Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: New dimensions of India – Sri Lanka Relations
Even before the new president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was
sworn in, the narrative about Colombo’s renewed “tilt” towards China and
against India had taken root.
The headline misrepresents the complex power play involving Beijing,
Delhi and Colombo.
The Great Game in the Subcontinent is not limited to just India and
It is quite easy to forget the considerable interests and influence of
many other powers in the region, including the US, European Union, Japan and
The exclusive focus on major power rivalry masks the agency of South
Asian political elites and their capacity to manoeuvre among the major
Although the Rajapaksas had blamed India for their defeat in the 2015
elections, they have sought to make up with Delhi in recent years.
India has been engaging all the major political formations in Sri Lanka.
The stage, then, is ready for a reset in the bilateral relations between
the two strong governments in Delhi and Colombo.
India is acutely aware that China’s economic and strategic salience in
the Subcontinent will continue to grow and is not tied to the regime
leadership in its neighbourhood.
Delhi can’t expect its neighbours to shut down economic and commercial
engagement with Beijing, notwithstanding the many questions about the terms
of China’s assistance on projects, including those under the Belt and
But Delhi will be right to ask Colombo not to take steps with Beijing
that threaten India’s security.
That reset involves addressing the structural factors that have
complicated the relationship between Delhi and Colombo.
Develop India-Sri Lanka relationship:
Delhi and Colombo need a clear understanding of mutual red lines
relating to national security and a political comfort level to discuss cases
that fall within the orange zone.
That should help prevent the recurrence of the controversy over Chinese
submarines in Colombo port that generated so much bad blood between the two
nations in 2014.
As the world rediscovers the geopolitical value of Sri Lanka at the
heart of the Indo-Pacific, Colombo has huge opportunities to leverage its
location for national benefit.
A prudent and important part of that strategy would be to avoid
Delhi too would be wise to be mindful of Colombo’s security concerns and
find ways to develop long-term strategic cooperation with Sri Lanka.
Delhi needs to invest some political capital in resolving problems such
as the long-standing dispute over fisheries.
Beyond its objection to China’s BRI projects, Delhi, either alone or in
partnership with like-minded countries like Japan, should offer sustainable
terms for infrastructure development.
Delhi also needs to contribute more to the development of Colombo’s
defence and counter-terror capabilities.
Shaping India’s relations with Sri Lanka:
The structural factor shaping India’s relations with Sri Lanka is the
India’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s tragic civil war has been far more
consequential than the China factor in complicating Delhi’s relations with
Delhi has certainly learnt the dangers of being drawn too deep into the
domestic conflicts of neighbouring countries.
The Rajapaksas have declared that they will not bend before foreign
India knows that too much heat from the West will automatically increase
China’s leverage in Colombo.
If the Tamil question continues to have a big impact on Sri Lanka’s
foreign policy, Delhi needs to look beyond old formulae to try and encourage
reconciliation within Lanka and across the Palk Strait with Tamil Nadu.
With a strong government in Sri Lanka, it is time for Delhi to think
boldly about its relationship with Colombo.
Q.1) Who among the following was involved in the most famous incident of
“Kakori train robbery”? A. Ashfaqulla Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil
B. Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Hari Rajguru
C. Surya Sen and Khudiram Bose
D. Manabendra Nath Roy and Hutatma Madan Lal Dhingra
Q.1) How India can shape their geo-political relation with Sri Lanka?