Skip to content

FPC Briefing: Exploiting an idyll – US, Indian and Japanese efforts to counterbalance China in Sri Lanka

Article by Sarosh Bana

May 17, 2019

FPC Briefing: Exploiting an idyll – US, Indian and Japanese efforts to counterbalance China in Sri Lanka

The grisly terror onslaught against Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday that took 253 lives could well have been avoided if a deeply divided government had not failed to act on intelligence provided by the United States (US) and India. [1]

Tragically for this idyllic island nation, the political rift has also made it vulnerable to external influences. The terror strikes were perpetrated against the backdrop of superpower rivalry where the Indo-Pacific powers of the US, India and Japan are striving to counterbalance the overarching dominance that China has gained over the island and the region. The three partner countries have been increasingly concerned by China’s enlarging presence in the maritime proximity to India and its new-found access to a crucial commercial and military waterway that has deepened its influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The series of eight coordinated suicide bomb blasts by radical Islamists tragically brought the spectre of strife and unrest back to Sri Lanka that was to have celebrated a decade of peace on 18 May. That day in 2009 had marked the end of the 26-year civil war by the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that is estimated to have taken a toll of over 100,000 civilians and 50,000 fighters. [2]

The Easter Sunday attacks could well have been the route to derail this path to peace and to bring ethnic strife back to centre-stage in this ‘Emerald Isle of Asia’, also known as the Land of Spices and Tea. Already, fearing further attacks, the government has declared a state of emergency that empowers the police and military to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders. Armed pickets have been deployed outside churches, mosques, hotels and other public spaces, suspects have been rounded up and radical literature and explosive material seized in a series of raids as Sri Lankans hunker down to a looming period of uncertainty.

US and Indian intelligence agencies had repeatedly warned Colombo about weapons, explosives and detonators being stockpiled, with moves afoot to target churches and even the Indian High Commission. Among the 39 foreign tourists from at least 12 countries who perished in the blasts in three churches and three luxury hotels were 11 Indians and four Americans, as also one Japanese and one Chinese. [3]

This grievous lapse in acting on credible intelligence inputs betrays the political divide in Sri Lanka. The 25,330 square mile teardrop-shaped country of 22 million was plunged into turmoil last October when President Maithripala Sirisena ousted his former political ally and sitting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe “because of his arrogance”, and replaced him with his rival-turned-friend and ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The consequent power struggle virtually shut the government down. Sirisena discounted two confidence votes Wickremesinghe won in Parliament, acquiescing only seven weeks later when the Supreme Court rebuked him and sought Wickremesinghe’s reinstatement.

However, in a message fraught with grim forebodings, Sirisena said there was no change in his “personal position” that he would not work with Wickremesinghe even if all 225 Parliament members backed him. Thus, a divided government overlooked the warnings on the Easter offensive, with both the President and Prime Minister astonishingly and separately informing their countrymen that they were not privy to the incoming intelligence. 

 The fallout between Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa has also reflected menacingly on national developments where the former has been disposed towards India, while Rajapaksa has toed the Chinese line.

Strategically-located Sri Lanka lies off the southeastern tip of India just across the 33-mile wide Palk Strait. Its vantage location accords it strategic access to the Indian Ocean, which is the third largest ocean on earth, after the Pacific and Atlantic, and which covers a fifth of the total ocean area of the planet, drawing its boundaries with Asia to its north, Africa to its west, Australia to its east and Southern Ocean (or Antarctic or Austral Ocean) to its south.

Together, the Indian and Pacific Oceans cover two-thirds of the earth’s total water surface, and an increasingly assertive China’s economic and military rise has been having a profound impact on the balance of power in this maritime region.

