West in­vest­ment needed to keep China at bay: Sri Lanka Pres­i­dent

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

New Delhi, In­dia - Sri Lanka’s new Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Ra­japaksa has warned In­dia and Western na­tions that his coun­try will be forced to seek fi­nance from China again if they do not in­vest in the is­land.

Ra­japaksa told The Hindu news­pa­per in an in­ter­view pub­lished on Sun­day that other Asian na­tions would also turn to China’s gi­ant Belt and Road in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject with­out alternativ­e help.

Sri Lanka has tra­di­tion­ally been al­lied to In­dia but be­came close to China, se­cur­ing about US$7bn in loans and in­vest­ment, when Ra­japaksa’s brother Mahinda was pres­i­dent from 2005 to 2015.

“I want to tell In­dia, Ja­pan, Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia and other coun­tries to also come and in­vest in us,” said the Pres­i­dent, who was in In­dia on his first for­eign trip since win­ning a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Novem­ber 16.

“They should tell their com­pa­nies to in­vest in Sri Lanka and help us grow, be­cause if they do not, then not only Sri Lanka, but coun­tries all over Asia will have the same [problem].”

“The Chi­nese will take the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive all over un­less other coun­tries pro­vide an alternativ­e.”

In­dia has been at the fore­front of na­tions wary of Belt and Road, fear­ing it will re­in­force China’s mil­i­tary and strate­gic clout in the

In­dian Ocean re­gion that New Delhi con­sid­ers its back­yard.

China has al­loted hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars on the net­work of ports, rail­ways, roads and in­dus­trial parks span­ning Asia, Africa, the Mid­dle East and Eu


In­dia’s for­eign and de­fence min­is­ters held talks with coun­ter­parts from Ja­pan on Satur­day in a bid to step up mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion.

Gotabaya Ra­japaksa also con­firmed that he wants to rene­go­ti­ate the agree­ment with China about the strate­gic Ham­ban­tota port south of Colombo that serves the key ship­ping lanes be­tween Europe and Asia.

“I be­lieve that the Sri Lankan gov­ern­ment must have con­trol of all strate­gi­cally im­por­tant projects like Ham­ban­tota,” he said in the in­ter­view.

“The next gen­er­a­tion will curse our gen­er­a­tion for giv­ing away pre­cious as­sets oth­er­wise,” he said.

Sri Lanka was forced to hand the port over to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease.

In­dia and some Western coun­tries have raised con­cerns that na­tions who have taken Chi­nese loans un­der the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive risk falling into a debt trap.

Ra­japaksa said he was cer­tain In­dia’s gov­ern­ment un­der Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi would move past the ap­pre­hen­sions it had over ties be­tween Sri Lanka and China. “Some of their sus­pi­cions were due to our ties with China, but that was a mis­un­der­stand­ing. We had a purely com­mer­cial agree­ment with China,” he said.

I want to tell In­dia, Ja­pan, Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia and other coun­tries to also come and in­vest in us


Sri Lanka’s Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Ra­japaksa speaks dur­ing a joint me­dia brief­ing at the Hy­der­adad House in New Delhi, In­dia on Fri­day

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