Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Keck Center Best Senior Thesis - Foreign Affairs & International Diplomacy

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

Reader 1

Aseema Sinha

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In 2016, China became the largest importer of Sri Lanka goods and services, surpassing India. Since then, the Chinese government has signed significant trade, development, and security deals with the island nation. This thesis argues that Sri Lanka's domestic politics, centered around its decades-long civil war and consequent human rights concerns, have served as the crux of its triangular relations with two regional powers: India and China. The human rights issue, in tandem with Sri Lanka's agency as a small state, has drawn Sri Lanka to China. The China-Sri Lanka relationship and has now expanded to developing security and development ties. A regional power transition has occurred in South Asia because of Sri Lanka's foreign policy decisions to actively involve China in security and development matters. China's influence over South Asian small states like Sri Lanka has increasingly offset India's previous regional dominance in the South Asian neighborhood. China's increasing footprint in Sri Lanka, caused by Sri Lanka's domestic policy constraints, has adapted India's foreign policy goals. India has responded to China's presence on the island nation by signing similar security and infrastructure deals. This thesis presents the framework for a triangular relationship that emphasizes how one nation's foreign policies indirectly affect another nation's foreign policies. The triangular relationship is reinforcing and shapes the very nature of South Asian power dynamics. Now, India and China are equal-parts players in Sri Lanka, with both powers sharing strong security and developmental ties with the island nation.