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Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe calls for bilateral agreement with whomever we want

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Ranil Wickremesinghe also talked about Sri Lanka’s debt, most of which is owed to China.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday dismissed trade agreements in South Asia, saying there was “too much politics” and the country needs to broaden its partnership with “whom we want”.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be foreign trade integration in the South Asian region. No, there should be a bilateral agreement with whomever we want,” he said while speaking at a conference on rebuilding the island nation’s economy. He is facing his biggest crisis.

“To have a regional trade agreement in South Asia involves a lot of politics. We can put that aside. We can integrate into dancing, cooking, but of course, you’re not going to integrate as an economy. are concerned,” said Mr. Wickremesinghe.

Though he did not name India, the remarks may have created an uproar in New Delhi. India, the main engine of South Asian engagement, has long tried to wean Sri Lanka away from China, which failed this week amid a planned visit to a port in the country by a Chinese “spy” ship.

Indian government sources had said that the progress of the ship was being monitored. India has made it clear that it will “closely track any impact on India’s security and economic interests and take all necessary measures to protect them”.

Apart from the $5 billion aid to the beleaguered country, India has several trade deals with Sri Lanka.

Two days ago, while meeting Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed Foreign Minister Ali Sabri, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reaffirmed India’s commitment as “a trusted friend and reliable partner” to the island nation’s economic recovery and welfare.

Addressing the crisis and the plethora of debt – much of it is owed to China – at the conference, Mr. Wickremesinghe said, “First foreign debt and then if you look at official debt, can we get into the geopolitics of the region? Getting stuck. Asia? Geopolitics, that’s the issue.”

Emphasizing on tight trade ties with Southeast Asian countries, Indo-Pacific countries, Europe and the US, he also referred to the Chinese-run Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, where the Chinese ship was to depart.

The Sri Lankan President said, “If you look at the economies of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, logistics can play a big role. Here in Hambantota and in Colombo in Trincomalee, we use our strategic position.”

Sri Lanka had asked China to indefinitely delay the voyage of the Yuan Wang 5 ship, which could be used for surveillance and tracking intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellites in Hambantota, news agency AFP reported on Saturday. .

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