While the US has provided some $2 billion in total assistance to Sri Lanka in areas such as agriculture, energy and natural resources, education, healthcare and humanitarian activities, Chinese companies completed infrastructure projects there worth $15 billion by the end of 2017. [4, 5] As part of its Bay of Bengal Initiative, the US has also granted $39 million to Sri Lanka to support maritime security, freedom of navigation, and maritime domain awareness. [6]

In 2016, China overtook India as Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner, with its $4.43 billion worth of bilateral trade surpassing India-Sri Lanka’s $4.37 billion, according to one study. [7] Both India and China enjoy vast trade surpluses with Sri Lanka, but the US has a gross deficit. The study notes that the US is Sri Lanka’s foremost export destination, accounting for a quarter of all its exports in the 2012-16 period, and India, the third largest destination with a 5.6 percent share. China was, however, only the 10th largest destination, with a 1.8 percent share. Moreover, while China finances its projects in Sri Lanka largely through repayable loans, India’s financial aid to Sri Lanka is normally in a ratio of 70 percent loans to 30 percent outright grants. Japan too had a three-fourth trade surplus with Sri Lanka in their bilateral trade worth $1 billion in 2016.

Beijing’s strategic outreach into the IOR and its claims of sovereignty over almost the entire South China and East China seas have unsettled the Indo-Pacific littoral. This has not been lost on the US, which had historically been the security guarantor for this expanse and beyond. But while Washington is keen on retaining, and reclaiming, its presence across the critical sea lanes, it now finds worth in forging regional partnerships in this pursuit with other like-minded countries like India and Japan in an effort to cut down costs and delegate responsibility.

A critical question that arises is whether this policy shift in American strategy has actually been a policy drift and has fallen behind China’s sharply focused overseas infrastructure investment and lending program called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, previously, One Belt One Road, or OBOR) that was kick started in 2013. BRI, also known as the maritime silk route, is a $1 trillion sequence of infrastructure projects spanning 70 countries. [8]

Though Beijing insists the BRI is largely a commercial rather than a military initiative, naval basing appears very much part of an unspoken agenda. Releasing the National Security Strategy last December, US President Donald Trump described a new era of “great power competition” where “foreign nations” have begun to “reassert their influence regionally and globally” and contest “[America’s] geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor.” He, however, revealed the US’s new approach to China that is grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect for sovereignty.

China has lavished generous loans on many countries as part of the BRI enterprise, only to assume control over the infrastructure created by it by way of compensation in case of defaults on repayments. Speaking on his administration’s policy towards China at the Hudson Institute in October 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence blamed Beijing for using “debt diplomacy” to expand its influence, leaving opaque the terms of its loans so that benefits flow overwhelmingly to it. [9] “Just ask Sri Lanka, which took on massive debt to let Chinese state companies build a port with questionable commercial value,” he noted. “Two years ago, that country could no longer afford its payments – so Beijing pressured Sri Lanka to deliver the new port directly into Chinese hands. It may soon become a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water navy.”

When Sri Lanka defaulted on its $1.12 billion deal with China to develop its southern seaport of Hambantota, Beijing deemed it more opportune to take over the port it created rather than relax the repayment norms that Colombo pleaded for. [10] Consequently, in December 2017, Colombo handed over the port to Beijing on a 99-year lease. [11] Though China insists it has solely commercial interest in Hambantota, Sri Lankan authorities reportedly indicated that intelligence and strategic possibilities of the port’s location had been part of the negotiations. Indeed, within weeks of Sri Lanka’s announcement in June 2018 that it would be shifting its southern naval headquarters to Hambantota port, Beijing declared it would be donating a frigate to the Sri Lankan Navy. [12] The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is also creating facilities at the Sri Lanka Military Academy, the country’s premier army training establishment.

Speaking at the Pathfinder Panel Discussion in Colombo in February, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Vajda felt that transactions based on “naked commercial self-interest and hidden agendas that mortgage the future” undermine the long-term stability of the region. [13]

In Sri Lanka, China is expanding from Hambantota to the Colombo port as well. In the single largest ever Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka, China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), a subsidiary of state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), is creating the $1.4 billion Colombo International Financial City (CIFC) on 269 hectares or 660 acres of land reclaimed from the sea. [14]

This ‘city-within-the-city’ is expected to be a major financial hub rivalling Singapore and Dubai that will boost the economy and maritime trade of the island country. The project was launched in 2014 by Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa, its marine part, including construction of the breakwater, to be commissioned in June 2019. China is also investing $1 billion in constructing three 60-storey buildings at this site adjacent to the country’s main port of Colombo, the deepest container terminal in South Asia. [15]

India is particularly stressed by these developments in its vicinity, having had tumultuous encounters with China along its northern frontiers where both countries maintain high military vigil. When the current Wickremasinghe government came to power in January 2015, New Delhi managed to convince it to halt the project, but CCCC pressed for an agreement renewal and work resumed in August 2016, much to India’s chagrin.

