India signed an agreement in Sri Lanka’s capital on Monday to construct a $500 million coal-powered plant. The move seems designed to counter China’s increased influence in the island nation just off India’s coast. The Wall Street Journal reports:
India, a traditional political and economic ally of its southern neighbor, is worried about increasing Chinese investment in the island nation, and this is prompting India expand its economic cooperation with Sri Lanka, according to foreign-policy experts.
China’s moves in Sri Lanka to date include increased bilateral trade, a potential free trade agreement, and support for Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government against its Tamil insurgency in 2009. India’s response, meanwhile, has come much later but is perhaps well timed: a Chinese-made power plant broke down in 2011, causing widespread blackouts and damaging the “Made in China” brand.The Indian power plant proposal was considered in 2006 but shelved. As Bharat Karnad of the New Delhi think tank Centre for Policy Research told the WSJ, the revived project is a sign of “awakening within the India government” of China’s chumminess with Pakistan, Myanmar, and now Sri Lanka.Coming on the heels of an electricity deal with Bangladesh last week, this news shows that India clearly is looking to remain the preeminent force in a region it has long dominated.The race is on.[Manmohan Singh photo courtesy of Shutterstock]