The Ocean neighbours are focusing on non-traditional security areas like the environment and also new-generation concerns like cyber security, with expectations to graduate to full-fledged security and defence cooperation at a much later date.For now, nations like Sri Lanka have been careful not to be branded as being on any side of the global or regional geostrategic side with the United States (US) and India coming closer with each passing year, and China getting distanced from them, on the other. Recently, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry reiterated Sri Lanka’s official position that they would ‘stay neutral in China-India rivalry’. However, nations like India will have to see Sri Lanka, for instance, accepting regional guarantees and mutual support in areas of traditional security concerns as a step to move away from the increasing 'dragon embrace' of China, whose debt trap has become an acronym of sorts for 'strategic subordination' without being seemingly so. That is not expected to happen any time soon, at least until after the nation has sorted out its external debt restructuring and had begun to make it work on the ground.
Maldives Parliament Speaker Mohammed Nasheed stood by India at a SAARC Speakers’ conference in Malé, when Qasim Suri, Deputy Speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly Qasim Suri sought to raise the ‘Kashmir issue’.It is in this background, Sri Lanka, possibly for the first time in regional affairs, has openly backed India’s allegations against Canada that the latter was driven by ‘vote-bank politics’ in controlling the activities of ‘pro-Khalistani groups’. In a tweet supporting the concerns expressed by his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said that no country could afford to grant sanctuaries to terrorists and secessionists after ‘Khalistani extremists’ publicly glorified the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (in October 1980). On issues within the region, Maldives Parliament Speaker Mohammed Nasheed stood by India at a SAARC Speakers’ conference in Malé, when Qasim Suri, Deputy Speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly Qasim Suri sought to raise the ‘Kashmir issue’. When Indian delegation leader, Havinash Narayan Singh, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, protested loudly and clearly, Nasheed as the host-chair ruled that Kashmir was not on the agreed agenda of the conference. Maldives, as he added, had always held Kashmir to be an ‘internal issue’ of India since its independence in 1947. Significantly, the nation has not even considered it to be a bilateral matter between the two neighbours, though that has been New Delhi’s stance vis-á-vis third nations and their prospects of intervention. Incidentally, from within Maldives, incumbent President Mohamed Solih promulgated a law to ban the ‘India Out’ campaign of the Opposition PPM-PNC combine, initiated by jailed former President Abdulla Yameen. In doing so, Solih described the protests as a ‘threat to national and regional security’. The Maldivian High Court has now taken up a petition challenging the presidential order, for hearing.
The US issued a ban on American visas for those Bangladesh nationals that are ‘interfering in the democratic process’ of that nation.According to reports, Dhaka sought India’s assistance, especially over American reservations on upcoming general elections in that country. This reportedly followed the US Ambassador Peter Haas’s repeated calls for ensuring a free and transparent general election and his meeting with the chief election commissioner to discuss the matter, personally. Following this, the US issued a ban on American visas for those Bangladesh nationals that are ‘interfering in the democratic process’ of that nation. In this background, reports spoke about Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen discussing the matter with EAM Jaishankar on the sidelines of the G-20 development ministers’ meeting in Varanasi on 12 June. It is, however, not known if this figured in the India-America summit-level talks—but then the trajectory of regional cooperation among South Asian nations in supporting one another at the international fora, including in UNHRC rulings, has been heartening and holds a lot of promise for the future.
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N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.Read More +