Washington too is disquieted by these happenings, especially as the Hambantota issue came to a head in 2018 that happened to be the 70th anniversary year of US-Sri Lankan diplomatic relations. While unveiling additional financial help for the Indo-Pacific region late last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We’re convinced that American engagement in the Indo-Pacific benefits all the nations in that region. [16] We want it to be free, we want it to be open. We’re not looking for dominance. We’re looking for partnerships.”

Testifying at the February hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), maintained that the transfer last year of an excess US Coast Guard cutter, along with additional platforms from Japan and India, have augmented the maritime domain awareness of the Sri Lankan Navy, which is a well-trained and professional force with the potential to contribute to multilateral maritime interoperability in the Indian Ocean. [17]

Terming Sri Lanka “a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean”, Davidson said that increasing the bilateral navy-to-navy engagement will be a USINDOPACOM focus in 2019. Indicating that the US’s other regional partners like India, Japan, France, Australia and New Zealand share a common aspiration for a free and open Indo-Pacific, he noted, “USINDOPACOM depends upon the collective capabilities of our allies and partners to address the challenges to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

Home to half of the 20 fastest growing economies that account for over a third of global GDP, the Indo-Pacific will have unrivaled purchasing power when 65 percent of the world’s middle class will be inhabiting the region by 2030. [18] In 2017 and 2018 alone, American businesses invested $61 billion in more than 1,500 projects across the region, according to US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink. [19] “US total investment in the Indo-Pacific is now more than $1.4 trillion, which is more than that from China, Japan and South Korea combined,” he added. 

However, China’s grand strategy for the Indo-Pacific envisages its foray into the IOR through its ‘string of pearls’ blueprint. Alongside Hambantota and Colombo, the blueprint delineates a chain of ports through Sonadia, in Bangladesh, Kyaukpyu, in Myanmar, and Laamu Atoll, in the Maldives. The Sonadia deal was to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s China visit in 2014, but was aborted on speculation that the initiative was blocked by India. However, it could be revived, with Hasina lauding China for being “a key-development partner” with Bangladesh’s 2017 purchase of two Chinese-made Type 035G Ming Class submarines worth $204 million that upgraded its navy into a “three-dimensional force.” [20]

To heighten its presence in the Bay of Bengal on India’s eastern seaboard, China concluded a $1.3 billion (initial phase) deal with Myanmar last November to develop a deep-sea port in Kyaukpyu in the western state of Rakhine. [21] Part of a special economic zone (SEZ), the port will lie across the Bay where India is developing a nuclear submarine base codenamed Project Varsha near the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam. The project was initially worth $7 billion, but was reduced appreciably following Myanmar’s fears of a debt-trap. [22]

As with Sri Lanka, where China friend Rajapaksa signed the Hambantota and other deals with Beijing before being succeeded by India friend Wickremesinghe, the Maldives was drawn to China under former President Abdulla Yameen, while Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who succeeded him in November 2018, is inclined towards India. The Yameen government had in March 2018 admitted that China had expressed interest in building a port in Laamu Atoll to the south. It had also borrowed heavily from China to build bridges and housing as part of Beijing’s BRI initiative and reportedly even handed over some islands to China. [23]

A month after Solih assumed power, India, evidently anxious to forestall any Chinese naval bases on this Indian Ocean island territory 623 km or 388 miles off its southernmost tip of Kanyakumari, offered $1.4 billion aid to the Maldives to help it pay off its debt to China on condition that it distances itself from Beijing. [24] As part of its policy of ‘Neighborhood First’ to support the island country’s socio-economic development, New Delhi also sought stronger security ties with Male that would involve permanent deployment of Indian military personnel.

