In­dia, Sri Lanka vow to strengthen mil­i­tary ties as China clout grows

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Colombo, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka and In­dia vowed to strengthen mil­i­tary ties and widen mar­itime links with neigh­bours af­ter se­cu­rity talks, the Pres­i­dent’s of­fice said on Sun­day, as China’s eco­nomic clout in­creases in the re­gion.

China, a long-time re­gional ri­val of In­dia, has been widen­ing its foot­print in the re­gion, in­clud­ing build­ing ports and ex­press­ways and up­grad­ing air­ports in Sri Lanka and the Mal­dives.

In­dia’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Ajit Do­val met on Satur­day with re­cently elected Sri Lanka

Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Ra­japaksa and dis­cussed set­ting up a mar­itime re­search co­or­di­na­tion cen­tre, Ra­japaksa’s of­fice said in a state­ment. It did not give de­tails of the pro­posed cen­tre, but said other na­tions in the re­gion should be in­cluded as ob­servers.

It said the two coun­tries also dis­cussed closer mil­i­tary and coast­guard co­op­er­a­tion.

The meet­ing fol­lowed Ra­japaksa’s visit to New Delhi in late Novem­ber for talks with Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who of­fered US$450mn in aid to Sri Lanka.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ports said Ra­japaksa will travel to China - his sec­ond for­eign visit since com­ing to power - while his Prime Min­is­ter brother Mahinda will visit In­dia on his first over­seas trip.

No ex­act dates have been an­nounced, but of­fi­cial sources said it could hap­pen within weeks.

Sri Lanka has tra­di­tion­ally been al­lied to In­dia, but China in­vested and loaned bil­lions of dol­lars to the is­land na­tion dur­ing the decade-long reign of Ra­japaksa’s el­der brother, Mahinda. Chi­nese in­vest­ments grew un­der the pre­vi­ous Colombo gov­ern­ment too. China’s For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi held talks with Pres­i­dent Ra­japaksa on Tues­day dur­ing a tran­sit stop in Colombo and the two men dis­cussed the Pres­i­dent’s im­pend­ing Bei­jing visit. “As Sri Lanka’s strate­gic part­ner, China will con­tinue to stand by Sri Lanka’s in­ter­ests,”

Ra­japaksa’s of­fice quoted Wang as say­ing. The visit will fo­cus on technology, tourism and in­fra­struc­ture, the Pres­i­dent’s of­fice said last week.

Ra­japaksa warned In­dia and Western na­tions that Sri Lanka would be forced to seek more fi­nance from China if they do not in­vest in the is­land. Sri Lanka was forced to hand over the strate­gic Ham­ban­tota port to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease af­ter the gov­ern­ment at the time said it was un­able to re­pay loans taken to build it.

This file photo shows Sri Lanka’s Pres­i­dent Gotabaya Ra­japaksa and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi

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