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Indian Foreign Minister visits Sri Lanka amid influence struggle with China


Indian Foreign Minister visits Sri Lanka amid influence struggle with China

Dinuka LiyanawatteReuters
Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte/REUTERS

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will today conclude a visit to Sri Lanka.

New Delhi’s relationship with Colombo is rooted in its “Neighborhood First” policy, which focuses on peaceful, collaborative relations with its South Asian neighbors. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given the relationship extra attention since assuming office in 2014, with regular state visits and a 2015 civil nuclear deal.

India’s strengthening of its bonds with Sri Lanka follows years of increasing Chinese economic presence on the island. China is Sri Lanka’s second-largest foreign lender for the last 15 years and has funded several large infrastructure projects, leading to accusations of debt-trap diplomacy.

Shringla’s visit reflects India’s efforts to curb China’s presence on the island. China’s economic initiatives jeopardize Modi’s Neighborhood First policy, and the nations increasingly compete for island influence—500,000 COVID-19 Indian vaccines sent in January 2021 were surpassed by 600,000 sent by Beijing in March. As the world’s largest vaccine producer, expect increased Indian vaccine shipments to Sri Lanka to weaken Chinese dependence. Yet, in the long-term vaccines will likely prove less important than FDI, in which China outspends India. Expect increased Indian FDI spending in Sri Lanka to continue strengthening its influence.

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