Colombo : The Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba is on a visit to Sri Lanka. Admiral Lanba attended the ‘Galle Dialogue’, an annual conference organized between the Indian and Sri Lankan Navies. The Naval Chief is to meet and hold talks with the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe and senior officers from the Sri Lankan Defence Force during his visit. The former President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa was on a visit to China during the Indian Navy Chief’s Sri Lanka visit. Since the last few days, the opposition party leaders backing Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka are preparing to overthrow President Sirisena’s government by bringing about a military coup. The significance of the Indian Navy Chief’s visit to Sri Lanka and the former Sri Lankan President’s visit to China has increased remarkably on these grounds.
There was a major change in the Sri Lankan foreign policy after President Sirisena’s government came to power in the year 2015. The former Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa had maintained a China-centric stand. This had caused a huge threat to India’s vested interest. Meanwhile, the US and other western countries had turned against Sri Lanka. Even so, Rajapaksa’s government disregarded this and firmly supported China. Rajapaksa’s opponents have made accusations that his administration was absolute and was inclined towards dictatorship. This backfired on Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan voters brought Sirisena’s government to power. Subsequently, Rajapaksa was not willing to give up the governance easily. He had arranged to cancel the elections by taking aid from the military and police officers. But his attempts were in vain.
Rajapaksa’s defeat was dangerous for China. After a while, President Sirisena realigned the Sri Lankan foreign policies and reduced China’s influence over it. Keeping Sri Lanka’s welfare in mind, Sirisena annulled a few projects with China.
At the same time, by further strengthening its friendly ties with India, Sirisena tried to make the democracy in Sri Lanka sturdy. Signs are surfacing of Rajapaksa who became restless due to this, preparing for a military coup in Sri Lanka. For this purpose, Rajapaksa has deviced a plan to unite the opposition party leaders and to take aid from the military.
There is a strong suspicion that Rajapaksa’s strategy is being backed by China. It is extremely crucial to China for the governance to remain in Rajapaksa’s hands. This would enable China to construct a Naval base in Sri Lanka and challenge India in the Indian Ocean region. Meanwhile, due to the current President Sirisena’s policy of maintaining a permanent friendship with India, China fears its influence in this region will end. Hence, China may back Rajapaksa with its might. Currently, Rajapaksa is on a visit to China and the timing of his visit is attracting everyone’s attention.
However, a few days back, the members of the Sri Lankan ministry suggested that if there was an attempted coup to bring down the elected government, India would not remain silent. The Sri Lankan Minister for Social Empowerment and Welfare, Dissanayanke had said that India would support President Sirisena’s government as he has always maintained friendly ties with it. Against this backdrop, the Indian Navy Chief’s visit to Sri Lanka is gaining importance. The media is claiming that there are signs of clashes between China and India’s vested interests and could therefore lead to a coup in Sri Lanka in the near future.