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10 pacts on table during Rajapaksa China visit

world Updated: May 27, 2013 02:20 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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At least 10 agreements are expected to be signed between China and Sri Lanka during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's three-day state visit to the Communist country beginning Monday.

During his visit, the sixth to China since he took over as President in 2005, Rajapaksa will meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang besides other senior leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The agreements will cover the entire gamut of cooperation between Beijing and Colombo including economic, political and cultural aspects as China emerges as the Island nation's single largest development partner since the end of the civil war between Tamil rebels and government troops in May, 2009.

The top Lankan diplomat in China played down the increasing collaboration between China and Sri Lanka as antithetical to Indian interests.

"We are traditional friends. The relationship is unique," Ranjith Uyangoda, Lankan ambassador to China, told the Hindustan Times about the association between Colombo and New Delhi.

The Chinese projects in Sri Lanka, according to Uyangoda, were commercial projects. "All of us have to work as a team," he said talking about Sri Lanka's efforts to rebuild the country after a civil that raged for nearly three decades.

During Rajapaksa's visit, focus will be on trade as Sri Lanka attempts to enter the huge China market with its trademark products of fine quality tea, precious and semi-precious gems and garments.

The balance of trade between the two countries - which stands a little over $ 3billlion annually - is skewed in China's favour by more than 90 percent.

But China is also heavily subsidising major infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka including the recently opened international airport in Hambantota, Rajapaksa's home district in the south of the country, in March.

China is also helping build a port in the same area and is also providing money and technical help in a number of highway projects.

Already, the district has seen the construction of a modern international cricket stadium, and IT park in addition to the development of the Hambantota port with Chinese assistance.

The Shangri-la resort chain is also currently building a mega hotel project in Hambantota.

Both the airport and the port ventures are funded by Chinese Export-Import Bank.

The Lankan government has signed a deal with China Development Bank to borrow 580 million US dollars in 2013 for projects in 2013, the state information office said.

During his visit, Rajapaksa will address an Asian political forum in Xian and service industry-related forum in Beijing, Uyangoda said.