China, however, is hemming India in with another of its overseas ports, this time in Pakistan, India’s longstanding foe across the border with which it has gone to war four times, in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. The Gwadar port it is building in Pakistan’s largest province of Baluchistan will link to Kashgar in China’s far western region of Xinjiang via the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that both the partners hail as the “great monument of Pakistan-China friendship” and which is now a flagship component of the BRI. [25] Gwadar will gain China a maritime gateway to the Arabian Sea on India’s west and on to the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and the gulfs of Oman and Aden.

India opposes the CPEC, as the project runs through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that are disputed by India. The CPEC incidentally obliges Pakistan to pay $40 billion to China over 20 years by way of debt repayments and dividends. [26] India has also snubbed China twice on the BRI issue, when it boycotted the BRI Forum meetings held in Beijing in 2017 and last April.  

Ironically, while China helps the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – which, with a population of over 200 million Muslims, designates Islam as its state religion and is also referred to as the ‘global center of political Islam’ – in Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned a million native Muslim Uyghurs in government camps. [27] Survivors recount being indoctrinated in these camps in an authoritarian effort to subjugate Uyghur culture and quash the Muslim faith in China.

China may prospectively use Gwadar, and Hambantota, as PLA Navy bases, in order to bolster its maritime profile in the Indo-Pacific. In August 2017, Pakistan announced the purchase from China of four modified Type 041 Yuan Class SSKs and technology transfer for the assembly of four more in the port city of Karachi, in a deal estimated at $5 billion. [28] The first four submarines were to be delivered by 2023, and the succeeding four, by 2028, this fleet designated to form the core of Pakistan’s offshore nuclear second-strike triad.

With regard to the Colombo port, New Delhi is anxious about Beijing’s influence over it. The port is considered vital for India, which lacks a transshipment port. Colombo fulfils that requirement, handling a staggering 48 percent of India’s international cargo. [29] The two other regional transshipment hubs for India fall far behind Colombo, with Singapore accounting for 22 percent and Malaysia’s Port Klang, 10 percent of India’s international cargo. [30, 31]

The US has hitherto sought to safeguard the Colombo port. Its Customs and Border Protection Agency, through its Container Security Initiative, has worked alongside the Sri Lankan Customs Central Intelligence Unit since 2005 to jointly target high-risk shipments destined for the US. The port also participates in the Department of Energy’s second line of defense Megaport Initiative that helps Sri Lanka detect radiological materials so as to prevent the spread of radiological weapons.

Sri Lanka has tried to compensate India for the Colombo and Hambantota ports coming under Chinese control by offering a controlling stake to the Airports Authority of India in Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), located 15 km from Hambantota. Opened in 2013, at a cost of $210 million and funded through high interest Chinese commercial loans, MRIA is Sri Lanka’s second international airport after Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). [32] It is, however, running into losses owing to low demand for which it has been dubbed ‘the world’s emptiest airport’ and it is perhaps because of this that there has been no progress on the proposal with India. [33]

The Indian government has, however, extended financial assistance of over $45 million for upgrading Kankesanthurai harbour in the Jaffna district to a full-fledged commercial port towards Sri Lanka’s efforts to become a regional maritime hub. [34] The harbour and its berthing piers had been wrecked by the tsunami in 2004 and cyclone Nisha in 2008.

Also, in a stunning move that challenges China and smothers its hitherto single largest FDI into Sri Lanka (of the $1.4 billion Colombo financial city), India’s Accord Group recently signed a $3.8 billion deal with the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Oil and Gas to build an oil refinery in Sri Lanka. [35] Ironically, the 585-acre facility will come up close to the Hambantota port from where it will be exporting the 9 million tonnes of refined products it will be producing annually upon its commissioning in 44 months. While the Chennai-based Accord Group will control 70 percent of the joint venture, the Omani ministry will hold the rest. However, Oman’s oil ministry subsequently denied its participation, leading Sri Lankan Board of Investment Director General Champika Malalgoda to reportedly affirm that the deal was “still going ahead”. [36]

Reacting to the media’s question on the proposed refinery, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang maintained that Beijing had an “open attitude” regarding India’s investments in the island nation. [37] “While we make our contribution to the development of Sri Lanka, China is not as narrow minded as you thought,” he added.

