Lanka forced to walk tight rope
Chinese research vessel saga
By Rathindra Kuruwita
There would be constant pressure on Sri Lanka to distance itself from China in the future, Ramindu Perera, lecturer at the Open University Law faculty said, commenting on the controversy surrounding the Chinese research vessel, Yuan Wang 5.Sri Lanka, thus, must figure out how to benefit from the emerging multi-polar world, while not antagonizing its powerful neighbour, Perera said.
Sri Lanka should also recognise that India and China reacted differently to perceived changes in the country’s political landscape, Perera added.
“China and India deal with things differently. The official policy of China is not to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. It will more or less work with any government that comes into power. But India is different, it takes a much more political
stance. Let’s look at the controversy over the proposed arrival of the Chinese scientific research vessel Yuan Wang 5. Foreign ships, even naval vessels, arrive in Sri Lanka each year but India is making an issue over Yuan Wang 5. They feel it’s a challenge and this kind of thing will keep on happening. In the future things will be more complex,” he said.Perera said that there is no solution in international law to address the problems faced by Sri Lanka due to the emerging cold war between China and the US. All countries are members of the United Nations and had agreed to respect the sovereignty of other nations and not to intervene in the domestic affairs of others, he said.
“However, this is not what happens. This is a political problem, and the solution is political, too,” he said.
China has risen rapidly in the last four decades and is a serious challenge to the world order, dominated by the United States. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States had about two decades to do whatever it wanted in the world. However, with the rise of China and the reemergence of Russia, the world order is in a flux, he said.
“The unipolar moment is over, and the West is trying to undermine China and to slow down its economic rise. They also want to isolate China and thus a lot of pressure is applied on countries like Sri Lanka. For example, when former US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited Sri Lanka, a few years ago, he openly said Sri Lanka has to take a side. US has initiated a number of groupings to contain China, and India is a member of one of the groups, the QUAD,” Perera said.
The West has also launched a concerted anti-China propaganda campaign and the best option before us is to adhere to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s stance when she successfully declared the Indian Ocean a zone of peace in the 1970s, he said.
“This is not an easy road to take because unlike in the 70s, India is now with the West. But as a small nation, we need to figure out what our strategy is. We need to find a way to benefit from the emerging multipolar world while not making India angry. The conflict between China and the west already affects us. We see this with our debt restructuring process. The controversy over Yuan Wang 5 is not only about a ship, it’s about the way the world will be run,” he said.