Amid Reports on Chinese Expansion of Bases, Sri Lanka Unveils SOP: Need for a Reality Check?

Picture of a port in Sri Lanka by sunset
Issue & Policy Briefs September, 2023

India has realized it cannot possibly balance China’s growing influence on its own, nor can it afford to have the U.S. leave the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) given China’s significant presence in the island littorals. New Delhi requires the island nations much more than in the past to collectively balance Indian Ocean security. Sri Lanka is pivotal in this equation. Reports published by Aid Data and RAND have identified the Sri Lankan port Hambantota as a highly probable PLA military base. This issue brief attempts to analyze the US research reports and further draws attention to the geopolitical trends in the IOR, where India, China, and the U.S. are entangled in a great power competition. Against this backdrop, how will Sri Lanka maneuver its foreign policy? Will India further facilitate space for the U.S., just like in the past establishment of Diego Garcia? What will be the success of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) introduced by the Sri Lankan government due to security sensitivities concerning New Delhi?

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