India have requested permission from the Sri Lankan government to open two more diplomatic missions in north and south of the country, a newspaper report said on Sunday.
The Sunday Times reported that India has sought clearance from Sri Lanka to open the two new deputy high commissions in Jaffna in the north and Hambantota in the south.
India currently has a high commission in Colombo – one of its largest worldwide – and a deputy high commission in the central hill town of Kandy.
In the first week of May, India inaugurated a visa processing centre in Jaffna, which many see as a precursor to the opening of a mission. And on Monday, India will also open another privately outsourced visa processing centre in Kandy.
A diplomat in the High Commission of India did not want to comment, saying it would not be appropriate before these and other issues are discussed during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s three-day visit to New Delhi, beginning June 8, where he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Sunday Times speculated that the only reason India would want a diplomatic mission in Hambantota would be to counter the expanding Chinese influence in the area. It is in Hambantota – Rajapaksa belongs to the district – where China is building a port. Many strategic experts see the port as part of China’s 'string of pearls' policy to encircle India with strategic ports in the Indian Ocean region.
"The only reason attributable is its decision to directly confront what many Indian watchers sees as India’s growing sensitivity to China’s increasing economic development programmes in the Hambantota district. In return, India has offered a multi-million dollar economic package for the reconstruction of the north -- especially rebuilding the northern railway, the Kankesanthurai harbour and the Palali airport," the newspaper report said.