Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who held talks with Sri Lanka’s top leadership on Sunday, said no “third country” should “interfere” in its close ties, clearly showing Beijing’s big-ticket India’s concerns on strategic projects Island nation in the Indian Ocean.
Wang, who traveled to Colombo over the weekend on a two-day visit from the Maldives, said in his meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa that the friendly relations between China and Sri Lanka benefit the development of the two countries and serve fundamental interests. The official Xinhua news agency reported that both people.
“It does not target any third party and should not be interfered with by any third party,” Xinhua quoted Wang as saying, in a slightly oblique reference to India.
China is trying to deepen its ties with Sri Lanka, which has invested billions of dollars in ports and infrastructure projects, amid criticism that it has fallen into a debt trap.
China’s acquisition of the Hambantota port on a 99-year lease for a $1.2 billion debt swap drew international concerns over Beijing securing strategic assets away from home by providing huge loans and investments to smaller countries.
The Hambantota port, along with the Colombo port city project where China is building a new city with reclaimed land in the sea, was seen with particular concern in India as Beijing seeks to increase its presence in the Indian Ocean.
There are global concerns over the debt trap and regional hegemony by China using its Belt and Road (BRI) infrastructure projects.
China is spending huge sums of money on infrastructure projects in countries from Asia to Africa and Europe. The US’s previous Donald Trump administration had been extremely critical of the BRI, and viewed China’s “predatory financing” as leaving smaller countries under heavy debt, threatening their sovereignty.
Last month, China suspended a project to set up hybrid power plants in three islands north of Sri Lanka, which are located off the coast of Tamil Nadu, citing “security concerns” from a “third party”. But the Indian was amid reports of concern.
Significantly, Wang had proposed setting up a platform for the development of the Indian Ocean island nations during talks with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris, which observers say will help Beijing expand its influence in the region. is an attempt.
“This time during my visit to several island countries in the Indian Ocean, I see that all island countries share common experiences and common needs, with similar natural endowments and development goals, and strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation. favorable conditions and have full potential,” Wang was quoted as saying in a press release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“China proposes that a forum on the development of Indian Ocean island countries should be held at an appropriate time in order to build consensus and synergy and promote common development,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka can play an important role in this.
Ahead of his Colombo visit, Wang also visited the Maldives, where he held talks with top leaders of the island nation to deepen ties with China.
Six island nations are located in the Indian Ocean, namely Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka.
In a tweet, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo described Sri Lanka as the “real pearl” of the Indian Ocean.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Wang praised him and described the Sri Lankan leader as an “old friend of the Chinese people”.
“You visited China six times while serving as President of Sri Lanka… We cherish this special friendship and this story will go down in the annals of China-Sri Lanka relations,” Wang said.
Significantly, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his meeting with Wang raised Sri Lanka’s deep foreign exchange crisis and rising foreign debt and sought Beijing’s assistance.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said it would be a big relief for Sri Lanka if restructuring of loan repayments could be looked into as a solution to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement issued by . President’s Office.
It is estimated that Sri Lanka owes China in the region of $ 1.5 to 2 billion this year.
“Had a fruitful discussion yesterday with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. I thanked the Chinese government for its support to fight #Covid19 and discussed the importance of improving #tourism and business strategies between the two gvts (sic), President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)