China seeks pragmatic ties with India, not strategic competition in Sri Lanka: analysts

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/29 21:28:39

China seeks pragmatic relationship with India, not strategic competition

A general view of Colombo Port City construction site, which is backed by Chinese investment, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on August 23 Photo: VCG

China and India should focus on pragmatic cooperation in Sri Lanka for the shared interest of all three countries, as the small South Asian nation goes through a political transition, rather than engage in strategic competition over influence in the South Asian island country, Chinese analysts said on Monday.

With the ongoing political crisis in Sri Lanka continuing to unfold following President Maithripala Sirisena's dissolution of the cabinet on Saturday and the swearing in of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse as the new prime minister, who some consider "pro-China,"    

some Indian and Western media reports have been driving a narrative that pitches India against China in a fight for influence in Sri Lanka.

But analysts said that such rhetoric is based on a misunderstanding of China's relationship with Sri Lanka and is counterproductive to the situation in Sri Lanka as well as the relationship between China and India, which has warmed up in recent months.

After long political turmoil, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapakse as the new prime minister, a move that continues to draw criticism from India and some Western countries.

At a press briefing in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang called on all sides in Sri Lanka to resolve their differences through talks and said that China was closely following the situation in Sri Lanka.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs released a statement on Sunday, saying that India is closely following the recent political developments in Sri Lanka and hopes that "democratic values and constitutional process will be respected."

However, some Indian and Western media renewed earlier accusations that Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka has led the country deep into debt and that China is gaining influence in the country at the expense of India. A Reuters report on Sunday, citing Wickremesinghe supporters, even suggested that China was behind the political crisis in Sri Lanka.

Chinese analysts dismissed such accusations as baseless and counterproductive to efforts to enhance ties among the three countries.

"It has become a pattern for some foreign media and officials to blame China whenever there is a political or economic crisis in a country that China has a relationship with or has cooperated with. It is both irresponsible and counterproductive," said Qian Feng, a research fellow at the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University based in Beijing.

Qian told the Global Times that, contrary to what some media reports suggest, China is not seeking to push India out of Sri Lanka and there is a lot of room for China and India to cooperate in Sri Lanka.

"India has huge influence in Sri Lanka both politically and culturally - that will not change because of China's investment. There is no need for India to worry about Chinese investment. Instead, it should look for ways to participate," he added.

Liu Xiaoxue, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' National Institute of International Strategy, also said that the notion that Rajapakse would move the country away from India toward China once he becomes prime minister is "preposterous."

"As any leader would do, Rajapakse would do what is right for the people of Sri Lanka, and maintaining balanced relations with China and India is in the interests of Sri Lanka," Liu told the Global Times.

Liu also pointed out that there are opportunities for India and China to seek pragmatic economic cooperation in Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries, noting that India is already in talks with Sri Lanka to take a stake in an airport near the Hambantota port, which was largely funded and constructed by Chinese companies. "This could be a model for future cooperation between China and India, if they focus on cooperation rather than competition," she said.

Newspaper headline: Focus in Sri Lanka should be cooperation: analysts


blog comments powered by Disqus