17 August, 2022


Why China? Not India – Economic & Geo Political Commentary

By Abdul Samad

Abdul Samad

This article is with reference to Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s write-up published on Colombo Telegraph dated 07th April 2017. It was titled, “The aurudu sale of Sri Lanka-Who will stop it?” The writer makes a very valid point arguing the case for Sri Lanka to be with China as opposed to India. He also criticizes the prime ministers vision of the ECTA agreement with India and rightly so. It simply does not make any economic and geo-political sense.

This article is an attempt to compare both India and China in economic/geo-political terms, keeping Sri Lanka in the context.

The Economic Context

It is a well established fact that China enjoys far greater economic supremacy as opposed to India. The below table provides some information on key economic indicators comparing the two countries.

It is clear beyond any doubt that China reigns above India in all major economic indicators. The Chinese economy is at least 3 times bigger. The biggest advantage China has its workforce, which is double the size of India. It is also worth mentioning, China is the world’s largest exporter valued at 2.21 trillion as of 2013 versus India’s 313 billion. China is also the second largest provider of foreign direct investment in the world, providing $115 billion in the year of 2016.

Henceforth, it makes perfect economic sense for Sri Lanka to peruse its diplomatic efforts more inclined towards China. During the post-war era China has made unprecedented investment in infrastructure development of Sri Lanka. More importantly, China has shown a more result oriented approach to investment. India on the other hand has decreased its financial assistance to Srilanka as revealed by their finance minister Arun Jetly in his last budget.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s inclination to the ECTA agreement does not make any sense for Sri Lankans as India’s commitment to the development of Srilanka is questionable. I conclude, China has a far more important and greater role to play if Sri Lanka is to realize its economic potential.

Geo Politics of India and China

It is important that we realize the political landscape of both the countries. China largely operates in a communist structure. Single party rule, that ensures the core decision making rests with the state and demands absolute control.

Henceforth, she offers greater political stability. Foreign policy and decision making is very stable and does not carry the risk of changing with government change. China also view’s Sri Lanka as a strategic location in South Asia. Chinese presence in Sri Lanka effectively acts as shield against India. Sri Lanka does not have to be viewed as a state that’s intimated by its large neighbor when closely associated with an economic superpower. It is worth noting, China’s trade decisions have little or no bearing on Sri Lankan sovereignty. It is one of the few countries that always supported Sri Lanka at the United Nations,

Unity governments decision to co-sponsor the 30/1 resolution was a diplomatic insult to China and diplomatic relations. It is a foreign policy debacle that has damaged our credibility with one of the largest economic super powers in the world.

The timing of all this is even more crucial. At a time when FDI’s in Sri Lanka are next to nothing. The government has left absolutely no room to humiliate and antagonize Sri Lanka’s largest FDI provider in recent times.

China’s close diplomatic ties with Pakistan, another country that consistently supported Sri Lanka at UN, makes its geo-political presence in south Asia all the more important. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have always enjoyed cohesive diplomatic ties. Combining with China and Pakistan Sri Lanka is perfectly placed to challenge India both on the economic and political fronts.

India operates as the world’s largest democracy. It is this very political and governance ideology that has been the cause for India’s failure to match china’s economic and political domination. A primitive society, that’s governed by ancient principals and diverse ethnic political participants. Henceforth, offers little political stability and even lesser stable foreign policy. Policy is subject to the government in power.

The information furnished in the above table also reflects India has much to on its own domestic front. More than 400 million people still live in poverty and are deprived of basic needs. Does it make sense for Sri Lankan politicians to expect assistance from India?

India is also home to diverse ethnicities that are powerful states domestically. Tamil Nadu, one such state with a majority of Tamil’s has close links to the Srilankan Tamil population. It has also openly supported the brutal LTTE that killed so many innocent civilians in Sri Lanka. In this context, does it make sense for the Sri Lankan government to peruse meaningful diplomatic ties with India?

Diplomatic efforts should be channeled to bear meaningful results. The Unity government’s allegiance to India and the west has born nothing so far. In fact, it is plunging Srilanka into a deeper conflict brewing situation in the name ethnic reconciliation and war crime investigations.


It is worth mentioning that India views Srilanka’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals as a direct threat to its economic presence in the SAARC region. It is a much easier task to develop a country the size of Srilanka compared to India. The post war economic expansion was one reason for India to sponsor the unity government to power.

It was very clear; two traditional political rivals cannot synchronize in Unisom to make decisions that are in the best interest of the country. The political instability also allows India to keep Srilanka in its shadow’s which has been the case historically.

President, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s allegiance to India is more a political favour than a strategic initiative in the best interest of Srilanka. India is directly using the unity government to undermine the Chinese presence in Srilanka. In doing so, it is holding the Srilankan economy as bait.

Millions worth infrastructure projects are being kept on hold which can be long term competitive advantages. For what? Only to satisfy India and the West. I want my readers to be clear such policy debacles do not affect the politicians. They continue to live extravagant lifestyles obeying instructions of their masters.

Sri Lankan citizens at large are deprived of a better country, a better life, a world class economy and infrastructure. By aligning Sri Lanka’s interests to negative forces the country is been pushed into deeper economic problems. India has achieved its ambitions by halting a rapidly expanding Srilankan economy and vibrant socially integrated society.

China, a powerful state that initiated massive development for Sri Lanka has been largely neglected and isolated to the detriment of the Sri Lankan people.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    [Edited out]
    Whether China will be great is a matter of controversy. It has made good with its open door policy in reliance of multinationals largely from the United States. Indian growth has been largely internal. The issue as to whether China will be stable, whether it would crack down under its immense corruption and rule by the single party dominate by princelings , with internal problems like Xinjiang and Tibet is a matter of controversy. Some writers like Fenby are pessimistic of China, believing that it will implode as it has at various periods in history. The accumulation of bottled up dissent, the gross disparity in wealth while maintaining a philosophy of communist equality and the inculcation of nationalism which makes conflict inevitable- are factors that may make Chinese power dwindle. It is yet to be seen.

    Sri Lanka’s ties with India are historical. The people share religions and culture. The Chinese who live in Sri Lanka simply do not fit in. Perhaps, they are like the Muslims- who simply do not want to fit in and are seen as exploiters belonging to an alien religion and pretending to be Arabs when they are not.

    India and Sri Lanka have ties that go a long way back. Their past and future are knitted firmly together. China is an interloper. Pakistan does not even feature in the equation. Who the hell cares about Pakistan? It is wishful thinking to think that a state which harbours terrorists and cannot deal with its own problems should have anything to do with Sri Lanka.

    Think of keeping existing deep ties.

  • 6

    Agreed completely!

    Big projects like port city would not take place in the country with the help of the West or India. Yet Tamil and good governance leaders support the West and India. We need a strong leader to take this country to the next level. Singapore has Tamils, but India can’t use Singapore Tamils to divide Singapore, because Singapore leaders won’t allow that to happen. Singapore doesn’t depend on Malaysia’s mercy. Therefore, Sri Lanka shouldn’t depend on India’s mercy. India has its own time and way to become successful, let it be. It doesn’t mean Sri Lanka must go with the India’s timing to become successful. According to Transparency International India is the most corrupt country in the world. India has the largest young population, but it couldn’t get a gold medal during the last two Olympic Games. When China was expanding its manufacturing sector, India was too busy in creating terrorism in Sri Lanka. India has issues. Therefore, we must move towards China and ASEAN countries.

  • 6

    The West lies about India to make us believe that India is doing well. The West made a mess in the Indian Subcontinent while it was ruling to make sure that the Indian subcontinent won’t be a threat to the Western dominant power; however, the Indian leaders weren’t smart enough to fix it. India will continue to struggle, because it follows the West blindly. India has been insulting Gandhi by following the West blindly, at the same time it is daydreaming to lead Asia and the world.

    • 2

      Only fools believe India can compete with China.

  • 5

    Abdul Samad,

    Congratulations! Excellent analysis. It is a pity that political leaders in my country do not use people like you as advisors. As far as Ranil is concerned, he does not care for Sri Lankan experts. He accepts anything that ‘Para Suddas’ say.

    UNP supporters try to portray JRJ and RW as smart politicians but as far as I am concerned they are dumb politicians. Let me tell you why I say so. JRJ relied too much on USA and Western countries and humiliated Mrs. B and Indira Gandhi who were very good friends. If he was a smart politician he should not have done that. At the end JRJ had to kneel down in front of Hindians. People in Sri Lanka paid a heavy price for his idiotic words and deeds.

    Following what his uncle did, RW made a similar mistake at the 2015 elections. He too relied too much on USA, Western countries and India and humiliated China. RW also expected that his ‘so called friends’ will come to help him but it did not happen. Those crooks got what they wanted, removing Rajapakse, and said Bye! Bye!. At the end RW had to crawl in front of China and beg. According to Dayan J., China has told they are happy with 51% of stakes of Hambantota but RW’s government has told ‘No Sir, you take more’. What an idiotic move. I do not think any other country in the world has done such a stupid thing.

    The hilarious part is Sajith addressing some old women (in Sinhalese)in Hambantota said ‘my smart leader went to China and used his skills to convince Chinese to invest in Hambantota. A large number of Chinese were waiting in the queue to meet the Prime Minister to find out investment opportunities ’.

