No need for Sri Lanka to take sides if US doesn’t force it to

By Li Qingqing (Global Times, 28 October 2020) – The Diplomat on Tuesday published an article titled “Sri Lanka will soon have to pick a side in the China-US rivalry.” The article mentioned the mounting US pressure on Sri Lanka in terms of human rights and investment. “Sri Lanka is a weak country without any assurance of protection from major powers; it has no defense treaty with any country,” the article said.

But there is no need for Sri Lanka to take sides as long as the US does not force it to. US pressure has not yet produced any substantial changes to Sri Lanka’s diplomacy. Against the backdrop of China-US competition, Sri Lanka still maintains a relatively neutral position.

It is unlikely for the US’ geopolitical plot to have any positive response in Sri Lanka. “Pompeo will not have his way in Sri Lanka,” NewsIn.Asia, a popular web portal in Sri Lanka, said in an article on Sunday ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the country.

“It is not for outsiders to tell Sri Lankans how to run their country,” the article quoted a top Sri Lankan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

If the US does not directly force Sri Lanka to take sides, why should it do so? Will joining the US’ geopolitical camp benefit the country’s security and national strategy?

In recent years, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has been well implemented in Sri Lanka, greatly improving the country’s infrastructure and people’s living standards, and bringing tangible benefits to the country.

And what did the US do? “By launching the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the US only wants benefit without investing. Everyone knows the US won’t provide substantial benefits to help Indo-Pacific countries,” Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

Washington has nothing but hollow promises and slogans. It does not have practical investment advice. No country will abandon its existing national interests to serve as the US’ geopolitical pawn.

The US did not place itself in Sri Lanka’s position, nor did its arrogant demands consider Sri Lanka’s interests. On Monday, China’s Embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement that the US has “sent a large delegation and batches of advance teams into Sri Lanka” as COVID-19 rages in the US, and “made various requests for the visit, and even for an emergent road construction.” “Does this approach prove your respect to the host country?” it asked.

The Sri Lanka civil war only ended in 2009, and what the country needs now is peace and development, not turning itself into a stage for international geopolitical conflicts. US moves are for its only sake, and all countries can see this.

“Sri Lanka is expected to maintain its diplomatic neutrality, and will appropriately and flexibly balance relations with China, the US and India,” Qian said. This is in line with Sri Lanka’s national interests in the context of the intensifying China-US rivalry. Pressuring other countries is not only inconsistent with diplomatic principles, but will also increase international resentment.

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