Chinese investment in Sri Lanka is reviving a “3,000-5,000-year-old shipping route”, said Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, defending his Government’s decision to join the Belt and Road Initiative, The Hindu newspaper reported.
“The fact is that regional trade needs to move forward. If one country is doing a project, that is not against another country,” Karunanayake told journalists in India at the end of his two-day visit to New Delhi. “Like Hong Kong was a launching pad for China, Sri Lanka would like to be a hub of economic activity for India,” he added.
Karunanayake said Colombo hoped for similar investments from India and Japan, and would welcome Indian investment in the “East Terminal” of the Colombo Port, one of two new container terminals to be built in the next phase of the Chinese-built harbour project. Five consortiums including two with Indian companies, Container Corporation of India and Shapoorji Pallonji Limited, are reported to have filed bids for the project in 2016.
He said that in his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, he had expressed the desire for an early resolution to the fishermen issue and “bottom-trawling” by Indian fishermen in the Sri Lankan waters. He also thanked Mr. Modi for India’s assistance during the recent floods in the island.
Karunanayake denied that the Indian Government had raised its concerns over Sri Lanka’s involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative during this visit.
“Yes, concerns have been expressed [earlier by India], they have been considered by our leadership and the decision [to join the Belt and Road Initiative] was taken by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. But nowhere has India told me to reconsider the decision,” Karunanayake said in reply to a question from The Hindu.