India tries to free Sri Lanka from China’s grasp

India tries to free Sri Lanka from China's grasp

April 4, 2022: -India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was in Sri Lanka this week to offer help to the struggling Sri Lankan economy to pry it away from a decades-long Chinese embrace.

Sri Lanka’s two-year-old economic crisis comes after two decades of heavy Chinese investment under a geopolitical expert called “strategic trap diplomacy. ″

Having a giant, increasingly assertive neighbor intertwined with Sri Lanka is unsettling India, which is locked in a standoff with China at their disputed Himalayan border. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis allows India to wean the country away from the influence of Beijing.

Perched was busy with East-West shipping lanes, and Sri Lanka is drawing billions in investment under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The program is launching in 2013 to build ports, roads, railways, pipelines, and other infrastructure.

But China took over at least one strategic port when Sri Lanka failed to service its debt. On Tuesday, New Delhi won a small but huge victory when it wrested away a power project granted to China.

India is trying to outdo China in its willingness to provide financial help to Lanka, which ran dangerously low on foreign reserves to service its debt. According to central bank data obtained by Reuters, Sri Lanka currently has nearly $2 billion in foreign exchange reserves against $7 billion in total debt is pending this year, including $1 billion worth of notes maturing in July.

China’s presence is of concern to India, actual. But India and Sri Lanka are maritime neighbors. Any instability in Sri Lanka will have a spillover effect on India.

During Jaishankar’s trip, Sri Lanka sought a $1.5 billion credit line to buy essential commodities, Reuters said. That’s on top of $2.4 billion India has transferred since January through a currency swap, loan deferment, and credit lines.

China has deeper pockets and has not yet acceded to a Sri Lankan request for a $2.5 billion credit line or restructuring its overall debt. Nearly 22% of Sri Lanka’s debt is owed to bilateral creditors, China and Japan (10% each) and India (2%).

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India tries to free Sri Lanka from China’s grasp