As President Mahinda Rajapaksa turned the wheel on Sunday to release the first gush of seawater inside the Hambantota port, India might have rued a missed chance. In 2002, when the port project was on the drawing board, India refused to take it up. Where New Delhi refused, Beijing stepped in to take over the $ 1.5 billion project.
By November, the first ship is expected to berth at the port, ushering in what many in Sri Lanka think the country’s economic resurgence after years of civil conflict. Rajapaksa has repeatedly said that the port was commercial in nature and part of the other big projects China is helping Sri Lanka to build including an airport near the new seaport.
The port though has India worried about the strategic advantage it could give China as part of a other ports it is building in Pakistan and Myanmar.