Bandwagoning, Balancing, and Small States: A Case of Sri Lanka

  •  Sandya Gunasekara    


This article reviews two popular foreign policy orientations of small states: bandwagoning and balancing. The policies show how small countries can effectively engage in addressing great power politics. The paper explores two critical foreign policy decisions made by Sri Lanka after its independence in 1948: the signing of the Defense agreement and External Affairs agreement with the British government in 1948 and proposing, as a collective decision of Non-aligned members, to make the Indian Ocean a pace zone in 1971. The first decision reflected the way Sri Lanka bandwagoned with a threatening great power: Britain. The second incident referred to its desire to balance itself against threatening powers during the Cold War. This article accepts that Sri Lanka’s choice of either aligning with powerful countries or aligning with small powers in the Non-aligned movement offset disadvantages traditionally associated with Sri Lanka. The overall findings of the study suggest that both bandwagoning and balancing policies helped Sri Lanka to derive specific advantages and ensure its national interests.

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