China and Sri Lanka: Between a Dream and a Nightmare ( Source- The Diplomat / Author- Jeff M. Smith)
|Image credits- VOA|
Source- The Diplomat
Author- Jeff M. Smith
The Sino-Sri Lankan relationship was fundamentally transformed by the 2005 election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Unlike many South Asian capitals India had shielded from Chinese influence, Colombo established cordial, if limited, diplomatic ties with Beijing by the late 20th century, even importing arms from China in the 1990s.
Rajapaksa entered office two decades into a brutal conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), a hyper-violent separatist movement claiming to defend the interests of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. Colombo and the LTTE reached a ceasefire in 2002 but the violence continued and Sri Lanka’s foreign minister was assassinated shortly before Rajapaksa’s inauguration. Within weeks of taking office the president privately appealed to Delhi for military aid to underpin a major offensive he was planning to crush the LTTE.
In 2006 Delhi quietly gifted Rajapaksa five Mi-17 helicopters and aided efforts to target LTTE personnel, supplies, and floating arsenals at sea. However, with a politically influential Tamil minority of its own, Delhi balked at requests for more robust military support. Nor could Rajapaksa turn to the United States. Concerned about human rights violations in the LTTE conflict, Washington had “drastically reduced its foreign assistance package for Sri Lanka.”
China gladly filled the void in the defense realm. In 2007, Rajapaksa secured a $37 million deal for Chinese ammunition and ordinance. In 2008, China “gifted” Colombo six F7 jet fighters, and provided anti-aircraft guns and JY-11 radar. The ceasefire with the Tigers collapsed that year and in 2009 Rajapaksa launched a scorched-earth offensive that eliminated the LTTE, though not before claiming up to 20,000 civilians in the process. ( To read the entire article, click here)