Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's administration has dismissed the prospect of Chinese naval facilities in the country, but "New Delhi worries that China's influence will one day reach a point where the Sri Lankan government simply cannot say no," Brewster continued.
Colombo is all too aware of the rivalry between India and China — In May, it rejected a Chinese request for a submarine visit in response to adamant Indian objections.
Geopolitical interests aside, the airport could ultimately make a good investment for India.
Despite operating only one flight per day — business is so slow that certain areas are rented out for rice storage, according to reports — the airport holds potential, said Innes-Ker. It can relieve strains on the capital's airport and provide easier access to national attractions, he noted.
Indian backing, Innes-Ker said, could "match these factors together and make a more successful economic case for the airport."