Colombo and New Delhi have also agreed to a 50-year lease agreement to jointly operate a strategic World War II-era oil facility in the Trincomalee harbour. It has been widely reported – but debunked officially – that the US, Japan and India are seeking to jointly develop Trincomalee port – which had been an Indian Ocean base for the Allied Forces – as a logistics hub for South Asia so as to counterbalance China’s presence in Hambantota and Colombo. [38] All three countries have sent ships to the Trincomalee harbor, in north-eastern Sri Lanka, on goodwill visits and India has stationed a naval officer there.

It will actually be a collaborative effort between Japan, India and Sri Lanka to expand this strategically-located port, at a cost between $90 million and $117 million. [39] Trincomalee is one of the three regional ports – the others being Dawei in Myanmar and Matarbari in Bangladesh – that Japan plans to develop, through yen loans, as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’.

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer was in the Trincomalee harbor when Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera was visiting it, in what was the first such visit to Sri Lanka by a Japanese defense minister, and this was soon followed by USS Anchorage and embarked MEU. Sri Lanka’s navy also participated last August for the first time in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s largest US Pacific Fleet-led international maritime warfare exercise, while Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), which too is conducted by the US Pacific Fleet, was held at Trincomalee also for the first time in October 2017. [40, 41]

It has been reported that 450 naval vessels from 28 countries have called on Sri Lanka between 2008 and 2017, with Indian warships topping the list with 90 visits, followed by 65 from Japan and 30 from China. [42]

The US Navy has conducted three iterations aimed at promoting Sri Lanka as a regional hub for logistics and commerce. [43] Following two such initiatives at Colombo’s Bandaranaike airport and at Trincomalee last August, and at the airport last December, the US Navy performed the third such iteration for over a week last December at the Bandaranaike airport. Washington paid about $140,000 for the last cargo transfer. [44]

The iterations involve several US naval aircraft bringing in a variety of non-lethal supplies to the commercial airport. January saw the supplies being transferred between planes and then flown to the nuclear-powered supercarrier, USS John C. Stennis, at sea. These operations ensure that no cargo, military equipment or personnel remain in Sri Lanka after the completion of the cargo transfers.

A subsequent statement by the 7th Fleet maintained: “Taking advantage of a growing naval partnership with Sri Lanka, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis established a logistics hub in Sri Lanka to receive support, supplies and services at sea. [45] A C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery aircraft accessed the hub’s strategic location before bringing supplies to John C. Stennis. Established on a temporary basis in the island nation, the hub provides logistics support to US Navy ships operating in the Indian Ocean.”

Lt. Bryan Ortiz, John C. Stennis’ stock control division officer, pointed out that the primary purpose of the operation was to provide mission-critical supplies and services to US Navy ships transiting through and operating in the Indian Ocean. “The secondary purpose is to demonstrate the US Navy’s ability to establish a temporary logistics hub ashore where no enduring US Navy logistics footprint exists,” he added.

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Davidson mentioned that USINDOPACOM would “regain the advantage” by positioning theater infrastructure that supported expeditionary capability that was agile and resilient and would serve as dynamic basing for the US maritime and air forces. [46]

Questions have been raised in Sri Lanka’s Parliament on the security impact of the use of the country’s commercial ports to conduct cargo transfers by the US military. An MP asked whether Colombo was contemplating signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Washington. [47] There were also references to the US’s $480 million grant assistance to Sri Lanka from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for infrastructure development projects. [48] Both the US Embassy in Colombo and the Sri Lankan government have, however, specified that the two countries had not indicated any “interest, wish or desire to establish a base in Trincomalee, the Eastern Province, or any other part of Sri Lanka”. [49]

The developments in Sri Lanka and the littoral underscore the economic, political and strategic significance of the IOR that is traversed by major maritime trade routes that stretch from the Strait of Hormuz to the west to the Strait of Malacca in the east and freight a third of the world’s maritime cargo, two thirds of global oil and half the world’s container traffic. [50]

Over half the world’s oil and gas deposits are said to be located in this maritime expanse, which also accounts for all of India’s sea-borne trade, 80 percent of Japan’s oil supplies and 60 percent of China’s. [51] A US Naval War College-sponsored study cited IOR replacing the North Atlantic as the central artery of world commerce. [52] The region is also replete with nuclear-powered states, failed states, as well as those wracked by poverty, piracy, terrorism and fundamentalism.

