Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to hold a virtual summit with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa today.
This will be Rajapaksa’s first bilateral meeting with a foreign leader following his appointment as prime minister last month. The two men are expected to review bilateral cooperation on anti-terror efforts and to strengthen defence and trade relations. The summit could lead to new opportunities for Indian investments in Sri Lanka.
Mahinda and his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have pivoted the island-nation towards Chinese investment after ousting China-sceptic former president Maithripala Sirisena. Sri Lanka, a strategic location in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, secured billions of dollars in developmental loans for major infrastructure projects during the brothers’ previous stint in government. The ensuing colossal debt from that period may make the country susceptible to China’s ‘String of Pearls’ maritime strategy in South Asia, which seeks to secure Chinese shipping through the Indian Ocean. Beijing’s growing military presence is likely to fuel concerns in New Delhi—given its struggle with China along the contested northern land border, Chinese dominance in the maritime south looks particularly threatening.
Expect India to aggressively court Sri Lanka by playing catch up with its own form of financial and trade support such as development programmes and grants.
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