Sri Lanka, the nation with a population of 21 million and an area of 65 thousand square kilometer has become a latest point of contest between giants running for the throne of Asia.
The modern history of Sri Lanka is marred by the more than 150 years of colonial exploitation which ended in 1972 when the country became republic. But then due to excesses against the minority Tamils by Sinhalese government, LTTE ( Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was born in 1976, which lead to insurgency leading to disruption of growth and prosperity of this island nation for the next three decades. In 2009 LTTE was defeated and people hoped for a better future, but how would they know that a bigger challenge was now knocking their door.
Sri Lanka is in the middle of the Indian ocean, having no land borders with any country, still its placement makes this small piece of land, a place of strategic importance for Asian affairs.
Ceylon proximity to the Indian mainland, makes it the pivot to China’s so called String of Pearls.
With control over Sri Lanka, India’s security architecture can be threatened, this China understood long back, which lead to a huge amount investment approx. $1.5 billion flown to a sleepy port of Hambantota on the eastern side of the Island. People who didn’t even have pakka houses, saw ships of concrete coming to the island, to make world class infrastructure and port, and with the blessing of the previous Sri Lankan government, China was able to make a world class ghost port. The intention was never to recover the investment but to grab the land and to set up a base in the Indian ocean and to challenge India in its own backyard, which they were able to achieve to a certain extent, when the land was given on lease to them for 99 years as poor nation of Sri Lanka can never pay back such a huge sum of money.
Motive was not only limited to check India in its own backyard, but to also secure the oil route which passes through the strategic strait of Malacca via Sri Lanka. China was almost successful in achieving both the goals, but autocratic China didn’t completely understand the complex process of democracy, which lead to a temporary halt in their plans. As the new government came into power, the geo-politics of the region also took a U-turn.
New government didn’t want to lose the protection of India and couldn’t risk to losing money of China, so they followed the Buddhist philosophy of Madhaya Marg and appeased both China and India, by continuing association with China and approving the Indian plan to operate a Brand New, State of the art GHOST Airport new the GHOST port of Hambantota.
How would naïve Sri Lankan know that the geo-political rivalry is not that simple and rivalry in Asia is not limited to two rivals. But soon they realized that third giant is also part of this trilogy. Japan
Although a peaceful nation after the world war which focused only on its rebuilding, but its proximity to China and tensions over Senkaku island lead to emergence of a impending contest between the two.
Following the philosophy of “Enemy of my enemy is my friend” Japan jumped into this geo political war alongside India. Japan with its money power started countering the Chinese offers with soft loan of rates as low as .1%. Be it Asia Africa growth corridor to counter China’s one belt one road or its offering its bullet train technology to the Indo0-china region. Japan is matching China’s offer with a better offer.
Same story is being repeated in this this ancient Buddhist land.
Now both India and Japan are in talks with the Sri Lankan authority to develop a container terminal in Colombo right next to the terminal built by China as part of one belt one road initiative.
Though these plans are made by the government to neutralize the dependency of the small island nation on China, but who knows what turn this rivalry will take in future and what all Sri Lanka would have already lost by that time.
Sri Lanka has become a classic case of what happens when you get entangled into big boys rivalry. Its only the common people of the nation who suffers the high cost of this geo-political contest for supremacy. Though huge investment are flowing into the country, but do they have the capacity to absorb the same and do they have the financial strength to pay them off on time? Because if not the small island nation has to keep its land on mortgage for a life time which is unfair to the future generation of the nation.
Though competition is a desirable thing, but rivalry is not. The world should understand this and try to resolve these financial rivalry at the earliest before it becomes catastrophic like leasing of port of Hambantota for 99 years.
Our world has enough problems like hunger, global warming, pollution, we should try and resolve them first and try not to increase it further. This is our duty as the citizen of the world and our obligation to the future generation.
Hopefully the sleeping conscience of the rival nations will awake and they would stop pursuing the superficial dream of supremacy and release the benefit of co-habiting before it’s too late, and hopefully good sense of morality will awake in the world and they would interfere before another Hambantota happens.