In a sudden development, which came after Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena sacked incumbent premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, former president Mahinda Rajpaksa was sworn in as the prime minister of the country on Friday, October 26.
Sirisena made the decision despite the opposition disagreeing with him and calling the move "unconstitutional" and "illegal."
On the other hand, Rajpaksa called on Wickremesinghe to step down and said that the former PM's party must "respect democracy, respect the country and respect the law."
Should Rajpaksa's tenure worry India?
While Sri Lanka is clearly witnessing a power struggle, one cannot help but wonder what Rajpaksa's tenure as prime minister could mean for India. His tenure as the president had soured India-Sri Lanka ties as it was during the time that China boosted its influence over South Asia, something that India had enjoyed until then.
Rajpaksa is also said to have given China a strategic entry into Sri Lanka, by leasing the Hambantota port to Beijing and also permitting them to build the Colombo port. Not just that, China also received permission to dock its ships and submarines in Sri Lanka.
In the year 2015, India had then used its influence to build a coalition between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, which in turn led to the removal of Rajpaksa from the post of the president of the country.
However, Rajpaksa has insisted that there is no bad blood between him and New Delhi and even said that the Hambantota port was, in fact, first offered to India and given to China only after India refused the offer.
"There was no question of betraying India. Sri Lanka has had close relations with the People's Republic of China since it was founded," Rajpaksa earlier told the Indian Express.
"The relationship that my government had with China was purely economic. Some of the key projects that China did... like the Hambantota Port was first offered to India but was declined and it was then handed over to China."
He went on to explain that his government never had plans to lease the port to a private party and that the step was taken only after the government changed in 2015. "Sri Lanka has always had close relations with India, China and Pakistan and these friendships will continue in the future as well," he added.
Even though the new PM has insisted that there is no bad blood between India and him, he has visited India twice — Modi's swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and last month to hold diplomatic discussions — and these visits are thought to be his way of trying to mend ties.
During his two Sri Lanka trips, Modi too met Rajpaksa, raising quite a few eyebrows, considering the new PM has often been labelled as someone who brought China and Sri Lanka closer, irking India.
What's next for Wickremesinghe?
While the opposition has already spoken out against Sirisena's move, Wickremesinghe too has opposed Rajpaksa's swearing-in and insisted that he was the legitimate PM of the country and would appeal against his dismissal in court.
"I am addressing you as the prime minister of Sri Lanka," the Agence France-Presse quoted Wickremesinghe as saying at a press conference. "I remain as prime minister and I will function as the prime minister."