mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Asia's Game of Thrones
Sri Lanka Snubs Chinese Subs

China’s effort to woo strategically vital Sri Lanka has hit a snag: under mounting pressure from India, the tiny island nation is refusing to allow Chinese submarines into its ports. Reuters:

Sri Lanka has rejected China’s request to dock one of its submarines in Colombo this month, two senior government officials said on Thursday as the Indian prime minister landed in the island nation.

Sri Lanka last allowed a Chinese submarine to dock in the capital of Colombo in October 2014, a move that triggered fierce opposition from its northern neighbor India, which worries about growing Chinese activity in a country it has long viewed as part of its area of influence. […]

A senior Sri Lankan government official said … Sri Lanka was “unlikely” to agree to China’s request to dock the submarine at any time, given India’s concerns.

Chalk this one up as a diplomatic victory for New Delhi. In India’s ongoing competition for influence with China, Sri Lanka has taken on a geopolitical significance far greater than its size or GDP might suggest. Situated along major trade routes off India’s southern coast, Sri Lanka is a linchpin of Beijing’s plans for a maritime Silk Road and its “string of pearls” strategy to establish a chain of friendly ports in the Indian Ocean. And though Beijing has notched a few key victories in that regard, like the acquisition of a major port at Hambantota, Sri Lanka’s current president has been much more cautious about embracing China than his predecessor.

Colombo’s deference to Modi here doesn’t mean that Sri Lanka is disinterested in China’s economic overtures. In an awkward bit of timing, Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka comes before Sri Lanka’s own Prime Minister heads to Beijing for Xi Jinping’s belt-and-road summit this weekend, which Modi is notably skipping. Expect competition to intensify as China strives to court Sri Lanka with investment and infrastructure, encroaching on what India considers its sphere of influence.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Isaiah6020

    I feel like I need an 8 paragraph essay with numerous grammatical errors to tell me what this means? Oh Dhako, where are you?

    • D4x

      What it really means is that India is fighting China’s riparian war centered in the Tibetan watershed. India must counter where she can against China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy.

      • Andrew Allison

        Could you provide more information about how “the string of pearls” impacts the riparian war with India. It’s clear that the Tibetan Plateau is vital to the Indian Subcontinent and SE Asia north of the Mekong Delta, but doesn’t your map suggest that only the latter is threatened (by diverting the Mecong and/or Salween to the Yangtse? Your insight would be appreciated.

        • D4x

          Did you see the correct map, posted separately once I saw I had posted the map that failed to show the Indus and Ganges? It is below.

          Brahma Chellaney covers this – one good read for you:

          My computer is very cranky, so sorry I can not do more research. Just bringing up that page from Japan Times caused a crash.

          • Andrew Allison

            Great, thank you (and yes, I saw the correct version). It appears to me that India is the least threatened by China’s water grab, Central and SE Asia and Pakistan are much worse off. The risk to India is conflit with Pakistan over the Indus.

          • D4x

            Pakistan has a strong relationship with China. Perhaps that relationship is why India pokes China. The Gwadar port in Pakistani Balochistan is critical to China’s ‘string of pearls’. And, in the news today, just signed a MOU for five dams on the Indus:

            China and Nepal signed ten bilateral treaties in 2016, an historic ‘soft power’ victory for China over India.

            Also, there continue to be border disputes between India and China, in the news April 13, 2017: “Arunachal Pradesh is not Indian territory but is a disputed part of the Sino-Indian border, China said on Wednesday, adding that by allowing the 14th Dalai Lama to visit the region, New Delhi has violated its commitments on Tibet and the border dispute. …”

            Good thing Nagaland, bordering Arunachal Pradesh to the south, finally resolved their insurgency against India in 2013. Nagaland is 75% Baptist, more than Mississippi, quite a legacy of 19th century American missionaries.

            All reasons for India to retain it’s ‘soft power’ over Sri Lanka.

          • D4x

            For broader insight into how Pakistan factors into China’s One Belt/OneRoad, includes mention of Sri Lanka’s port in the ‘string of pearls’; the Iran+India counter to Gwadar; and a lot more to frame the geographic aspects of so many of our current foreign policy challenges:

            “The Return of Marco Polo’s World and the U.S. Military Response” by Robert D. Kaplan

            Just in case you want a long, stimulating read this week.

    • D4x

      Posting correct map of the Tibetan Plateau watershed meant for my 1st reply.

    • ——————————

      Be careful what you wish for….

    • MyWord245


  • Why not turn to the U.S. for submarines instead? At least they would be much more advanced and have far higher quality and innovation. Is it the pricing?

    Sri Lanka is our ally, is it not?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service