Sri Lanka’s worth in this region is exemplified by Bethesda-based Small Wars Journal that cites its location as the most central maritime route between the Persian Gulf and Indonesia. [53] The country is additionally ideally positioned to access troubled spots throughout the IOR, as it can readily support operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan or South East Asia; evidenced by the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in South Asia choosing Sri Lanka to locate his headquarters during World War II. The island nation, now weakened by terrorism and the unfortunate political divide, continues to sustain global interest, a victim of its own strategic allure.

Sarosh Bana is the Executive Editor of India’s oldest and most widely read national fortnightly on business, Business India, published out of Mumbai. He writes extensively on defense and security, policy, strategy, politics, foreign affairs, cyber security, space, energy, environment, food and agriculture, shipping and ports, and urban and rural development. He is also a frequent speaker on defense and security, foreign affairs and strategy, and his writings have been published in some of the leading publications, journals and think tanks across the world.

Photo by Dan Lundberg, published under Creative Commons with no changes made.

[1] BBC Asia, ‘Sri Lanka attacks: Death toll revised down by “about 100”’, BBC, April 2019,

[2] Sri Lankan Civil War, ‘Casualties of the Sri Lankan civil war’, Wikipedia,

[3] a. Press Trust of India, ‘Sri Lanka terror attacks: 11 Indians dead, Colombo confirms; number of deceased foreigners rises to 36’, Firstpost, April 2019,; b. Lee Brown, ‘Four Americans confirmed dead in Sri Lanka terrorist attack’, New York Post, April 2019,; c. AP News, ‘The Latest: Japan confirms 1 fatality in Sri Lankan blasts, AP News, April 2019

[4] Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, ‘U.S. Relations With Sri Lanka’, U.S. Department of State, January 2017,

[5] Shakthi De Silva, ‘Sri Lanka: Caught in an Indo-China “Great Game”?’, The Diplomat, February 2019,

[6] Heather Nauert, ‘Indo-Pacific Funding Announcement’, U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, August 2018,

[7] P.K. Balachandran, ‘China Overtakes India as Sri Lanka’s Largest Trading Partner’, The Citizen, December 2017,

[8] Public Policy, ‘China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Why the Price is Too High’, Knowledge at Wharton, April 2019,

[9] Vice President Mike Pence, ‘Vice President Mike Pence’s Remarks on the Administration’s Policy Towards China’, Hudson Institute, October 2018,

[10, 11] PTI, ‘China holds back Hambantota Port deal’s final tranche of $586 million to Sri Lanka’, The Economic Times, June 2018,

[12] Reuters, ‘Sri Lanka shift naval base to China-controlled port city’, Channel News Asia, July 2018,

[13] Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary State Thomas J. Vajda, ‘Opening Statement of Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas J. Vajda at Pathfinder Panel Discussion’, U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, February 2019,

[14] P.K. Balachandran, ‘Call to probe Lanka’s trade with Singapore and UAE for black money transactions’, FT, December 2017,

[15] Daily News Sri Lanka, ‘China to invest & 1 billion in three 60-storey Port city buildings’, Daily News Sri Lanka, January 2018,

[16] PTI, ‘US looking for partnership not dominance in Indo-Pacific: Pompeo’, The Week, July 2018,

[17] Admiral Philip S. Davidson, ‘Statement of Admiral Philip S. Davidson, U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Before The Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Posture 12 February 2019’, Senate Armed Services Committee, February 2019,

[18] Homi Kharas, ‘The Unprecedented Expansion of the Global Middle Class’, Global Econoy & Development Working Paper 100, February 2017,

[19] Speakers at the Indo-Pacific Dialogue, ‘US ambassador wants “free and open” Asia’, Viet Nam News, December 2018,

[20] PTI, ‘Bangladeshi PM defends decision to buy two Chinese submarines’, The Tribune, July 2017

