India comeback in Sri Lanka: it is false. It never left.

courtesy Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

In the
last report
from the Ministry of Finance and Planning, we discovered that China fell out in 4th place as a contributor. More committed to the growth of Sri Lanka you can find Japan and the Netherlands (2nd and 3rd respectively). And of course India in the first place, 13 times more than China. One pillar of the strategic change in the IV Eelam War, leading to the defeat of the LTTE, was China.
The growing interest of Beijing in the region, the String of Pearls, the port in Hambantota, all of these reasons brought military technology, money and political back-up. India had to catch up with China and had to please Colombo in any sort of way. Most of all New Delhi had to swallow the end of Tamil nationalism and the sufferance of brethren Tamil. China and Sri Lanka at the top, imposing conditions on India. This is a caricature,but many thought and felt that this was the right direction to explain what happened.

China did play a role, because it had a major interest in securing its shipping lane. Beijing wanted the port in Hambantota, wanted another Pearl. And it paid for that, also because it needed to boost jobs and investments for its company. President Rajapaksa is a good business man and he saw opportunities. But this is only one part of the story. You forget that China sold weapons, didn’t give them away. Hambantota was a necessity, the rest is a normal business. And if you look at the at the status of foreign debt, you’ll see that Sri Lanka is struggling. Since 2005, the debt ballooned from $11 billion to $24. Sri Lanka didn’t buy cheap its victory. And as you can see, China after reaching his objective didn’t have much more to look after in the island. Chinese have been pragmatic: they wanted something, they paid, the rest, they have been good merchants.

Where is India?

Sri Lanka President, Mr. Rajapaksa and Indian National Congress Leader, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.

In the last 5 years they allegedly react to the Chinese treat, the containment policy right in their backyard, the domestic issues of the Indian Ocean resolved by China, investments to court Rajapaksa and lure him not to let them down. Or maybe the situation was a bit more complicated. India couldn’t refuse Hambantota (China really considers its energy supply of vital interest). But it was New Delhi that spotted the opportunity. Eliminate a challenge to its prestige, a force that was contesting the paradigm of dominance in the sub-continent. In fact plurality of power within the Indians is a much more severe treat than Beijing expansionism in the region. India had the chance to wipe out the LTTE and silence the Tamils, blaming China. And of course, securing with Rajapaksa a rock solid alliance. The real partner, the long-standing ally of Sri Lanka is India,not China.

Maharaja of Rewa (Now in Madhya Pradesh) – 1877

India played in disguise, when it voted against Sri Lanka in the March 2012 resolution on Human Rights in Geneva: they ‘allegedely’ voted against Sri Lanka, just to mislead how their relationship is closed and how New Delhi supports Colombo. The resolution was watered down, insignificant and bland. It advised Sri Lanka to implement its own procedures, which were irrelevant, and yet not even met. India pushed to a gentle call, which will have no consequences. But it could claim of antagonizing Sri Lanka.

After the storm of 2009, New Delhi is slowly taking its natural position of ruler in Sri Lanka. China will be relegated to the port, the only thing they really care in the island. For everything else you’ll see a dominance of India. Follow the money, money doesn’t lie. And the money says, India is becoming more present and more influential.

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