China is not competing with India in Sri Lanka, analysts say in wake of island crisis
Beijing, Oct 30: While the Indian establishment watched alarmingly the sudden political transition that took place in Sri Lanka on October 26, when the president of the island-nation, Maithripala Sirisena, sacked his ally Ranil Wickremasinghe as the prime minister and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. In the presidential elections of 2015, Sirisena and Wickremasinghe came together to oust Rajapaksa, who is seen by many as pro-China.
On Monday, October 29, China said it was closely monitoring the affairs in Sri Lanka but remained at a distance saying it was it internal matter and hoped that the concerned political parties can settle the differences through dialogue.
China's Global Times, the news website under the auspices of the People's Daily, also came up with a piece that cited Chinese analysts' as saying that "China and India should focus on pragmatic cooperation in Sri Lanka for the shared interest of all three countries" and not engage in "strategic competition over influence" in Sri Lanka.
"With the ongoing political crisis in Sri Lanka continuing to unfold following President Maithripala Sirisena's dissolution of the cabinet on Saturday and the swearing in of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse as the new prime minister, who some consider "pro-China", some Indian and Western media reports have been driving a narrative that pitches India against China in a fight for influence in Sri Lanka," it said.
It also cited the analysts as saying that such "rhetoric" is more based on a "misunderstanding" of the relationship between China and Sri Lanka and is "counterproductive" to the situation prevailing in Sri Lanka and also the relationship between New Delhi and Beijing which they said have improved recently.
The Chinese analysts refuted the allegations brought by Wickremasinghe loyalists that China played a key role behind the political change in Sri Lanka. They also said the India and western media's accusations that Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka has led the country into deep debt and Beijing is gaining influence on its soil at India's expense was not true.
"It has become a pattern for some foreign media and officials to blame China whenever there is a political or economic crisis in a country that China has a relationship with or has cooperated with. It is both irresponsible and counterproductive," Global Times quoted Qian Feng, a research fellow at the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University, Beijing, as saying.
'China not trying to push India out of Sri Lanka'
Qian said contrary to what some media report is suggesting, China is not trying to push India out of Sri Lanka and rather, both countries have a lot of room for both the South Asian giants to cooperate in the island nation.
Liu Xiaoxue, another scholar from China, said the viewpoint that Rajapakse would move the country away from India towards China once he becomes prime minister is "preposterous", the piece reported.