Global Times correspondent: Yang Meng
In order to pacify the concerns of India, after leasing out 80% of the shares of Hanbantota Port to China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited for 99 years, Sri Lankan Ambassador to China Karunasena Kodituwakku said on February 4 that Sri Lanka will not allow China to engage in military activities in Hambantota.
According to the report in Sri Lanka’s Colombo Page website on February 4, Ambassador Kodituwakku told the media on the sidelines of Sri Lankan Independence Day reception in Beijing that: “I do not know about other countries but Sri Lanka has very categorically informed the Chinese investor that it will not be allowed to be used for any military purposes”. In this regard, the India’s Economic Times said that the Ambassador’s remark “was clearly referring to Pakistan handing over Gwadar port to Chinese”.
Cooperation between China and neighboring countries in India has often caused some people in India to be suspicious and jealous. Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader has reported that alarm bells rung at New Delhi when a Chinese nuclear submarine stopped at Colombo port without informing India in advance.
Although feeling the apprehensions of India, Sri Lanka is also reluctant to give up the continued development of trade with China. Sri Lanka will finalize a free trade agreement with China this year, and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will visit China in May, Reuters reported. During the Independence Day celebration, Sri Lankan Ambassador expressed optimism on Sri Lanka’s relations with China. He said that this year is the 65th anniversary of bilateral trade relations between the two countries, “Therefore, the signing of the FTA is the best way to celebrate.”
Admitting concerns expressed by China over small-scale protests faced by the Hambantota port project, Sri Lankan Ambassador said: “Despite the opposition from a small group, the Sri Lankan government will go ahead as planned”.