India shouldn’t poke nose into affairs of its small neighbours: Sri Lanka scholar
Published: Feb 26, 2024 03:50 PM
Maya Majueran, director of Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL) Photo: Courtesy of Maya Majueran

Maya Majueran, director of Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL) Photo: Courtesy of Maya Majueran

The Indian side has repetitively hyped the docking of Chinese ships at Sri Lankan ports. These Chinese ships are for research purposes. It is important to note that Sri Lanka is a free, independent and sovereign state and there is no need to get any other countries' blessings to do our own business. It's not just Chinese ships. Indian, American, Japanese ships also dock at the Sri Lankan port. Recently Iranian Naval Ships docked at the port of Colombo. Is it a problem? 

Sri Lanka is a maritime logistics hub in the Indian Ocean and maritime logistics is one of Sri Lanka's main businesses. Anyway, ships - regardless of whether they belong to naval or research - have been docking at Sri Lankan ports. This is not new, and this is due to our geographical location as it situated right at the centre of the world's busiest sea lanes. 

Indian media outlets asserted earlier that the Chinese ship is a dual-purpose vessel and said it was "not only for maritime survey, but also seabed survey for future operations of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean." They also made up similar claims when Chinese research ship Xiang Yang Hong 3 arrived at a port in Maldives last week. 

Letting Chinese ship dock at a port in either Maldives or Sri Lanka is up to their governments to decide. And China has the all the right to dock its ships in friendly countries.  India has always considered itself a "key Indo-Pacific actor," given its geographical location. And an influential section of India's political elites view South Asia as their backyard, and the Indian Ocean as India's own ocean and try to involve in the internal affairs and diplomacy of neighbouring countries. 

We all know that India is an emerging major economy and emerges on the global stage. It has been seeking recognition from other powers in its own right, expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean region. This is fair, but India can't bully other small neighbouring countries. Neither could its so-called security concern sabotage Sri Lanka's revenue generating. 

Earlier, Sri Lanka suspended a Hybrid Energy system to be built in three northern islands of Sri Lanka by a Chinese high-tech renewable energy company, after India lodged a strong protest with Sri Lanka on the award of a tender to a Chinese company owing to security concerns. Similarly, India raised security concern about Chinese investments in sea cucumber farms in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka desperately needs foreign direct investments (FDI) to achieve economic growth, therefore Sri Lanka needs to encourage investment from diverse global players. 
In contrast to India, China's development and China-proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has benefited ASEAN countries and will continue to benefit its neighbouring countries. But as India's neighbour and a member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), we receive nothing but India's relentless interference in internal affairs.

China builds relationship with other countries based on mutual respect, whereas India differs. India's relations with its neighbours have been marked by a range of challenges and issues over the years. 

Through the BRI, Sri Lanka's aspiration to become a major logistics hub in the region took a giant leap forward. China Merchants Port Holdings Company is helping in the construction of the third container terminal namely Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) in the Colombo port. CICT is the first and only deepwater terminal in South Asia capable of handling the largest vessels afloat. 

Maya Majueran is the director of Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL), a Sri Lanka-based organization that specializes in BRI cooperation