Sri Lanka backs India’s concerns over Kashmir issue

Sri Lanka, which attended the just concluded Belt and Road Forum here, has backed India’s concern over the Kashmir issue, saying it is difficult for New Delhi to accept the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it goes through the “heart of Indian interests”.

India, which skipped the high-profile meeting, would have joined “very happily” in the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative of China, said Sarath Amanugama, Sri Lanka’s Minister on Special Assignment.

“Unfortunately, the issue is going through the heart of Indian interests. If it is some uncontested region, India would have negotiated its way out. Here especially the Kashmir issue getting dragged into it, makes it difficult for India to be flexible,” Mr. Amanugama, who accompanied Lankan Prime Minister Wickramasinghe to the two-day forum in Beijing, told PTI.

He said India, China and Sri Lanka were very much part of the ancient Silk Road route as the Chinese Buddhist scholars like Faxian visited both India and Sri Lanka leading to big discoveries of Buddhist relics in the island nation.

“(Chinese) President Xi Jinping has emphasised connectivity. These countries were connected many centuries ago. This will link up these countries on certain rational basis. Once the regional problems are resolved, then India has to play big role in the initiative,” he said, adding that India anyway has to play big role “because you cannot think of a belt and road without going over and close to India.”

India skipped the meeting due to its sovereignty concerns over the USD 50 billion CPEC, which goes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The two-day conference in Beijing brought together leaders from 29 countries.

Besides Mr. Wickramasinghe, the summit was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several other leaders, heads of UN, World Bank and IMF.

Mr. Wickaramasinghe, who arrived in Beijing a day after he hosted Prime Minister Narandra Modi in Sri Lanka, had a low-key presence at the high-profile summit.

While Mr. Sharif and many other leaders spoke at the inaugural ceremony, the Sri Lankan leader reportedly took part in the discussions in the roundtable meeting yesterday.

Amunagama said that Sri Lanka will not permit any foreign military operations in its port by any country including China, in an effort to reassure India’s security concerns over Chinese military activity.

Confirming reports that recent Chinese requests for docking of its submarines was declined, he said, “we denied the permission.”

“Lanka’s position is that our harbours and ports are for commercial operations. All other countries have no strategic interests. We are equidistant from everyone,” he said.

Earlier, the problem came because a Chinese submarine was allowed to be docked in Colombo harbour by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2014 which sparked protests from India.

“China, India, US and all other countries, they cannot come into our territorial waters without the consent of the Sri Lankan government,” Mr. Amanugama said.

Even the Hambantota harbour which Sri Lanka plans to hand over to China under debt equity scheme will function under Sri Lankan Port Authority (SLPA).

He said in the agreement currently being finalised to give 80 per cent stake for Chinese shipping company, it will be allowed to operate inside the harbour but all the outside operations will be carried out SLPA.

The harbour master who permits the ship movement in the harbour will be an SAPA employee, he said.

Allaying India’s concerns, he said Sri Lanka is taking assistance from the Indian Navy to maintain maritime security including tracking submarines.

India is also providing patrol boats, he said.

About Hambantota port, he said, it is entirely a commercial operation. “It was constructed with Chinese assistance costing about USD 1.4 billion. It was established during the regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa,” he said.

“But we had an extended debt. Sri Lanka is facing a problem of debt repayment,” he said, defending Sri Lanka opting for debt swap for harbour.

Sri Lanka has an estimated debt of USD eight billion to China. The loans were taken for different mega projects.

“So last year we raised it with Premier Li Keqiang. At first we asked for a debt relief, either to write it off or to reschedule payment. But the Premier said it is not possible because they have lent money to several other countries. We cannot write it off to create precedent,” he said.

“But suggested why don’t you convert into equity by forming a joint venture company. It will be registered in Sri Lanka and will be Sri Lankan company. Chinse side will convert that into equity. Sri Lanka doesn’t have to repay,” he said, adding that it was a “win win situation”.

3 COMMENTS

  1. India could have achieved its interest in Kashmir; if India developed its manufacturing sector as China and has money to invest in Pakistan. Indian leadership hasn’t helped enough to its neighboring countries to develop. In ten years time more people in China will be speaking in English compare to Indian Subcontinent. Being former British colony, the Indian leadership has even failed to capitalize on International language; because the Indian leaders were too busy in meddling with their neighboring countries.

    Unfortunately, we can’t wait for India forever; we must move forward. I believe that Pakistan and China are on the right track. Let India acknowledge its failure in due time. How bad China-Pakistan Economic Corridor compare to the British invasions of Australasia, Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, North America and Africa? The British took most parts of the world; millions of innocent people were killed. More than a hundred million indigenous people were killed in Australasia and North America. Twenty two million Africans were killed during the slave trade. Fifty nine million Indians were killed by starvation; when the British administration exported food from India to the UK and Europe.

  2. Well, that Govt. of PRC has given better deal for All in all projects has been undertaken in Sri lanka by China last couple of years. Now it has extent and by enlarge to UNP ruling parties. That is positive step by PRC>

    We were lack of capital and Investments for any large scale projects during about after 30 years war initiates by UNP-LTTE -TULE holy alliance since 1979.

    The end of war seek Capital investment for nation Development and restoration of Democracy by MR ruling alliance that after defeated LTTE-Tamil -ruthless Terrorist 2009 May 18th.

    By and large of Indian and Western nation refuses to provided which that Capital for war tone country to be re-Builds nation after 30 years war, was support by USA, UK ,EU, Japan and Indian hegemonies to and by undermined Sovereignty & Unity of Island —Sri Lankan.

    PRC is only Nation who came forward to give us necessary Capital and Investment to re-build our nation WAR devastated an Island by US $ Billions dollars ; by proposed large scale projects, that are what we need laid foundation of New Sustainability of growth of country GDP.

    China was there time to assist and help us that have to be reinvigoration nation Economy,
    MR alliance has taken loans to re-Builds country ,timely need regain Sri lanka, is there any thing wrong about that ? I do not see.

    MR ruling alliance was wise that under few years build Ports, Airports, High-Ways Colombo Port City and many infrastructure projects in North-east part of Island by Chinese investments was move was most approprtied ,that step taken was right-decisions by MR leadership the vital interest of the Country, Nation and People of All Sri Lankan.

    In my point of view that China’s all investment are benefit to overall development of . National economy is undoudetly correct approach by MR leadership.

    What ever Govt. in power, Island regardless that Investment of China initiated Belt and Road will give New Boon for Economics of south-south co-operation of New world Order in quite invertible of New Political-economic-Social phenomenal in Globe.

    We have share with new trend of changing balances of power according to interest of Global humankind.

    That is urgent mission of People of Sri Lankan.

  3. Sri Lanka is now the 30 state of Imperial Endia, and soon Kashmir too. I dont like Islamist but fully support Pakistan . Kashmir belongs to the Pakistani’s

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