Sri Lanka’s descent into failed state status would destabilize all of South Asia and therefore isn’t in either China’s or India’s interests, hence the need for them to act without delay in averting this scenario, if it’s even possible at this point.
Sri Lanka has been hit by deadly riots that saw the imposition of a state of emergency, resignation of the prime minister, and burning of multiple homes belonging to government officials. The government’s decision to deploy the military into the streets with an order to shoot vandals prompted criticism from the US, which claimed to be “concerned” by this development. Those participating in these acts of violence are supposedly driven by the country’s economic crisis, which has resulted in skyrocketing prices for everyday goods as foreign reserves dipped below $50 million.
This crisis wasn’t brought about by Sri Lanka’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) projects that have been politicized by members of the opposition and the West as part of their infowar on China, but by economic-financial mismanagement and the Western-centric system of globalization. No amount of rioting can resolve these problems, nor can regime change. The only realistic solution is the extension of emergency financial and humanitarian aid to the island by its international partners in order to help its people deal with the direct consequences of this crisis.
It’s popular among many across the world to believe that weaponized protests are always the answer to whatever problem any given country is experiencing, but this perception simply isn’t true. Systemic problems require systemic solutions, which in turn take time to implement. All that any given country can do is promulgate policies aimed at resolving whatever crisis their country is experiencing. The Sri Lankan opposition can’t realistically do any better than the incumbent government. What’s needed is for China, India, and other countries to step in as soon as possible in order to help their partner.
Those two Asian Great Powers are rivals of one another but have a shared interest in ensuring Sri Lanka’s stability. Both also have understandable financial interests though that might make them wary of pouring a potentially unlimited amount of money into that country without any quick return on their investment, which explains why neither of them have done so thus far. Nevertheless, it would be wise for them to consider unilaterally or jointly extending some level of immediate financial assistance, ideally through the multilateral organizations in which they participate.
Even in the worst-case scenario that the incumbent government is overthrown by the mob, Sri Lanka is destined for years of destitution after this crisis, and that’s without considering the physical damage caused by its recent riots. It’ll need help to get back on its feet, but begging to the IMF or World Bank will only result in a repeating this crisis after a certain amount of time since the terms of their loans might inflict unacceptable punishment on its people and/or be politicized in such a way that the country’s instability becomes institutionalized.
The global systemic transition towards multipolarity is empowering Great Powers across the Global South to take on a larger role across the world, though it’s also destabilizing those medium- and smaller-sized developing countries that are incapable of weathering the interconnected food and fuel crises catalyzed by the US-led West’s unprecedented sanctions on Russia in response to its ongoing special military operation in Ukraine. Sri Lanka therefore shouldn’t be seen as an exception, but as a precedent for what will likely soon follow all across Afro-Eurasia, Latin America, and Oceania.
This makes it all the more urgent for responsible Global South Great Powers like China and India to jointly do what’s needed to keep Sri Lanka financially afloat and thus remove any pretext for malicious forces to manipulate the public into participating in wanton acts of violence. The details can’t be known at this time, just that this scenario represents the most realistic one for helping the country sustainably resolve its systemic economic-financial crisis. Sri Lanka’s descent into failed state status would destabilize all of South Asia and therefore isn’t in either China’s or India’s interests, hence the need for them to act without delay in averting this scenario, if it’s even possible at this point.