India Developing New Sri Lanka Port to Combat China
by Forbes, April 22, 2017
As regional powers like China, Russia, Japan, and India vie for political and economic position throughout the eastern realms of Eurasia, many of the less powerful countries caught in the middle are employing what could be called a ‘multi-vector strategy’ as they engage openly with multiple suitors in an attempt to balance out their respective influences – and ultimately bringing in more investment, financing, and development for themselves.
It is a move pioneered, dubbed, and popularized by Kazakhstan – a country which sits right between Russia, China, South Asia, and Europe – in the era following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Rather than being a puppet state of Russia, Kazakhstan began opening itself up to other international powers, bringing in billions in investment and a higher degree of strategic autonomy in the process.
As China advances its program of increased internationalism – as delivered via its Belt and Road initiative – the country has rapidly become a major political and economic power pushing infrastructure development throughout Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. More than any other, this new geopolitical player has shaken up the traditional layout of political and economic alliances, creating the counterbalance necessary for more less powerful countries to employ ‘multi-vector strategies’ of their own.
Sri Lanka is such a country. Traditionally aligned with India and the West, this position may have continued ad infinitum if it weren’t for the repercussions that came as a result of how Sri Lanka ended its decades-long civil war against the Tamil Tigers. Dubbed war crimes, the Sri Lankan government was called up before the UN Human Rights council in 2009, and the EU and US subsequently shut down most economic concessions and sources of aid to demonstrated their disapproval for the alleged abuses.
This resulted in a geopolitical backfire of perhaps unprecedented proportions. Instead of bringing Sri Lanka to submission, the country simply pivoted to China, who was more than willing to “help out” the suddenly politically and economically hamstrung nation. In the years that followed, China gave Sri Lanka $37 million in military aid, over $8 billion in loans, and the drive to go ahead with multiple Chinese-led mega-projects, such as Colombo Financial City – a $1.4 billion, 269-hectare new financial center – and the Hambantota developments, which include a giant deep sea port, an international airport, a cricket stadium, a conference hall, and an impending 15,000-acre, million-worker industrial zone, basically turning the country into a Chinese outpost of progress.
This sheer pivot to China made India feel more than a little ill at ease. A rising global economic and military power was suddenly firmly entrenched on their doorstep, and beyond weightless political posturing they really had no answer for it. It soon became clear that if India was to have any real influence on the island nation to the southeast that they were going to have to jump in, show the money, and build something.