Were Local Politics or Geopolitical Rivalries Behind Sri Lanka’s Recent Coup Crisis?
Article in World Politics Review
The following is an excerpt from ASPI Associate Director Anubhav Gupta's article for World Politics Review.
Sri Lanka recently emerged from a dangerous political crisis with its democracy and constitution miraculously intact. President Maithripala Sirisena’s attempted coup, in which he violated the constitution by replacing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with his bitter rival and presidential predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was overturned thanks to Sri Lanka’s defiant Parliament, steadfast judiciary, a vigilant international community and a resilient civil society.
The failed coup revealed Sri Lanka’s institutions to be sneakily strong, but as it barreled along, international and domestic watchers speculated about the nefarious role foreign actors may have played—especially India and China, which have long projected power in Colombo. The wariness about foreign influence is understandable given the Sri Lankan government’s past experience and the lead up to this crisis.
One of the reasons people read India-China competition into the coup’s script was because of the personalities involved and what happened during the 2015 presidential election. The world witnessed Sri Lanka’s landmark presidential vote that year through the lens of a rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing for influence across South Asia. The incumbent Rajapaksa, strongly backed by Beijing, suffered a stunning and unlikely defeat from the hands of his former party member and colleague Sirisena, who ran an explicitly anti-China campaign.
Anubhav Gupta writes that the unprecedented border clash between India and China is unlikely to go down as an aberration. It should be seen instead as a critical inflection point between Asia’s two premier powers.
In an op-ed for World Politics Review, Anubhav Gupta writes that the pandemic has led to further erosion of India’s pluralism and democratic credentials.
Anubhav Gupta and Puneet Talwar write in Foreign Affairs that the pandemic offers a struggling India the chance to reset.
Anubhav Gupta writes on why the U.S. and India are likely to continue to clash over trade issues.
Anubhav Gupta joins VOA radio to discuss the significance of Trump's first official visit to India.