China is in Sri Lanka to stay, and will continue to own the Hambantota port for years to come. In fact, ten years from now Beijing will still own 60 percent of the Hambantota port.
That’s according to Sri Lanka’s State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe.
The Chinese firm that owns the port agreed to divest a maximum of 20 percent from its initial shareholding of 80 percent to a Sri Lankan party within a decade from the date of effectivity.
This deal leaves Beijing with a 60 percent stake, and therefore, full control the Hambantota port, and a naval outpost in the Indian Ocean.
China has been setting up outposts in the Indian Ocean as part of a broader strategy to secure the passage of Middle East oil through the Strait of Malacca and to counter American naval hegemony in the region.
China has increasingly come to rely on the Middle East for its oil needs, which must be shipped through the Strait of Malacca to reach its shores. This means that Beijing runs the risk of being cut off from Middle East oil supplies should America blockade the Strait — in the event of a further escalation of South China Sea disputes or an outright war between America and China.
The problem is that Sri Lanka must shoulder the bill for China’s ambitious Indian Ocean grand plans with borrowed money — sliding further into debt that threatens its economy, and financial markets.
Meanwhile, China’s growing presence in Sri Lanka antagonizes New Delhi, which feels encircled by Beijing, as discussed in a previous piece here. (Forbes.Com)