    • 0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 10

    Working with developed European countries rather than China is healthier for Sri Lanka…
    China has and is working with corrupt government and dictators the world over and have no problem bribing them knowing they will even sell their countries and people for money…

    Europe will not work with corrupt governments and push for law and order, human rights & various compliances required to work with developed nations.
    This our criminal politicians don’t like so they try to go with whoever let’s them steal from their nation like what the Rajapaksas did…

    Even upto the point of selling our country…

    • 3

      You sound like typical Tamil diaspora who sell their motherland for refugees status in the Western countries. The same fools become Tamil leaders and the Western puppets to fulfill their greedy selfish lifestyles. Stop writing comments under bogus names. I know that thinking straight is hard for you as a Tamil, but you must try hard for your future generations.

      • 7

        You were kicked out of Australia. Prior to that you were kicked out from western countries. Therefore it is not surprising that you are hitting out on the west and Tamils in west who are doing well.

      • 3

        Antany Peter, if someone has a Point of View that you don’t like why does that make them a Tamil/Tamil diaspora, Muslim, Terrorist, Traitor!?

        Are you saying Sri Lanka has no free thinking Sinhalese!!?

        It is not the minorities in any position to sell the country even if they wanted too…

        Mahinda Rajapakse was the one who sold our country to China and this government is still struggling to undo his mess…

  • 7

    Dear Abdul Samad,
    Yes it is true that China’s economy is much bigger than India’s. But it is also true that India’s economy is much bigger than Sri Lanka’s.
    It is true that China is (for the moment) stable.
    Then again, we are 20 miles from India, not China. We have ALWAYS had more connection with India than with China, for the very simple reason that all our ancestors (yours included) walked or sailed over . You must accept that we are as Indian as any Taiwanese is Chinese. You cannot change that, no matter what Dr.DJ says. Until the British arrived and tod us about “sovereignty”, we were just a collection of princedoms dealing mostly with the larger collection of princedoms in South India. I believe history tends to repeat itself. India and China were the richest countries in the world before colonialism. That’s why the Europeans came here in the first place.

    • 3

      India was less of a country than any European country when pieces of a subcontinent were grabbed by foreign powers and then put together by one (not as one contiguous territory for very long).
      China was an empire of sorts with one ruler but near a state of stagnation when it was infiltrated.

      What concerns us here is how the interests of the people here are best protected. I am unhappy about domination by any big power.
      India’s proximity is a matter of concern given Indian meddling in the affairs of its neighbours. It is a serious worry.

      In any event, let us not choose between undesirable options.
      Cannot we think of other ways?

      • 4

        “OC India was less of a country than any European country when pieces of a subcontinent were grabbed by foreign powers and then put together by one (not as one contiguous territory for very long)”.
        Yes, quite true. Some parts were practically independent, like Hyderabad. That’s why I think things will revert eventually.Ideas of sovereignty put in by the Brits are still strong. But a breakup of India will doom SL to the same fate. Our problems here could contribute to this. If we resent Indian interference, we ought to remove the incentive for it.

        • 0

          India’s break-up will be a disaster for the region, and I do not advocate it either.
          But it is also important that India respects the rights and aspirations of all nationalities that are in the union.
          Some states of India were forcibly annexed (Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur and Sikkim). There is clamour for independence in at least three. that has to be addressed through a fair and free referendum and not state violence.
          With a kinder regime at the centre, these states may not want to secede as they will be better off as a part of India which respects their distinct identity.
          As worrying is the plight of the tribal people who are being dispossessed in the name of development.
          To be a winner, India should respect international law and codes of conduct in external affairs.

          As for resenting Indian meddling, I fully endorse your view. A united country is unassailable, and unity cannot coexist with inequality.

          • 0

            As opposed to the trouble in the Indian North-east, consider Goa, which was also taken over forcibly. It has kept its unique Catholic culture quite well, even though the majority (in Goa itself) is Hindu.
            Maybe we should get ourselves annexed?

            • 0

              As you say, it was healthy transition in Goa.
              The take over was more like police action than military. The Goan Catholic was not particularly fond of Portuguese rule either.
              Goa has a happily interesting blend of cultures– including the phenomenon of Brahmin Catholics.

              But things are changing with the rise of Hinduthva. BJP has been on the rise.
              Caste, far less significant than in the rest of India, too shows signs of influence.

    • 0

      old codger

      Of the two, who really wants to deal with SL ?

      Is it China who wants to further her maritime security

      Or India (proxy for USA) who wants to keep China out of Sri Lanka

      Who has the better case for engagement ?

