Demonstrating realpolitik, India has not wasted time in repairing ties with Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa brothers, since Gotabaya Rajapaksa won last November’s presidential elections. Considering Colombo’s tilt towards China during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s last term as president and the excellent political and economic ties Beijing shares with the island nation, New Delhi wants to leave no stone unturned to woo Colombo, as it directly affects security concerns in the teeth of an increasingly assertive China. As Indian and Chinese forces hunker down for the winter in Ladakh, Sri Lanka’s strategic location on the Indian Ocean makes it a vital cog in India’s emerging maritime doctrine.
“Sri lanka is very relevant for India’s maritime policies. This is because of its geographical location in terms of the Indian Ocean and proximity to India. At a time when China is focussing on the Indian Ocean determinedly, it would be prudent for India to have a Sri Lanka which is empathetic and sensitive to India’s composite maritime interests, of which the naval and the military is one particular strand,’’ says analyst C. Uday Bhaskar.
The rise of China, its aggressive moves in the Pacific Ocean and expansion of economic and strategic influence into the Indian Ocean region has forced India to refashion its maritime policy. PLA submarines and warships are no longer confined to the Pacific, but plies the Indian Ocean regularly. Alarm bells went off in New Delhi when a Chinese military submarine docked in Colombo harbour in 2014.
At the same time, Pacific powers such as the US, Japan, and Australia as well as East Asian nations, especially bordering the South China Sea, are concerned about China’s muscle flexing. The US has since 2005 worked towards drawing India out of its subcontinental ambit to play a...