India Looks to Sri Lanka


China has forced India out of its slumber, and this country’s policymakers are fast realizing that they’ll have to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts with close neighbours or risk China filling in strategic space in their own backyard.

India has recently extended its first-ever $1 billion line of credit to Bangladesh and invested $1.2 billion in development projects in Afghanistan. In addition, projects worth over $1 billion are in the pipeline that are aimed at improving infrastructure for the Afghan people. India has also upgraded its aid projects in Burma, Nepal and Bhutan. Next, it’ll be Sri Lanka’s turn, with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna visiting the island nation this week.

One of the highlights of Krishna’s trip will be his inaugurating the new Consulate General of India office in Hambantota, a city where Phase 1 of a Chinese-built port was inaugurated earlier this month. China’s port projects in Hambantota, along with Gwadar in Pakistan and Sittwe in Burma, form a formidable strategic triangle that allows Beijing to ‘encircle’ India. An Indian consulate general in Hambantota is therefore India’s way of reclaiming the strategic space it ceded to China when the Chinese took advantage of India’s dilly-dallying over constructing the Hambantota project. The new consulate should allow New Delhi to keep a close eye on Chinese activities tied to the Hambantota project.

India has also built a consulate in Sri Lanka, in Jaffna, which Krishna will be inaugurating on November 27. In addition, he’ll be opening a 100-kilometre Talaimannar-Medawachchiya-Madhu railway line. This follows the state visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse to India in June 2010, during which India agreed to provide an $800-million credit line for upgrading railway infrastructure including to cover the costs of construction, rolling stock, signalling and telecoms equipment. India has also made available to Sri Lanka another $167 million credit line for rehabilitating the Southern Colombo-Matara railway line, which was damaged by a tsunami.

India had already reached out to Sri Lanka after the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. Back then, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a significant relief and reconstruction package aimed primarily at assisting some 300,000 internally displaced persons who had taken refuge in temporary shelters. 

Other Indian infrastructure development projects in Sri Lanka include a range of initiatives like the KKS Harbour, the Palaly Airport, a cultural centre in Jaffna and a 150-bed hospital in Dikoya. Meanwhile, air connectivity between India and Sri Lanka is quite robust, with 35 flights between the two countries every week.

Clearly, China’s increasing presence in India’s backyard is spurring some action , India is intently looking south—and it’s next point of focus will be Sri Lanka.

November 29, 2010 at 21:14

The question of India “getting its own house in order” before extending aid to others applies to China also. I understand that one of the reasons the volume of Chinese aid is not easy to assess publicly is because of reluctance by the government to disclose to its own public this information. The Chinese public has in the past asked why so much money is going to overseas aid when there is so much more to be done in China. Deborah Brautigan makes the point in her study of Chinese aid “The Dragon’s Gift”. The same question is sometimes asked in Western countries also by some people such as here in Australia. As for Chinese and Indian cyber-nationalists, you do yourself no favours with smaller countries in Asia like my own when you guys carry on the way you sometimes do. Better to just get on with things.

November 29, 2010 at 13:27

Rajeev, for realz?

Why is pointing out India’s poverty problem offensive to Indians?

You are saying you are not an internet warrior becoz you have a blog?

Get real, this is internet, everyone is entitled to his or her opinions.

Rajeev Sharma
November 29, 2010 at 07:15

Thanks Hariharan. Pl ignore offensive remarks against India and Indian writers like me. These Johnnies are doing their job.

I refer you to my September 7 post in these columns

November 29, 2010 at 06:16

Both of you (“Dude” and “Hariharan”) are idiots for making the sort of verbal abuses and taunts you have made, but I direct this to Dude and the other Chinese nationalists out there: You may feel proud that China is miles ahead of India, but before you truly get to 1st world status I would suggest that you keep your criticism of other developing countries to a more polite and humble level.

You should recognise that China and India are on the same boat, i.e. trying to wrestle their true places in the world stage after centuries of humiliation by the West. By fighting against each other like this the only eventual winner is the West and their stooges (e.g. Japan) again.

November 28, 2010 at 23:37

Wow, Indians sure can talk without any substances to back up.

Look at the scoreboard in the Asian games. “these tuberculosis-infested people” kicked your backend hard.

Gold medal count: China 199 vs India 14

November 28, 2010 at 15:07

Good article, Rajeev. Ignore continued spam from the Yellow Peril “Dude” above. The world knows that these tuberculosis-infested people need improve their attitudes, lest they are walking towards extermination. India absolutely needs to boost ties with Sri Lanka. Just a quick reminder — the Sri Lankans offered Indians to help out with the Hambantota port. India refused back then and China gladly accepted. Now India scrambles for Band-Aid! This is why I’ve called for pre-emptive strategies to eliminate Chinese trouble in India’s neighborhood.

November 26, 2010 at 14:35

Indian “pundit”? Here we go again.

Take care of your one billion people without access to toilets before trying to rival China. They are on a league of their own.

Stop talking the big games that belong to the big boys, get your house in order first.

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