“…And this beautiful building called the Lotus Pond was also gifted to us by the Chinese” smirked the 40- something very Sri Lankan tour guide showing me around Colombo. This giant towering theatre which doesn’t even resemble a lotus, was built by the very “caring” Chinese friends along with Hambantota port, the Katunayake-Colombo Expressway, the Norochcholai Coal Power Project, Maththala Airport, Colombo South Harbour Expansion Project and the 661-room Shangri La hotel. Everywhere I looked; it was either a gift from China or an export of China. So what exactly is the Chinese agenda? Even a 12 year old could pinpoint with conviction that something is seriously wrong with the Chinese and their never-ending Friendship Day celebrations! Although Sri Lanka recognised China only in 1950, the intensity of Lankan-Sino relations has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent years. The most interesting is the Hambantola port project which Colombo had proposed to build as a joint venture with India, but while the Indian Government sat on their couches and decided what to do over several days of tea and coffee, the Chinese grabbed the opportunity and signed the contract with “best terms” and Colombo clearly stated “we don’t have favourites”. But Sri Lanka is not the only place where China’s presence is creeping in- Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, East Africa and the list goes on till infinity. This is no doubt a virtual encircling of the Indian subcontinent, which some call the “String of pearls” strategy. The Colombo port that assists in about 70 percent of India’s shipping is being modernised by China and If China’s wishes, it can always turn such projects to India’s disadvantage in any situation.
Being not a big fan of Human Rights itself, China has supplied useful arms to Sri Lanka during the Eelam War IV, in which India kind of supported both the sides due to moral reasons. This incident inspired Sri Lanka to return the favour and vote for China whenever it faces trouble with the UN guys for Human rights etc.
Thus China is cleverly and slowly making carving its path to glory. Whenever I think of China I get the “Big Brother is watching you” feeling, with the squinted eyes and the hand gesture. With every new port or highway that China so generously gifts to our neighbours and with every infringement into India’s borders, China strengthens its strategic base, its military prowess and trade link, and one can easily foresee what these baby steps would lead to.