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Indian PM Narendra Modi.

Reuters

Bombastic Modi no more?

Would the Narendra Modi of 2019 – the year his clampdown on Kashmir drew ire from human rights activists worldwide – have backed down on Prophet Mohammad-related gaffes made by members of his party? Pre-pandemic, would the bombastic Indian prime minister have missed a chance to forcefully weigh in on Sri Lankan domestic affairs amid a dire political crisis?

It wasn’t so long ago when former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged in 2015, just days after voters removed him from office, that India’s spy agency, the Research & Analysis Wing, had helped oust him from power. Now, the tone of Rajapaksa’s family toward India couldn’t be more different. Namal, Rajapaksa’s son, recently thanked Modi and “the people of India” for sending aid to his country at a time when Sri Lanka is battling its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

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Sri Lankan army patrol on a main road in Colombo following clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Rajapaksa family.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka on the brink

For weeks, Sri Lanka has been in the grips of a deepening economic and political crisis, teetering on the brink of anarchy and chaos as a largely bankrupt state at risk of becoming a failed one. Massive protests driven by soaring fuel and food prices have forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and upped the pressure on the international community to help alleviate the suffering of Sri Lankans. China and India, which have both vied for influence in the small island nation, are looking on nervously. We spoke to Eurasia Group’s Peter Mumford to get a sense of what might happen next and what the geopolitical stakes are.

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Sri Lankan protesters demanding the president's resignation clash with police in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Tharaka Basnayak via Reuters.

What We're Watching: Sri Lanka's political turmoil, Putin's low-key Victory Day speech, drug cartel riots in Colombia

One Rajapaksa resigns in Sri Lanka

Following months of protests over government mismanagement and the country’s economic collapse, Sri Lanka’s embattled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has announced his resignation. Violent clashes broke out in the capital city, Colombo, on Monday between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Rajapaksa regime, which is headed by the PM’s brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. At least 150 people were taken to hospital after authorities used heavy-handed tactics to try to disperse the demonstrators. This political shake-up comes amid unrest over soaring fuel and food prices and constant blackouts. Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserves have entirely dried up, prompting Colombo to print more money, which further pushed prices up and the currency value down. The Rajapaksa brothers had overseen the country’s warming ties with China in recent years, which has seen Sri Lanka become embroiled in a relentless debt trap set out by Beijing. Until now, Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused to step down. We're watching to see if protesters go home, or if they continue demanding the ouster of his brother.

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