Sri Lanka after Rajapaksa: Can it Ignore China?

Dr Gulbin Sultana is Associate Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • July 2016

    Since the fall of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, there has been an apparent foreign policy shift in Sri Lanka. There is a growing view that the new National Unity Government (NUG), which came to power in January 2015 with Maithripala Sirisena as President, has shown its proclivities towards India and the US and moved away from China, especially under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. In fact, it is commonly believed that the new government is allowing the US and India to increase their influence on Sri Lanka, the same way as Mahinda Rajapaksa had allowed China to increase its presence in the country. However, this essay argues that while relations with the US and India have improved under the current government, it will not be easy for Sri Lanka to come out of the Chinese influence both because of its own economic compulsions—to a large extent engendered by the debt it has availed from China during the last decade—and paradoxically, also because of China’s continued zeal to stay engaged in the economic domain.