May 22, 2018        Reading Time: 3 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary

Reading Time: 3 min read

Deborah Bräutigam challenges assumptions of predatory lending in Africa. Image credit – ambeon / deposit photo



Japan’s Indo-Pacific Strategy: The Importance of Sri Lanka, South Asia @ LSE, by Anne-Léonore Dardenne, University of Lyon

“Torn between China and its Indian ‘Big Brother,’ Sri Lanka plays a delicate balancing game. Japan and Sri Lanka currently enjoy friendly relations that could allow Japan to play a stabilising role in the region.”

  • Anne-Léonore Dardenne outlines how Japan has deepened security ties with Sri Lanka and argues that this relationship will be central to the future of the Indo-Pacific.
  • As part of its growing focus on the Indian Ocean, Japan successfully called for Sri Lanka to be included as an observer in its joint training exercise with the Indian Coast Guard in January 2018, and has provided patrol boats to the Sri Lankan Coast Guard.
  • Japan has also pledged almost US$10 million to develop Trincomalee port on Sri Lanka’s east coast, ostensibly as a response to China’s increasing investment in Sri Lanka.

LKI Take: Sri Lanka could enhance security cooperation with Japan by seeking its assistance to build maritime law enforcement capacity. Japan has recently made similar commitments to Pacific island nations.



What Trump’s JCPOA Withdrawal Means for India?, Brookings Institutionby Tanvi Madan, Brookings

“Washington’s JCPOA withdrawal is not an unmanageable problem for India, but it creates complications that will require it to expend time and resources that are already in short supply.”

  • Tanvi Madan argues that America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) has potential implications for India’s energy security and its use of Iran as a transit link to Central Asia.
  • Iran is the third largest supplier of crude oil to India; and the potential reimposition of sanctions has already helped to push global oil prices to a four-year high.
  • Sanctions may also disrupt India’s use of the Iranian port of Chabahar, in which it pledged to invest US$500 million to help access Central Asian economies, and could encourage Iran to seek closer ties with China.   

LKI Take: Sri Lanka does not import oil directly from Iran, but in 2017, a third of its refined oil came from India. Policymakers should prepare contingencies to mitigate any potential knock-on impact from disruptions to Indian oil imports.



US Politicians Get China In Africa All Wrong, Washington Postby Deborah Bräutigam, Johns Hopkins University

“China is often lambasted as a nefarious actor in its African dealings, but the evidence tells a more complicated story.”

  • Deborah Bräutigam argues that the concerns of many US politicians regarding China’s investments in Africa are either demonstrably false or have been wildly exaggerated.
  • Despite allegations of predatory lending, Chinese loans are providing much needed help in addressing Africa’s severe infrastructure gap, and generally have low interest rates and long repayment periods.
  • Research into so-called Chinese “land grabs” in Africa found that, of the land reportedly sold to China in 57 individual cases, only 4% was actually acquired by Chinese firms.

LKI Take: Sri Lanka could counter misinformation about China’s role in the country by improving transparency around foreign investment contracts, as has been advocated for natural resource investments.

*Written by Malinda Meegoda and Barana Waidyatilake, and edited by Adam Collins. The opinions expressed in these Weekly Insights are the authors’ own and not the institutional views of LKI, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any other institution or individual with which the authors are affiliated.

Please note that there will be no Weekly Insights next week due to the public holiday. We will back on 5 June with compelling commentary from the world of foreign policy and international relations.

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