Mahinda says India refused to accept Hambantota Port project

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says the Hambantota Port project was first offered to India but India refused to accept it and it was then offered to China.

Rajapaksa, under who the project was launched, told the Indian Express that his Government never betrayed India.

“There was no question of betraying India. Sri Lanka has had close relations with the People’s Republic of China since it was founded. The relationship that my Government had with China was purely economic. Some of the key projects that China did… like the Hambantota Port was first offered to India but was declined and it was then handed over to China. When my Government was in power, there was never any move to lease the entire Hambantota free port along with its precinct of 5000 acres to a private company. My Government had made plans to lease only the container terminal the same way the terminals in the Colombo harbour have been leased to private companies. But the free port and its 5000 acres would have remained under the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. I must say that China also never asked us to lease the free port to them. This idea of leasing the entire Hambantota free port to a private party came up only after the change of Government in January 2015,” he said.

Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka has always had close relations with India, China and Pakistan and these friendships will continue in the future as well.

He said that Pakistan is a valued friend which has helped Sri Lanka at crucial moments during the war and on the diplomatic front.

Likewise, he says China is a valued friend with whom Sri Lanka has had many economic dealings. He says China has helped Sri Lanka on the economic front.

Rajapaksa also said that even though the present Government of India may have had reservations about his Government in 2014, he believes they will look at things differently now. (Colombo Gazette)