India’s ‘strategic calculations’ as Lankans suffer

With its “friend and neighbour”, as India’s ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last week referred to Sri Lanka, gasping for economic oxygen, a one billion dollar emergency aid lifeline sought from his country has been kept dangling as a carrot at the end of a list of conditions by the lender to the borrower.

The conditions are two-fold. One is economic, the other is geo-politics. The nomenclature for the first is a “road map”, while for the second it is “strategic calculations”, not originally coined but nevertheless articulated by the Indian Foreign Minister in a different context (on its position on the war in Ukraine), and which seems the underlying foreign policy of a modern, upwardly mobile India.

Requiring Sri Lanka to go before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure its chronic debt repayment issues is understandable. Even that has “strategic calculations” because India would want Sri Lanka to be weaned away from China’s tight grip on the Sri Lankan economy.

The other strategic calculation by the Indian Government is what is deeper, and therefore arguably more worrisome.

It is understood that India has a list of demands that range from security and defence arrangements to those that are euphemistically referred to as economic development projects. It is ‘understood’ because they are all not made public so far, and even those that are in the public domain don’t give out the details; the small print and the annexures, so to say. And almost all of them revolve around the North and East of Sri Lanka.

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