As Chinese investments in Sri Lanka run into domestic resistance, India is set to make fresh offers to support the island nation in various sectors.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will fly to Colombo on Saturday to commence a three-day visit to Sri Lanka.
“He will interact with the Sri Lankan leadership for discussions on possibilities of collaboration and cooperation in a number of sectors, including power, highways, airport and hydrocarbon,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Jaishankar is likely to call on Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena, prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera, apart from meeting senior diplomats and officials.
The foreign secretary is also expected to convey to Colombo New Delhi’s concerns over implications of China’s role in managing the Hambantota Port on the security of India.
Jaishankar’s visit comes at a time when Sri Lanka is witnessing public protests against the island nation’s move to sell 80% stake in the Hambantota Port to China Merchant Port Holdings Company Limited, a state-owned company of China, for $1.12 billion.
The Sri Lankan government also agreed to lease out the port to the company for 99 years, apart from allowing it to develop an industrial zone covering about 15,000 acres near the port.
The local residents in and around Hambantota Port started the protest as they feared that they would be evicted and their land would be acquired for the proposed
The protests gained momentum with questions being raised if leasing out the port for so long would undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignity.
The Sri Lankan government argued that it had to enter into a deal as construction by another company from China during the erstwhile regime led by Mahinda Rajapaksa had put the country in a heavy debt.
Colombo has assured New Delhi that Beijing’s role in Hambantota Port was limited to commercial purposes only and would not pose any security threat to India.
The visit will also give the two sides an opportunity to discuss Sri Lanka’s offer to India to develop and operate the Trincomalee Port in the Northeast of the island nation. Jaishankar will also discuss with senior officials of the Sri Lankan government ways to step up Indian investments in various fields, particularly in petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunication, hospitality and tourism, banking and food processing (tea and fruit juices), metal industries, tyres, cement, glass manufacturing, and infrastructure development. (Deccan Herald)