Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence, which has left the country unable to buy enough fuel, with people facing an acute scarcity of food and basic necessities. The anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka have rallied against a downward spiralling economy that has exhausted Sri Lankan foreign reserves. In the form of infrastructure loans, the Chinese economic footprint in the country has aided the lopsided economic reforms in draining the public finances. In addition to the economic downfall, the political instability in the country has not allowed the situation to improve either. Even as Ranil Wickremesinghe took oath as the new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka the people are still demanding the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Sri Lankans are not hopeful of Wickremesinghe to be able to reverse the economic mismanagement by successive governments over the last few years. Amid another humanitarian crisis in India’s neighbourhood, the country is trying to put in serious efforts to aid political stability and economic recovery. The fluid situation of Sri Lanka will be discussed along with responses by India and China as their assistance can lead to setting a precedent for the future role the two countries will play in South Asian geopolitics.
About the Speakers
Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Asia Program and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, is a leading specialist on Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan and their relations with the United States. The editor or co-editor of 11 books, he has written for The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and other publications, covering topics ranging from U.S. policy in Afghanistan to terrorism to water, energy, and food security in the region. He is also a columnist for Foreign Policy and writes its weekly South Asia Brief, a newsletter featuring news and analysis from across the region.
Chulanee Attanayake is a Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. Her research focus is on China and its policies in South Asia. She is one of the few Sri Lankans who focus on this research area. Attanayake’s book China in Sri Lanka, a comprehensive analysis of Sino-Sri Lankan bilateral relations was published in 2013.
Deep Pal is a visiting scholar in the Asia program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is also affiliated with the National Bureau of Asian Research as a non-resident fellow. His research and publications focus on the Indo-Pacific, Indian foreign policy in its immediate and greater neighborhood, and regional security of South Asia, with particular emphasis on China. His most recent project examines the nature and influence of Chinese involvement in South Asia.
About the Chair
Ashok K. Kantha has been the Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies since 2017. A career diplomat, Kantha was Ambassador of India to China until January 2016. Prior to this, he was Secretary (East) at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, with responsibility for about 65 countries in India’s extended neighbourhood. His previous assignments include High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, Consul General in Hong Kong, Deputy Chief of Mission in Kathmandu (Nepal), and Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Ministry of External Affairs. Earlier, Kantha served in different capacities at Indian Missions in Singapore, China and the USA, and at headquarters in New Delhi. In his diplomatic career spanning over 38 years, Kantha specialized in Asian affairs, with a particular focus on China.
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