Nilanthi Samaranayake
Research Scientist


Nilanthi Samaranayake leads CNA's research on Indian Ocean and South Asia 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.


September 11, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says that China’s plans in the plantation sector are likely “to aid Sri Lanka’s goal of increasing its sagging exports through investment in the rubber industry.”

The Diplomat: “China Expands Its Footprint in Sri Lanka”

August 10, 2018

“The two-day dialogue was a collaborative initiative between KDU and the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), USA. This year’s Track 1.5 Dialogue focused on how bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and the USA could be further improved in a variety of spheres and how the global security concerns are influencing the relations between the two countries.”

Daily News: “Lanka-U.S. Naval Cooperation Strengthens”

July 25, 2018

Vice Adm. Michael Franken, Nilanthi Samaranayake, and Alexander Powell participated in a bilateral discussion in Sri Lanka about naval and maritime issues in the Indo-Pacific.

Kotelawala Defence University: 3rd Annual KDU-CNA Dialogue

July 18, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake writes in chapter 5, “The Indian Ocean is the lifeline of the world’s economy. Half of all container traffic transits this body of water, and 30% of the world’s trade flows through its ports.”

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation: “Policy Recommendations by the Quadripartite Commission on the Indian Ocean Regional Security”

July 18, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake and Michael McDevitt participated in the International Conference on Security of the Indian Ocean Region and contributed to policy recommendations for a more stable security environment in the region.

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation: “Policy Recommendations by the Quadripartite Commission on the Indian Ocean Regional Security”

June 8, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake and Satu Limaye write, “China can pursue its ‘long game’ in the Himalayas because India, for both military and diplomatic reasons, hasn’t pushed back hard.”

War on the Rocks: “Doklam, One Year Later: China’s Long Game in the Himalayas”