      I know where I stand

  • 3

    Abdul Samad – smart patriot,

    Why India ? Because places like Buddha Gaya, Amaranath, Ajantha, Lumumbini,Kalinga
    Nalanda University are in India not out side India. Prince Vijaya is from India. EMPEROR Asoka, Arat Mahinda , Bikuni Sangamitha are from India.

    EPRLF Ministers & members ran back to India including DJ.

  • 4

    This is a serious issue and needs serious discussion. Small countries in South East Asia, like Singapore, having the same Chinese people , fear China. They align themselves with the West for the simple reason that historically China saw them as vassal states which had to toe the Chinese line. Even Vietnam has moved towards the US. Japan has militarised and moved closer to the US due to Chinese threats.

    China claims South China Sea in an exorbitant manner. It has reclaimed land in the small islands in the SC sea. There is an example of Chinese aggression. Eventually, China will have to go to war with the US on issues like this. Do we want to get caught up in all this or keep with our traditional allies? The behaviour of North Korea, China’s Little Brother, indicates that this is not far away.

    The Chinese model of development has not been internal. It is led by foreign investment after the open door policy and by manufacture of cheap goods for European markets through sweat labour. Is that a good model for Sri Lanka? The Indian model is based on internal development. It will not be affected by external shocks which will happen to China after Trump.

    India has issues. It has the festering issue of Kashmir where it is as unkind as China in Tibet and Xinjiang. But, it is still the world’s largest democracy. It is a country with which we have links through Buddhism and Hinduism. Our languages are Indian, heavily influenced by Pali and Sanskrit. These links cannot be changed. Sri Lanka will have to join in with India for many strategic and economic reasons.

    • 0

      ‘Sri Lanka have to join with India for many strategic and economic reasons.’

      Thanks, but no thanks…You are daydreaming to rule Asia and the world. Try to get a gold medal in 2020 Olympic Games.

    • 2

      Please get out of this India dependent mentality. India was never and will never be a friendly country to Sri Lanka. India has the ‘Podiyan’ mentality towards Sri Lanka. By supporting Tamil terrorists, India ruined Sri lanka. China did not invade or colonized other countries. If Chinese wanted, they could have colonized America. Chinese were there before Europeans went there. Chinese visited America and left leaving the natives to live in peace but white bastards went there and massacred the natives.

      China did not invade Japan. On the contrary, Japan invaded China and behaved like animals. Now all the countries are seeking foreign investments. There are lot of Chinese investments in Western countries. In South China sea, Chinese are taking action to prevent Americans and Japanese interventions. In 20 years time, China will be the most powerful nation economically and militarily. So why not go with China.

    • 0

      “China claims South China Sea in an exorbitant manner.”
      These are historical claims that go a long way back, to the pre-colonial era.
      One may agree or disagree; and all claims are negotiable.
      China has not resorted to military means– yet. It has also expressed willingness to negotiate issues.

      Compare this with the global military presence of the US and its methods.

      As for exorbitant border claims, how far are the borders of French overseas territories from mainland France?

      Can someone tell us how far the Andaman & Nicobar from India. Their continental shelf seems to adjoin Myanmar and Thailand.
      A little British colonial geographical slip, perhaps?

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 4

    What China did to Sri Lanka was like what the old polee mudalali did to poor peasant in the old days-give a loan to the poor man which he is never able to repay and then grab his land! India on the other hand though being the bastard it is towards Sri Lanka, did not entangle the country in such a debt trap. True the Indian bastards destroyed SL by creating the LTTE.

    • 0

      Why do we miss out on the real “polee mudalalis”: the IMF, World Babk etc?

  • 5

    This is not a mathematical equation. It is like the argument that the rich immoral man must be accepted by all the villagers. The record of China in African states it has entered is not salutary. It has created large debtor nations in Africa.

    Most insidious is the equation with Pakistan. It is a state in which bombs go off at Shia and Sufi shrines and Christian churches. It is a religious state in which Buddhists and Hindus have not much of a place. It could well be that having Pakistan here might do good for the Muslims, not much for the others. Why get embroiled with a state which cannot get its act in order? It is a state that is controlled by the army with a nominal prime minister. We do not need to go anywhere near that model. The threat of that model is never far away in Sri Lanka. A Buddhist army controlled state will not do good for Muslims or for any one.

    This is a matter that has to be though of dispassionately. People like DJ with his commitments to MR, the robber of his people, are hardly the people to give guidance. A simple mathematical equation without other historical, cultural and other consideration can hardly be the guide except to material men who are satisfied with the money that Chinese corruption will bring. It will certainly be larger than Indian corruption as the Chinese have more money to give.

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