[21] MAREX, ‘China and Myanmar Agree to $1.3 Billion Port Project’, The Maritime Executive, November 2018,

[22] Sutirtho Patranobis, ‘Too close for comfort: China to build port in Myanmar, 3rd in India’s vicinity’, Hindustan Times, November 2018,

[23] Yuji Kuronuma, ‘India offers Maldives $1bn in loans to help repay China debt’, Nikkei Asian Review, November 2018,

[24] HT Correspondent, ‘Burdened by Chinese debt, Maldives gets $1.4bn aid from India’, Hindustan Times, December 2018,

[25] Rajat Pandit, ‘India expresses strong opposition to China Pakistan Economic Corridor, says challenges Indian sovereignty’, The Economic Times, July 2018,

[26] Imtiaz Ahmad, ‘Pakistan to repay China $40 billion for CPEC projects: Report’, Hindustan Times, December 2018,

[27] Khaled A. Beydoun, ‘China holds one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps’, Al Jazeera, September 2018,

[28] Military, ‘Hangor New Submarines – Type 041 Yuan-class’, Global Security, October 2016,

[29, 30, 31] M.K. Venu and Noor Mohammad, ‘Modi Wants India to be a Transshipment Hub. But can it Beat Sri Lanka and Singapore?’, The Wire International, June 2018,

[32, 33] Press Trust of India, ‘Sri Lanka reworking MoU to hand over world’s emptiest airport to India’, Business Standard, August 2018,

[34] Business, ‘SL, India sign deal for $ 45 m financial assistance to develop Kankesanthurai Harbour’, FT Sri Lanka, January 2018,–India-sign-deal-for—45-m-financial-assistance-to-develop-Kankesanthurai-Harbour/34-647113

[35, 36] Nidhi Verma, ‘Oman denies it has agreed to invest in Sri Lanka oil refinery project’, Reuters, March 2019,

[37] PTI, ‘China “not narrow minded” to oppose Indian investments in Lanka: Official’, The Economic Times, March 2019,

[38] a. Nitin A. Gokhale, ‘With India’s Quiet Support, U.S., Japan Eye Trincomalee Foothold’, Strategic News International, January 2019,; b. P.K. Balachandran, ‘US And Japan Look at Sri Lankan Port to Checkmate China’, The Citizen, August 2018,–Sri-Lankan-Port-To-Checkmate-China

[39] Neville Ladduwahetty, ‘Power rivalry in the Indian Ocean’, The Island, June 2018,

[40, 41] ColomboPage News Desk, ‘USS Anchorage and 13th MEU Arrive in Sri Lanka’, ColomboPage, August 2018,

[42] Marwaan Macan-Markar, ‘China and US play the Great Game in South Asia’, Nikkei Asian Review, December 2018,

[43, 44] Editor, ‘US Navy has bases in Lanka for non-lethal supplies and cargo transfers’, NewsIn Asia, January 2019,

[45] Grant G. Grady, ‘USS John c. Stennis Leverages Logistics Hub in Sri Lanka’, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, December 2018,

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ramesh Irugalbandara, ‘Details on secretive US-SL military agreement revealed’, News First, February 2019,

[48] ColomboPage News Desk, Millennium Challenge Corporation approves $ 480 million grant to Sri Lanka to expand economic opportunities and reduce poverty’, ColomboPage, April 2019,

[49] FT Sri Lanka, ‘Government rejects reports of moves to set up US military base in Sri Lanka’, FT Sri Lanka, January 2019,–military-base-in-Sri-Lanka/44-671699

[50] PTI, ‘Countries in Indian Ocean responsible for its stability: Sushma Swaraj’, The Economic Times, July 2018,

[51, 53] David A. Anderson and Anton Wijeyesekera, ‘U.S. Naval Basing in Sri Lanka?’, Small Wars Journal, May 2011,[52] Keith Jones, ‘US moves to harness India to anti-China “pivot”’, World Socialist Web Site, March 2016,

    Related Articles

     Join our mailing list 

    Keep informed about events, articles & latest publications from Foreign Policy Centre