75 years of service to our nation


Nilanthi Samaranayake
Research Scientist


Nilanthi Samaranayake's research focuses on South Asia and Indian Ocean security. Recently she has worked on U.S.-India naval cooperation, water resource competition in the Brahmaputra River basin, and Sri Lankan foreign policy. She also has conducted research on the navies of Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Maldives Coast Guard, security threats in the Bay of Bengal, and relations between smaller South Asian countries and China, India and the United States.

Prior to joining CNA, Samaranayake completed a fellowship at the National Bureau of Asian Research, where she investigated Sri Lanka's deepening ties with China. Her findings were published in the journal Asian Security. She also analyzed public opinion for a decade at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.Samaranayake holds an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.


January 31, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “Smaller Indian Ocean countries are getting sucked into a discourse about strategic competition. We’re increasingly seeing the politicization of infrastructure, especially in maritime domain.”

American Center New Delhi: Panel Discussion on Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific

January 18, 2018

CNA analysts Nilanthi Samaranayake and Mary Ellen Connell discussed France's strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region with Dr. Iskander Rehman of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.

December 2, 2017

Nilanthi Samaranayake says that India's leadership role in the Indian Ocean represents, "a security burden sharing" between India and the United States in the IOR.

The Island: "Indian Ocean Politics of the 21st Century –a View From Sri Lanka"

November 27, 2017

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, "China seems to have used water as a weapon in the case of Doklam confrontation."

El Confidencial [Spanish]: "Floods and Ecological Disasters: the Chinese 'Secret Weapon' That Holds India in Suspense"

November 2, 2017

Nilanthi Samaranayake says "The Modi administration appears to have an open mind to altering participation in Malabar, suggesting the potential for Australia to join someday - not necessarily as a permanent member, but as a participant like Japan was before 2016."

Business Standard: "Bolder Now, India Showing More Risk Appetite in Its Relations with China"

July 17, 2017

The Straits Times quotes CNA analyst Nilanthi Samaranayake in “China’s First Overseas Naval Base Makes Waves in India”