New Delhi (NVI): China’s expansionist greed has spiralled all the way from Pakistan to Bangladesh to Sri Lanka now, where the dragon has been trying to tighten its grip through what experts say ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, in the garb of Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
With the return of Rajpaksa brothers to power recently, the red dragon has managed to convince debt-ridden Lanka to start building a $13 billion city on the country’s seafront. China knows very well that the island nation is located near some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and that the port city would provide it a huge strategic advantage.
Sri Lanka, which is under a huge mountain of debt, is deepening its ties with Beijing despite US efforts to gain influence in the region. Just like in Pakistan, China has been trying to make deep inroads in Sri Lanka through huge investments under BRI.
Sri Lanka’s economy is reeling under last year’s Easter bombings and then the coronavirus pandemic this year.
The Port City, which will be built on 660 acres of land reclaimed from the sea close to Colombo’s city center, had been delayed and debated under a previous government. It is clear that the previous government tried to decrease the country’s dependence on China.
However, with the return of the family of Mahinda Rajapaksa now, China’s tactics to gain strategic advantage in the Indo-Pacific region seem to be working. Pertinent to mention here that Mahinda Rajpaksa had earlier overseen a tightening of ties with China.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was elected president in November 2019. The elder brother was elected prime minister in August 2020, taking two-thirds of the seats in parliament. As per reports, authority is split between the two positions in Sri Lanka, though the president, who is head of state, is more powerful.
The Chinese move in Sri Lanka can also be seen as Beijing’s attempts to influence all neighbours of India. China has tried its best to play its expansionist card in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh in the name of development. This also comes amid the border tensions between India and China which have seen no signs of respite so far.
China also wants to keep US away, and vice-versa, as the two global powers try to influence regional players.
According to reports, once completed, Port City could become an important symbol of the power of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. The initiation seeks to spread Chinese influence across Asia and beyond by unleashing its financial and construction firepower.