Sri Lanka seeks to maintain close relations with India despite ECT issue

Sri Lanka is to seek to maintain close relations with India despite the issue over the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port.

Cabinet co-spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said that Sri Lanka respects its close relationship with India.

He said that the Government will look to negotiate and reach a settlement with India on the ECT issue.

Sri Lanka is to hold talks with New Delhi on the West Container Terminal of the Colombo Port.

Cabinet co-spokesman Udaya Gammanpila said that the East container Terminal is strategically important for Sri Lanka and it is for this reason that the Cabinet decided to ensure Sri Lanka has full control.

Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena said yesterday that a Cabinet sub-committee has been appointed to discuss the new proposal with India.

The Cabinet had yesterday approved a proposal to ensure the East Container Terminal (ECT) was 100 percent in the control and management of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

India had yesterday demanded the full implementation of the agreement reached with Sri Lanka and Japan on the East Container Terminal.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo hit back after Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told trade unions yesterday that a cabinet paper will be submitted to ensure the East Container Terminal is operated 100 percent by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

The Memorandum of Cooperation among the three Governments of Sri Lanka, Japan and India on the development of the East Container Terminal located in the Colombo South Port was signed in Colombo on Tuesday, 28 May 2019.

“I would like to reiterate the expectation of Government of India for expeditious implementation of the trilateral Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) signed in May 2019 among the Governments of India, Japan and Sri Lanka for the development of ECT with participation from these three countries,” a spokesperson at the Indian High Commission in Colombo told Colombo Gazette.

The spokesperson said that the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka with regard to the ECT has been conveyed several times in the recent past, including at the leadership level.

“Sri Lanka cabinet also took a decision three months ago to implement the project with foreign investors. All sides should continue to abide by the existing understandings and commitment,” the spokesperson said.

Following the recent visit to Sri Lanka by Indian Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, it was decided to award the expansion project of the East Container Terminal to Adani Group of India.

However Rajapaksa yesterday said that the foreign company which was to manage the East Container Terminal had refused to accept a report submitted by a committee appointed to explore concerns over the ECT. (Colombo Gazette)

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