusions that are unfair,” he said. “And I hope that our next agreement with China will not cause such speculation, and it is only about debt reduction for Sri Lanka.”

The President’s comments were addressed to those who argue that Hambantota’s 99-year lease to the Chinese in 2017 Beijing allowed access and access rights that are not in the public domain and are a cause of concern for India.

Stating that his view of Asia-Pacific (or Indo-Pacific as Americans now like to call it) was in line with the perspective of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Mr. Wickremesinghe spoke of two groups: The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the US-led Quad, of which India is a member.

“But for us, while we do not participate in military alliances, we certainly do not want the problems of the Pacific Ocean to flow into the Indian Ocean. So let’s see how we can maintain our stability… We do so because Because we want the Indian Ocean to be stable and open to all,” said Mr. Wickremesinghe.

The Sri Lankan President was stating that his country would maintain a distance between these two groups and more importantly, India and China. Sri Lanka had no problem if the navies wanted to come.

So what is the message for India? The President of Sri Lanka has made it clear that Chinese ships – tracking or otherwise – will be welcome in Sri Lanka. It will happen whether India wants it or not.

One of the most interesting excerpts from Wickremesinghe’s speech was this: “First and foremost, in this region, the greatest tension does not come from the sea. It comes from the Himalayas. Where the two new nuclear powers face each other. Huh.”

Mr. Wickremesinghe made a small concession to India at the end of his speech. When it came to Sri Lanka’s security, Colombo needed to ensure that “nothing prejudicial” to India’s security.

It is refreshing that the President of Sri Lanka has spoken openly in public. Now everyone knows their station. Indian, Chinese, BRI, Quad and more.

history as a reference

In India’s long and troubled history with Sri Lanka, Colombo’s openness to dealing with China is nothing new. History can provide context but history cannot be the driver of policy. And India needs to remember this.

In 1993, Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias “Kittu”, a leading LTTE leader, along with nine other operatives, chose to ‘cyanide themselves’ rather than surrender to the Indian Navy, which intercepted their vessel, MV Ahat. Had taken. There can be no better example of the rendering of naval aid to a neighbour.

Ten years after Kittu and his companions were killed, small Bhutan also taught India a foreign policy lesson. New Delhi had to wait your turn This was before Bhutan agreed to accept Indian military help in driving the Assamese rebels out of its territory.

The procurement of foreign policy debt has always been a difficult question for India in its immediate neighbourhood. The Chinese just raised the bar.