Stealthy Ad­vances

China and In­dia vie for greater in­flu­ence in Sri Lanka through mas­sive in­fras­truc­tural projects

Southasia - - Contents - By Si­jal Fawad

China and In­dia are in­vest­ing heav­ily in Sri Lanka’s in­fras­truc­tural projects in at­tempts to in­crease their in­flu­ence.

With chang­ing global dy­nam­ics where the emerg­ing world is gain­ing greater clout than de­vel­oped na­tions, it is safe to say that no good deed is with­out an ul­te­rior mo­tive. That is why as rib­bons are be­ing cut for in­fras­truc­tural projects backed by Chi­nese and In­dian in­vest­ments in Sri Lanka, an­a­lysts are skep­ti­cal of the pop­u­lous gi­ants’ in­ten­tions for re­build­ing a re­cently war-torn na­tion.

In 2009, Sri Lanka emerged vic­to­ri­ous in the war against the Lib­er­a­tion Tigers of Tamil Ee­lam. The raw end of the deal was the im­mense de­struc­tion and dam­age, the re­sult of 25 years of havoc caused by tanks, fighter jets and other weaponry. But the sil­ver lin­ing was that help was only a few miles away. The Chi­nese and In­di­ans are more than will­ing to help re­boot the in­fra­struc­ture and prop up the Sri Lankan econ­omy through var­i­ous projects.

Re­cently, Mahinda Ra­japaksa, Sri Lankan pres­i­dent, in­au­gu­rated Sri Lanka’s sec­ond in­ter­na­tional air­port. The pro­ject – a $209 mil­lion ven­ture – is sup­ported and funded by China’s Ex­port-Im­port (EXIM) Bank. Not very far from it is the Ham­ban­tota Port - a key ship­ping route, which sees hun­dreds of oil tankers pass­ing through ev­ery day. Once again, the $1 bil­lion pro­ject is funded by the ori­en­tal gi­ant. An ex­ten­sion of the rail­way line, for which fur­ther loans have been an­nounced by China, is also on the cards. But that is not where Chi­nese help for the na­tion stops. Be­tween 2007 and 2011, with a gen­er­ous aid of $2.126 bil­lon to the is­land na­tion, China be­came the largest for­eign aid provider for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s first com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite was launched last year, un­sur­pris­ingly, in part­ner­ship with a Chi­nese sta­te­owned space tech­nol­ogy firm. A $100 mil­lion Lo­tus Tower in Colombo, the re­con­struc­tion of the A9 high- way con­nect­ing Kandy with Jaffna, a coal power pro­ject in Put­ta­lam, and a con­tainer ter­mi­nal pro­ject in Colombo, are all sym­bolic of China’s gen­er­ous help­ing hand for the na­tion.

Of course, In­dia is not ex­pected to sit idle and watch as its po­lit­i­cal ri­val con­tin­ues to ex­tend its in­flu­ence in a coun­try much closer to the In­dian bor­der­line than any other. In a not-so-in­signif­i­cant pro­ject, In­dia will help build 43,000 houses in Sri Lan-

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