09 May 2023, New Delhi:
Bloomsbury India in collaboration with India International Centre hosted an insightful discussion around Teardrop Diplomacy: China’s Sri Lanka Foray. The panellists comprised of C Raja Mohan (Senior Fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute), Smruti S Pattanaik (Senior Fellow, Manohar Parikkar Institute for Defence Studies), Rajeswari Rajagopalan (Director, CSST, ORF) and the author Asanga Abeyagoonasekera (Senior Fellow, Millennium Project). The event was moderated by Amb. Ashok K. Kantha (Diplomat and former Ambassador of India to China)
Speaking at the event, Amb. Kantha emphasised that how this volume highlights the glaring acts of omissions and commissions that has landed Sri Lanka into dire straits despite its impressive human development endowments and achievements. This could perhaps be ascribed to the entrenched greed and corruption within Sri Lanka’s political ranks and the lack of accountability that has touched new heights post-civil war period.
Asanga Abeyagoonesekera presented his perspective on how the political actors constructed a false narrative of fear of losing sovereignty at the hands of Western power and allowed China to sideload its presence in lieu of political funding to gain electoral perpetuity. In this process, the state actors altered democratic model, brought unwarranted structural changes to the constitution, and committed rampant human rights abuses which has resulted in further deteriorating country’s functional stability.
Focussing on China’s evolving foreign policy, C Raja Mohan praised the book saying, “it gives us an interface of the extraordinary turbulence that are shaking South Asia today and what Asanga has tried to highlight about Sri Lanka, is pretty much the struggle story every South Asian nation is facing in the wake of China’s overbearing presence”.
Smruti S. Pattanaik explained the need of heavy investments that were required for infra and institutional growth in Sri Lanka especially post-civil war period and how China was more than willing to play the role of all-weather lender and thereby enabling Sri Lanka’s complete economic dependence on China.
Rajeswari Rajagopalan walked the audience through the case problem of how island nation’s overdependence on China’s economic doles has impacted the domestic political scene despite the rhetoric of balanced approach and nonaligned approach.
Published by Bloomsbury India, the book consists of a clutch of essays that trace Sri Lanka’s recent journey from the rise of the Rajapaksa regime in 2019 to the present crisis in 2022 and explain how the nation moved from a democratic country to a full-scale autocratic, militarized nation.