India is helping Sri Lanka reduce dependence on China: expert


India is helping Sri Lanka reduce its dependence on China, said Cleo Pascal, an associate fellow in the Asia-Pacific program at London-based Chatham House.

“India has given loans and sent fertilizer. Sri Lanka is once again at the forefront of the political war, trying to make Sri Lanka less dependent on China,” said Pascal, sister media outlet of The Epoch Times. said in an interview with NTD News.

sri lanka crisis

According to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance, Sri Lanka has $10 billion in bilateral debt as of August 2022, of which 44% is owed to China (pdf). Japan holds her 32% of Sri Lanka’s debt, while India holds another 10%.

India has emerged as the lifeblood of Sri Lanka, providing nearly $4 billion in credit lines and swaps to sustain the country’s economy this year.

Moreover, until now India personally delivered Supply at least 60,000 tonnes of fertilizer to endangered neighbors, totaling nearly $4 billion by 2022.

Pascal pointed out India’s opposition to Chinese spy ships docking at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, saying, “They are trying to set a precedent that this is not good. It’s a sort of prior deterrent effect.

“This is part of an attempt to make China less comfortable in the Indian Ocean and push back some of those tentacles,” she added.

In December 2017, the Sri Lankan government leased the deep-sea port south of Hambantota to China for 99 years to convert an outstanding loan of $1.4 billion into equity, while India said Beijing would use the strategic port as a military base. have been concerned about

According to Pascal, Hambantota is essential to China’s ability to project power into the Indian Ocean. “And blowing up the spy ship issue is part of that deterrence initiative,” she said.

Sino-Indian tension

Pascal also pointed out that India is stepping up measures to push back against China.

“They are reorganizing their forces…they are introducing Theater Command, which is new…they are changing their recruitment. “We are preparing,” she said.

“They are prosecuting Chinese tech companies for money laundering … They are conducting military exercises with Vietnam for the first time,” she added.

Chinese smartphone giants such as Xiaomi, Vivo and Guangdong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications have been accused of breaking the law in India.

In April, Indian authorities seized $725 million from Xiaomi and accused it of violating the country’s foreign exchange laws by illegally transferring money abroad.Meanwhile, both Vivo and Oppo faced customs fraud allegations. did.

Indian and Vietnamese armies reportedly In early August, conducted military exercises for approximately three weeks in Chandimandir, Haryana.

Pascal points to a security agreement signed by the Solomon Islands government with the Chinese government in April that allows the presence of troops, weapons, police and naval vessels in the Solomon Islands.

The United States, Australia and New Zealand all fear the deal could open the door to Chinese naval bases in the South Pacific. The story has been repeatedly dismissed by the island’s prime minister, Manase Sogavale.

Still, Pascal warned that Beijing could still increase its presence on the island without the bases appearing.

“They use a lot of the language of humanitarian aid and disaster response: ‘We’re just leaving supplies here in case there’s a typhoon or hurricane or something like that.'”

“It goes beyond dual-use, which also has military uses,” she pointed out.

“They are using a fishing fleet … they are trying to fish more in the area so they can have the ability to herd,” Pascal added.

In her opinion, the United States needs to join hands with other allies to counter the Chinese threat in the region.

“One of the best solutions would be to make it a QUAD (Alliance of the United States, Japan, Australia and India) project, where each of the four can bring their own elements,” Pascal said.

“Unless that is done very quickly, it will be much more difficult to shrink and free up this region … to free it from the grip of this political warfare that we are currently witnessing.” she added.

Aldgra Fredly and Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this report.

Hannah Ng

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Hannah Ng is a reporter covering US and Chinese news. She holds her Master’s Degree in International and Development Economics from the Berlin University of Applied Sciences.

Tiffany Meyer

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Tiffany Meier is a New York-based reporter and host of NTD’s China in Focus.