Sri Lanka – Trade in the Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka, a country and island conveniently located on the Indian Ocean, has always been an economic hotspot for many surrounding countries. Despite the ties that India and Sri Lanka have, an Indian official claimed that there has been a higher prevalence of other neighboring countries in Sri Lankan territory. One of these countries is China who previously assisted Sri Lanka in ending their civil war in 2009. Within the year, the Chinese government has proposed a new plan called the “maritime Silk Road plan” or, as other officials would call it, a “port-led development” or “Sagar Mala.” The goals of this plan are to build a stronger connection with Sri Lanka while enforcing the building of new ports and improving infrastructure of older ones. With this idea, China hopes to “coordinate customs, quality supervision, e-commerce and other agencies to facilitate the scheme,” Xinhua news agency said. Despite what may seem like a genuine effort, professional analysts are concerned that this Chinese initiative might have an alternate goal of spreading their military bases within countries in the Indian Ocean Region.

Other officials are also skeptical of this plan, including one saying that the “priority” of this Silk Road Plan is to rebuild ports and free trade zones. Regardless of the ambiguity, it seems as if the Sri Lankan government isn’t necessarily concerned with Chinese military bases in their country but they are more so worried that these bases are primary targets of attacks from opposing countries.
India is now placed in a situation where they need to gain political and economic power dealing with their ties with the Indian Ocean Region and specifically, Sri Lanka. Xi Jinping, China’s president has made it priority to expand and improve Silk Roads. If India doesn’t take a stand against other authoritative governments, they might lose the benefits of their strategic location and the ties they have with their closest country, Sri Lanka.

-Stefanie Froelich



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