See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

India watchful amid developments in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s political crisis has a regional power closely watching developments.


Written by

Updated: November 14, 2018

The return of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa to power in Sri Lanka amid political turmoil has triggered concern in India, with analysts warning it could lead to a deterioration of ties with the island nation to its south-east and increase the influence of China, already making serious inroads into South Asia.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 26 and named his one-time rival as his replacement.

The move plunged the country into political turmoil and a constitutional crisis as Mr Wickremesinghe refused to give up his post even as Mr Rajapaksa was sworn in as Prime Minister.

Indian analysts said his return could see Sri Lanka’s renewed cooperation with China, which he drew his country closer to during his 10-year tenure as president, awarding massive infrastructure projects such as the Hambantota Port to Chinese companies and taking major loans from Beijing to fund these projects.

Ties with India, in contrast, fell to a low point, with Mr Rajapaksa failing to follow up on a promise of devolving power to the country’s Tamil population.

“India is certainly not happy with Rajapaksa’s return, though they are not openly saying it,” said Professor S. D. Muni, a South Asia expert and former envoy to the Indian government.

“There is quiet support for Ranil. The past experience has not been good, not just with China. He didn’t deliver on anything India expected, like the Tamil issue.”

He said there was no trust or understanding between New Delhi and Mr Rajapaksa.

Over the past few years, China has slowly ramped up its presence in India’s neighbourhood, cultivating ties with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in what Indian strategists term a “string of pearls” of encirclement.

Through the Belt and Road initiative, China is involved in major infrastructure projects in the region, building ports and railway lines in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, for instance.

Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli is seen to be working on reducing India’s influence on his country while pushing economic and trade links with China at the same time.

Analysts say China’s growing influence in the region would continue to worry India.

“What they have been able to do is rupture the power structure in South Asia,” said Professor Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “It used to be Indian domination. Now China is at an advantage. They are pumping in money, financing projects which many of these countries need.”

Sri Lanka has sought to dispel speculation that the return of Mr Rajapaksa would mean closer ties with China.

Newly-appointed Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama said Sri Lanka would not pursue closer ties with China at the expense of its neighbour, India.

“For Sri Lanka, we look on this as a great asset, to have two giant friends,” Mr Amunugama told Bloomberg. “There’s no benefit to Sri Lanka to be tilting to one side or the other. By being friendly with India, we are not being unfriendly with China.”

Nonetheless, while the Chinese authorities have congratulated Mr Rajapaksa, India has not.

Mr Rajapaksa has tweeted that the Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr Cheng Xueyuan, met him and presented a congratulatory message from Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

But New Delhi has not endorsed his return to power.

“We are following the developments very closely. We do hope democratic values and the constitutional process in Sri Lanka will be respected,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Ravish Kumar at a press briefing last Thursday.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

Two Canadians under investigation

China confirms that two Canadian are under investigation for endangering national security. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed on Thursday that compulsory measures have been taken on two Canadian nationals, in accordance with Chinese laws. The Canadians are suspected of engaging in activities endangering national security and the two cases are now under investigation, he told a press conference in Beijing. The Canadian embassy was informed of the cases without delay after necessary procedures were performed, he said, continuing that the legitimate rights and interests of the two Canadians are safeguarded.


By China Daily
December 14, 2018

Diplomacy

Google Korea under tax probe

Critics say it may signal a widening crackdown on foreign tech firms. South Korea’s tax agency has launched an investigation into the local branch of US technology giant Google over allegations of tax evasion on the part of some local YouTubers, a move that signals stepped up government efforts to crack down on foreign tech firms long accused of taking a free ride on lax regulations. The National Tax Service on Wednesday sent its auditors and investigators to the headquarters of Google Korea in Seoul to secure the company’s financial and accounting records. The NTS has not disclosed the exact cause for the probe, but the investigation is rumored to be centered on suspicions that well-known YouTubers have dodged taxes by not fully reporting income generated by activities on YouTube. Both the Korean tax agency and Google Korea have declined to comment on the issue.


By The Korea Herald
December 14, 2018

Diplomacy

S. Korea joins nonbinding migration pact

Migration has a major talking point in Geneva as the UN moves towards a consensus. South Korea joined 163 UN member states in signing a nonbinding migration pact aimed at better handling the rising flow of migrants worldwide, despite growing anti-immigrant sentiment at home. The Global Compact for Migration was formally approved by 164 countries at a two-day conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. It is the first international accord on managing migration. The pact is not legally binding, and signing it would not immediately result in changes in South Korea’s immigration and refugee policies, according to the Foreign Ministry. “The compact is not legally binding, and the document precisely stipulates that each nation has sovereignty over immigration policies,“ the official said on condition of anonymity. “When we formulate our refugee and immigration policies, we could reflect some of th


By The Korea Herald
December 13, 2018

Diplomacy

Reuters reporter mark one year behind bars in Myanmar

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have spent the past year behind bars in Myanmar for reporting on the massacre of Rohingya refugees. There is not much to be said here except go read the report, sign a petition, demand their release. The Reuters report can be found here. 


By Cod Satrusayang
December 13, 2018

Diplomacy

US sanctions N. Korea over human rights

North Korea condemns the US’ decision to impose sanctions on its high-ranking officials for human rights abuse. The US on Monday imposed sanctions on three senior North Korean officials for human rights abuses, amid Pyongyang’s continued silence in its denuclearization talks with Washington. The US Treasury Department announced the sanctions on Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party; Jong Kyong-thaek, minister of state security; and Pak Kwang-ho, director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department. The Treasury Department cited “brutal” human rights abuses and censorship as well as the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in June 2017 shortly after he was released from captivity in North Korea, as the reasons behind the sanctions. The sanctions seize assets the officials may have in the US and ban any US entity from financial transactions with th


By The Korea Herald
December 12, 2018

Diplomacy

Ghosn charged with falsifying reports

Ghosn and an associated remain in jail on charges of tax avoidance and falsifying reports. Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., his aide Greg Kelly, former representative director of Nissan, and the automaker itself were charged on Monday with falsifying the firm’s securities reports. Also on Monday, Ghosn, 64, and Kelly, 62, were rearrested by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of underreporting more of Ghosn’s income. Ghosn and Kelly were initially arrested on Nov. 19 on suspicion of violating the law by allegedly conspiring to underreport Ghosn’s executive remuneration in the company’s securities reports by a total of about ¥5 billion from the business year ending March 2011 to that ending March 2015. Prosecutors believe the actual amount of his pay was about ¥10 billion. The pair denied the allegations during qu


By The Japan News
December 11, 2018