In Teardrop Diplomacy: China’s Sri Lanka Foray

“In Teardrop Diplomacy: China’s Sri Lanka Foray, Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, one of the most perceptive amongst Sri Lanka’s international relations experts, traces the geopolitical complexities that this island currently faces. Applying this geopolitical perspective, he so incisively explicates Sri Lanka’s ongoing politico-economic crisis. Indeed, the book carries an urgent message about how powerful nations can use their economic leverages to achieve their geopolitical objectives, especially so in the lingering post-pandemic precipice. Locating Chinese economic diplomacy and Belt and Road Initiatives outreach into the Indian Ocean rim in the context of US-China great power rivalry in the Indo-Pacific, it illuminates interesting evolving trajectories of its impact on Sri Lankan in specific and for South Asia in general with clear implication for China’s peer competitor, India.”

— Dr. Swaran Singh, professor of diplomacy & disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), currently visiting professor, University of British Columbia (Vancouver)

“Asanga Abeyagoonasekera is a serious, objective and unconventional analyst of Sri Lanka’s strategic affairs. He has knitted an insightful narrative of Sri Lanka’s

dilemma in coping with the pressures of regional and great powers’ competition in the Indo-Pacific region. He makes a valid point that without a credible democracy and stable economy, led by honest and competent leadership, the Island nation will not be able to remain afloat in the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean”

—Prof.S. D. MUNI Professor Emeritus, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, Former Ambassador and Special Envoy, Govt. Of India.

“In Teardrop Diplomacy, Asanga Abeyagoonasekera does a masterful job in outlining China’s engagement with Sri Lanka and the resultant impact on regional relations, “great power competition,” and the security and economic stability of Sri Lanka itself.  This work offers a cogent and balanced view from the Sri Lankan perspective, rightly reminding us of how decisions made can have unintended consequences for years to come. For students and experts on South Asian security and economic relations, this is a valuable and timely source.”

—Dr. Roger Kangas, Dean, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, US Department of Defence (DOD) Washington, DC

Since the beginning of 2021 more than a million Sri Lankans have left its shores in the largest migration in the country’s history. The outflow continues to gain momentum as the hopes wane of a rapid change in the country’s economic and political situation. The economy has contracted by 9 percent and inflation exceeds 80 percent.  The government has cracked down on dissent to ensure it does not grow again as it did in April 2022 when huge crowds of protestors drove out the sitting president into temporary self-exile.

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera had to leave Sri Lanka too though for political rather than economic reasons.  His public criticism of the government leadership in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks made him a target for retribution.  I am pleased that Asanga has used his time out of Sri Lanka well.  He has used the perspective and time he has to focus on foreign policy issues, an area in which there is a noticeable dearth of public and academic discourse.  Asanga’s scholarship and research goes a long way to fill the void.

The Indian Ocean in which Sri Lanka is located in an important position is one of the most contested regions in the world today. China, the US and India, and also Japan and Australia among others, are vying for influence over Sri Lanka. There is increased competition between the global big powers in the India Ocean. The challenge to Sri Lanka is how to maximize the benefit to itself from this situation, and being cognizant of the interests of the big powers, without being overwhelmed by pressures that may be brought to bear upon it.

Asanga tackles these issues which are complex and require a nuanced approach and good judgment to secure Sri Lanka’s best interests.  The countries involved in the competition for influence in the region are the most powerful in the world which all have significant stakes in promoting their interests at the expense of Sri Lanka’s national interest.  I congratulate Asanga on the research he has done and the learning he manifests in this book, which fills a lacuna.

—Jehan Perera
Executive Director
National Peace Council of Sri Lanka

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