But in Sri Lanka, an island nation of 22 million people located less than 35 miles off the coast of the Indian subcontinent, economic unrest and political upheaval have presented an opportunity for New Delhi to move in on Beijing's ambitions. Although Chinese investment in line with the global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has brought rapid development to Sri Lanka, a number of other factors, including rising energy prices, populist tax cuts and soaring inflation, have led the country to default on its growing foreign debt for the first time since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1948.
Rather than immediately coming to aid its partner country in distress, China has played a cautious hand, offering limited assistance without doubling down on costly deals already in default. India, on the other hand, has extended nearly $2 billion in credit to Sri Lanka, and may further extend a line of $1.5 billion more to help the island nation import badly needed goods.
"India has stepped up its game in crisis-hit Sri Lanka at a time when China has hesitated to provide debt relief to Sri Lanka," Ganeshan Wignaraja, a senior research associate at the Overseas Development Institute in London, told Newsweek.