By 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 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.