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China-Sri Lanka cooperation, cause of worry for India

  Sri Lanka is in urgent need of debt restructure, owed to China. Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa opened diplomatic channels to discuss the matter, as a part of finding solutions to the present economic crisis of the Island nation.As a direct result of the Covid pandemic, the Sri Lankan economy suffered a major blow. The travel and tourism sector, one of their chief sources of revenue was the worst hit. Under the circumstances, the Sri Lankan President had to try and meet the Chinese foreign minister to relieve the pressure on the country’s economy.The total foreign debt of Sri Lanka is around 52 billion USD, out of which 10 percent is owed to China alone. The debt restructures, if it finally arrive, will provide Sri Lanka a major relief as the country tries to turn the tide in its favour. However, China will try and wrench out some benefits as its own pound of cake. Most probably, it may end up in another event like the Colombo port deal, which offers long-term Chinese control on Sri Lanka heartland itself. Sri Lanka’s economy is in a tumultuous condition now, as the country’s reserve of foreign currency is depleting rapidly. The value of Sri Lankan currency is deteriorating swiftly with no sign of improvement in the export sector too. They made a similar offer of debt moratorium to India too in 2020. However, New Delhi did not move forward with the matter and it went to stability, which may have triggered the Sri Lankan economy downfall. The Sino-Sri Lankan relationship dynamic is surely proving reason enough for worrying to the neighbouring countries, like India. Another powerhouse in the Southeast Asian region, India is in an alliance that does not take the Chinese aggression lightly. In the last decade, there have been several cases of aggression across India’s northern borders, which have kept India wary of Chinese expansion goals. There have been several strategic developments by the Chinese side with the goal of surrounding India from all sides. In the west, with a partnership with Pakistan and influence over the Karachi port by debt trapping, China is advancing dangerously. A close diplomatic relationship with the Bangladesh politicians and the Chinese top brass is in the cards too. As a final key to the south, the value of Sri Lanka and its ports are now immense.The Colombo port’s tactical advantage in the regional maritime affair is huge, as it offers a vantage point to most parts of southern India. At the same time, the Andaman Islands, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean are easily accessible from here. If China can gain a foothold here, their dominance over the South China Sea region is only a matter of time. It can have an ominous effect, not only on India but on Japan, Australia, and the other countries that are in an anti-China cohort along with the USA. Even now, India is yet to reply positively to Sri Lankan requests for a line of credit for help in an emergency, which will help the import of food, medicines and so on. Yang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister stated that the Chinese-Sri Lankan relationship should not be interfered by any third party, without mentioning India. The impact of China and its aggressive foreign policy does not bode well for any country and the recent trends attest to that. Even though the policies may sound lucrative initially, the demon lies in the small prints with the terms and conditions. Debt traps, policy micro management, local asset acquisition - Chinese foreign policy thrives on exploiting even the friendly countries. The same is set to be repeated with Sri Lanka unless there are any better alternative options offered by the neighbours or the global juggernauts. Chinese aggression can pose a serious threat to the global economy. Unless nipped at the bud, the Sri Lanka-China relationship will provide the stepping stone to a domino effect, which will impact the world on the whole.



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