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Chinese continues aggressive expansion, another enclave in Sri Lanka

  Colombo Port City (CPC) is facing another major act of Chinese expansion as a part of its aggressive foreign policy. China is building another enclave in CPC, help strengthen its hold. Even amidst an uproar among the locals, as well as the international nods of disapproval, Sri Lanka has to shrink down in front of this development as they are trapped in Chinese debt with no breathing space.

China used Sri Lanka as their entry point to the Indian subcontinent when they occupied the Hambantota port for a lease of ninety-nine years. Still, their pursuit of further occupation continues in Sri Lanka with this new development. As the International Forum for Rights and Security stated, this development clearly indicates that China is focusing on the southern part of India now, which is just a few hundred kilometres from there.

Around 269 hectares of land are reclaimed from the Indian Ocean to form the country’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for the development in Colombo Port City. Out of this, 125 hectares belong to Sri Lanka, while the remaining 88 hectares belong to China in a lease. With this enclave, China can now gain a massive edge to their Maritime Silk Road project. Arguably, it is an expanded part of the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, which has given enough importance now. This development also holds the Chinese ‘String of Pearls’ policy well, where they encircle potential political rivals like India and control the trade routes for economic supremacy.

Sri Lanka is yet another victim of Chinese global expansion policy after various African countries and Pakistan. The Sri Lankan parliament passed the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill on May 20, 2021. It describes the Colombo Port City administrative framework where China can control it like a Chinese sovereign territory, free from Sri Lankan legal setup.

The expansion act was a long time plan as China influenced the political leadership of Sri Lanka. In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Colombo and met the Rajapaksa brothers. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister and Gotabaya Rajapaksa have maintained a close relationship with the Chinese due to their help since 2009 to control the civil conflict. In 2018, it was alleged that the Chinese had paid the Rajapaksa brothers to move forward with Colombo Port City project. When the Rajapaksa brothers came back in power in 2019, the project development began at a fast pace to make up the lost time.

This Chinese act of expansion can have a long-term impact both locally and internationally as well. On the one hand, it will affect the local livelihood and the Srilankan traditional way of living, with an increase in the Chinese population and cultural injection. Conversely, it will have a huge environmental impact and compromise the sovereignty of Sri Lanka as well.

Besides, Colombo is a seat of power in the Southern Indian Subcontinent, it is dangerously close to the southernmost tip of India. This development is going to be a defensive headache from Sri Lanka’s northern neighbours. As a result, the detrimental effects are going to be evident in the foreign policy of India. It can be costly for the island country, especially when India is an ally of the USA in their anti-China alignment.
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