The weak and inefficient diplomatic tactics of the Modi government have caused India to lose another friendly neighbour Sri Lanka. China got strong ground in Sri Lanka while India was struggling to maintain a minimum presence to counter Chinese appearance in the island country. India is facing severe security challenges in the Indian Ocean region due to the increase in Chinese activity in IOR. At this very moment, Sri Lanka leaving India’s hand is an ominous sign.
Sri Lanka’s current ruling party under the Mahinda Rajapaksa, the current Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is going to review MoU signed between India and Sri Lanka about letting India and Japan use Colombo port with 49% of shares. To tackle Chinese ‘String of Pearls’ doctrine India needs to get Sri Lanka by ita side which seems unlikely right now. Sri Lankan government said that they are reviewing the MoU signed in 2018.
Secretary of Colombo port Shayamal Sumanarathna has said, “We have heard that there is a lot of pressure from India on this project, but we are not a province of India. We are a sovereign nation, we don’t need to dance to their tune.”
Apart from the Colombo port, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has almost dismissed an almost finalized deal between two countries on Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in the southern part of Sri Lanka. It was to be bought by India to counter Chinese presence in the adjacent Hambantota port given on a lease for 99 years to a Chinese farm by Sri Lanka.
This airport was running in a loss due to less traffic. This airport was given the tag of the world’s emptiest airport despite a big size. Still, they are not ready to sell a 70-80% stake of this airport to India. This airport could have allowed India to match Chinese influence in Sri Lanka to an extent that has been increasing alarmingly but right now there exists no such opportunity practically.
Experts believe that China is putting pressure on Sri Lanka offering a credit line of 500 million dollars to cancel those deals. That’s why Corona affected Lankan economy dancing to the tune of India. But the fact of the matter is that irrespective of these reasons, the consequence is not going to be good for India. China has shown it’s increased and strong presence in almost every country around India, be it through land routes or sea routes from Pakistan to Nepal, from Myanmar to Sri Lanka or from Bangladesh to the Maldives.
India trying to get Japan, Australia, and the USA to surround China which would hardly help India’s cause, rather it will leave India to be used for the causes of Aust Australia, Japan and mainly the USA. India has been maintaining a good presence in the Indian Ocean Region for a long time which is a very much important trade route for southeast Asia, especially for China.
Experts used to say that once an ear is broken, India will have the option to block Chinese supply line in IOR which could make China bow down, but now they have built the Gwadar port in Pakistan to transport their oil from middle east countries to the mainland China by road. With this initiative, China makes India’s Trump card useless now. Yet they are working to increase their presence in the Indian Ocean region significantly especially after the Corona outbreak.