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Sri Lanka in recent reorganisation of its stance to ‘India First Policy’ in foreign policy doctrine is unexpected but welcomed. Sri Lanka’s 2017 decision to lease the Hambantota port for 99 years to China Merchants Port Holdings Co for $1.1 billion, made it an instant victim of the Chinese ‘debt diplomacy’. With calculated intentions, China sanctions hefty loans to poorer countries, to acquire their strategic assets instead of the expected monetary repayment when they are unable to return. 

In ancient time, China used the ‘tributary system’ to control all other neighbourhood. China forced them to pay tribute and acknowledge its supremacy and precedence in the region, in return for not encroaching upon their territories. Now evolved to a modern scheme to match the current methods of diplomacy, China simply traps all the nations it cannot directly exercise power on in debts. Furthermore, India is the closest and one of the strongest threat to its supremacy, who China is unable to corner in any manner. Therefore, China resorts to compromising the strategic neighbouring regions of geopolitical importance.

 The ‘Maritime Agreement with USSR in 1962’ and the ‘British Defence and External Affairs Agreement in 1948’, along with being a member of BIMSTEC and SAARC, give Sri Lanka a definite strategic geopolitical importance among major world powers.

Realising, the risk of being dragged further into China’s trap, Sri Lanka has resorted to reforging its ties with India to balance its displacement. Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage, relayed the president’s resolutions on TV to put ‘India first’, explaining Sri Lanka in no way can afford to manifest itself as a strategic & security threat to the region. Sri Lanka conveyed its foremost choice in economic deals is ‘India- the fastest developing major economy in 2018’. Although open to transactions with other countries, it is a move to balance its geopolitical stance with China. This following week, 18 Sri Lankan cabinet ministers partook in what could be called a ‘dinner diplomacy’, attending a dinner hosted by Gopal Bagley (Indian high commissioner) in Colombo. This was an opportunity used to discuss and extend positive plans for both the countries and possible strengthening bilateral ties in the future.

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The author is presently pursuing post-graduation in East Asian Studies, from University of Delhi. Fascinated with new languages, cultures and societies, her long-standing interest lies in the understanding of East Asia in particular.

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