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.


November 9, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “It's hard to imagine President Sirisena did not foresee the international reaction to his decision. The international community is now watching and waiting to see what will happen next, especially when parliament reconvenes.”

Nikkei Asian Review: “Sri Lanka's Crisis Deepens as Parliamentary Speaker Cries ‘Coup’”

October 29, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says that the presence of two centers of power in Colombo meant policies would not be “as streamlined as they could be, especially on clear messaging to India.”

South China Morning Post: “What Rajapaksa’s Return Means for China-India Tug of War Over Sri Lanka”

October 2, 2018

"When China looks at South Asia it sees opportunity in countries such as Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, which may be a 'connectivity bandwagon' for international trade – from transshipping automobiles to bunkering fuel for tankers and cargo carriers, Nilanthi Samaranayake, an analyst at CNA on China and Indo-Pacific Security, said at the event."

USNI News: “Panel: Chinese Investments to Boost Trade Come as U.S. Commercial Shipping in Decline”

October 1, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “The more that the U.S. can offer Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and other countries in the region in terms of trade and infrastructure, the less they have to rely on China."

CSIS: “China's Belt and Road at Five” [Panel begins at 17:00]

September 24, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake writes, “Even without overseas bases, the Indian Navy retains extensive access arrangements in ports throughout the Indian Ocean.”

UPenn Center for the Advanced Study of India: “Asian Basing in Africa: India’s Setback in Seychelles Could Be Worse”

September 23, 2018

Nilanthi Samaranayake says, “If President Yameen loses, China will be able to work with the next leader, as it has shown in the case of Sri Lanka after the 2015 election.”

The New York Times: “Maldives Opposition Declares Election Victory”