Sri Lanka yet again falls for debt-trap diplomacy of China

Sri Lankan parliament on 20th May passed the controversial CPCEC Bill (Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill) that allows the control of 660 acres of land adjoining Colombo Port to China. This bill forces the transfer I which a way that it is not wrong to say that the respective land is now China's sovereign territory in Sri Lanka.

Debt-Trap Diplomacy

Sri Lanka Humbantota Port

The story of Hambantota is not very old where we saw how the previous government of Sri Lanka lost control over the port to China. Feasibility studies were always against such a huge infrastructure on Sri Lankan ground yet the then government was least bothered by the statistical data.

As expected, the port failed spectacularly. And the Chinese came to collect on their debt.

This was the shear case of debt-trap diplomacy of China under BRI about which India is warning for a very long time now. Showing the dreams of world-class infrastructure to economically weak countries and getting those projects constructed by Chinese companies providing business to their people. Obviously, the hidden strategy behind such a non-feasible project is only to get hold of land in those countries. Doesn't this sound more like the foreign company coming to a country in the name of the business and then taking control of the land?

Much like neo-liberal imperialism.

A New York Times report published in June 2018 after a months-long investigation alleged that the Chinese had paid the Rajapaksas substantial sums to see the project through. The NYT even listed specific details of how China Harbour, the company that had built the port, supposedly financed the brothers’ campaign during the country’s 2015 parliamentary election, from hard cash to saris for prospective supporters. The Rajapaksas lost those polls, but China’s plan would succeed anyway.

Reason for China to push Debt-Trap Diplomacy in Sri Lanka

It got nearly impossible for the new government to repay the loans of the previous government. Diverting 85% of their yearly revenue was still not enough to find the crisis. Hence, we all saw how in 2017 Sri Lanka handed Hambantota and 15,000 acres of nearly land to China on a 99-year lease. Port grab has been the plan of China to give a boost to the 'String of Pearls' strategy. Nevertheless, China had control of the port just a few hundred kilometres from India. Reports claim that China is docking its submarines at Hambantota port since then. Now, with this new China's sovereign city, it has reached the closest to Indian land they had been ever.

The reaction by Opposition in Sri Lankan Parliament

Sri Lankan Parliament

While passing this controversial CPCEC Bill, the government in Sri Lankan Parliament faced a lot of criticism from the opposition. Some of the statements used were very harsh on the government yet they managed to pass the bill due to the majority holders.

Sajith Premadasa said,

Country will become servile to foreigners.

India's stand on this issue

It is essential for India to recognize that being nice and hospitable to China does not work. Beijing almost certainly interpreted India’s past civility as simply a weakness of resolve. China is a civilizational state that operates with a strong sense of manifest destiny. That destiny, it believes, is tianxia, ‘all under heaven’ coexisting harmoniously. Harmony, however, means living by the rules that China and its ‘son of heaven’ emperor—a role that Xi Jinping has cast himself in—lay down. For three decades, China followed Deng Xiaoping’s ‘tao guang yang hui’ policy—conceal ambitions, hide your claws. Xi thinks that the time to maintain a low profile is passed, and China can pursue its hegemonic goals openly and unabashedly. In fact, the word ‘hegemony’ barely describes what China thinks is its rightful place in the world—or rather above it.

India can no longer play the role of the elder brother in the region. Beijing as their policy says leaves no opportunity to protect its national interest and to push for global hegemonic control. It is clear, how China has forced the countries out of their comfort zone to achieve China's interest in the region. Though India's idea of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' considers the whole world as a family. This family member no longer seems to be just a self-centred closed entity, what used to be once.