Sri Lanka Is In Crisis – Protests, Repression And Geopolitical Tensions

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera Colombo : , The US President Joe Biden met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier in the week to make sure that Washington and Beijing do not get into conflict.Tensions have escalated in recent years over Taiwan, bilateral trade and Indo-Pacific security.

 Sri Lanka Is In Crisis – Protests, Repression And Geopolitical

This meeting took place against the background of senior security officials’ warnings about Chinas militarization and hypersonic missile capabilities.

Amy Mackinnon said that the virtual meeting did not produce any major breakthroughs.However, it helped lower the temperature.As Geopolitical tensions increase, China is already working diligently to secure its national interests.

Sri Lanka, which is clearly under the Chinese control due to its militaristic regime, economic crisis, and increasing military might, is an example of this.

Sri Lanka, an island nation closer to India, is a good example of how China uses large-scale infrastructure projects, vaccination diplomacy and Chinese loans.

Beijing was helped by Gotabaya Rajapaksa (a former military officer), who has a strong military orientation.

China built the Hambantota Port City and Colombo Port City, two crucial infrastructure facilities that face the Indian Ocean.

China is able to secure a long-term foothold through lease agreements that were not strictly defined.These facilities can be transformed into military outposts.

China shows that it does not intend to become a military power by suggesting that other countries might invest in its infrastructure.But where is the third country? This is a tactic to conceal military intentions from public view.

The Pentagon has released a new report that highlights China’s intention to build a stronger overseas logistics system and infrastructure in order to enable the People’s Liberation Army to sustain and project military power over greater distances.China seeks additional military facilities beyond its Djibouti base.

These will be used to enhance naval, air and ground power projection.China is likely to have considered Sri Lanka as a location for PLA facilities.

Sri Lanka is heavily dependent upon China because it has borrowed multiple times from China.The influence China has on domestic politics only makes this situation worse.

The recent rejection by Sri Lankan authorities of a shipment of fertiliser from China shows the pressure being placed on the regime.

Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted that it had blacklisted Sri Lanka’s People’s Bank, explaining how this aggressive move was made.

The mission tweeted: “Seawin, a Chinese company, won an open bid and signed contracts.It also passed the tests in China.

NPQ SL called it toxic/harmful, and disagreed with the mission halfway.Ship refused.Refusal to perform third-party testing.Refusal to pay L/C.PBS blacklisted.”

This was an obvious warning that China is putting pressure on Sri Lanka.

Ajantha de Silva, Director-General, Sri Lankan Department of Agriculture said that tests of the samples revealed that the Chinese fertiliser wasn’t sterile.”We have found bacteria that is harmful for plants such as carrots or potatoes.”

This rejection was a major setback for Qingdao Seawin, a Chinese fertilizer company.They defended their position by saying that “Unscientific detection methods and conclusions of National Plant Quarantine Service in Sri Lanka clearly do not conform with international animal or plant quarantine convention”.

The false accusation of Chinese companies is meant to tarnish the Chinese government and Chinese businesses.

Although the Sri Lankan authorities are not changing their position, they would like to have the sample retested by a third party.

This request to retest was rejected by the authorities.It is now unclear why the Chinese vessel ‘Hippo-Sprit’ remains in Sri Lankan waters.

The ship, which was rejected by the Sri Lankan authorities a month prior to its arrival in Sri Lankan waters, was seen nearer the Sri Lankan coasts in November.China has been pressuring Sri Lankan authorities to agree to a third party test in order to protect their reputation as Qingdao Seawind, a global business.

As a first indicator of pressure, the blacklisting was placed on the bank.Nalinda Jayatissa, a JVP member and a former Prime Minister of Sri Lankan was able to explain why the ship remained in Sri Lankan waters.

This is due to substantial corruption between the Prime minister’s office & the Chinese agents.

It was a wake-up call for the government to rebalance its position and reduce China’s dependence and tilt.

New Delhi intervened to help Sri Lanka promote organic fertiliser amid the conflict between Beijing and Colombo.Two Indian IAF Globemaster planes carrying 100,000 kilograms of nano nitrogen arrived in Colombo.

India can rebound and decrease the Chinese presence in Sri Lanka now.The Sri Lankan government may also be able to rebalance its China-bandwagoning foreign policies.

China displayed their aggression over the fertiliser incident in Sri Lanka, which is currently facing severe economic crises.Rajeswari Rajagopalan says that the same aggression is evident in India’s immediate peripheral.

China has begun building Arunachal Pradesh villages, which they may be populating with military/civil populations.India cannot access at least 9 patrol points south of Demchok and in Ladakh.This is a serious concern for India’s security.China’s expansion and pressure in Sri Lanka is another factor.

Rajagopalan clearly states that “India has behaved defensively in diplomatic and military areas, while China has taken an aggressive tone and adopted similar military behavior”.

If India continues to escalate its aggression in the periphery, this could alter India’s position.

Sri Lankan protests economic dysfunctionality
The Sri Lankan government will face formidable challenges if it tries to address the unsurmountable foreign pressures and domestic frustrations over the economic crisis.Basil Rajapaksa, the Finance Minister presented a budget that did not address the current foreign exchange crisis in Sri Lanka or the food shortage resulting from the ban on agrochemical fertiliser.

Many protestors gathered at a rally held in Colombo against the repressive Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime.

Multiple shocks were triggered by the economic crisis.

The shortage of basic necessities and rising living costs was the major factor driving the public agitation.Despite multiple Police attempts to stop the rally from taking place, the police failed to get permission from the Health Authorities.

To expand its dictatorial rule and suppress democratic norms in the country, the regime used the pandemic restrictions to their advantage.This protest shows the anger displayed by the people who are willing to risk their lives in order to preserve the democracy of the country.

The main opposition party, SJB, organized the rally in Colombo despite numerous attempts from the government to stop the march.Due to the increasing economic crisis in Sri Lanka and the abuse of human rights, the militarised regime will be facing severe opposition in the months ahead.

Majoritarian politics shows clear signs of a shift away from Rajapaksa’s regime.While the arbitrary detentions of many using the PTA, and the handing over of the critical ‘one nation one law’ taskforce to an ultranationalist Buddhist monk were disappointing for the minority community overall, the policies of the regime all point towards chaos and an increasing crisis.

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, a Geopolitical analyst, strategic advisor on security and author from Sri Lanka is Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

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