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China readying red carpet for Sri Lanka PM

world Updated: Apr 05, 2016 23:18 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe(AFP File)

At least 10 bilateral deals and treaties, including on economic cooperation and extradition, are expected to be signed during Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe’s visit to China beginning on Wednesday.

Both sides will continue discussions on a free trade agreement during Wickremesinghe’s first visit to China after assuming office last year. The trip comes days after China laid out the red carpet for Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s week-long visit.

Nepal and China signed several treaties, which experts say, were broadly aimed at reducing the landlocked country’s dependence on India.

Wickremesinghe’s visit too is expected to strengthen relations between Colombo and Beijing, which were said to have cooled following former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat in the 2015 election.

The visit was supposed to be for two days but was extended by a day for Wickremesinghe’s meeting with President Xi Jinping, slated for April 8. He will meet Premier Li Keqiang and Zhang Dejiang, chairperson of the National People’s Congress (NPC) or Parliament.

Wickremesinghe will attend a high-profile business forum at which China’s top companies are expected to make investment pitches. He will be accompanied by six ministers and his wife Maitree who will interact with students of Tsinghua University.

Wickeremsinghe is expected to assure Chinese investors their investment will be safe in Sri Lanka after some Chinese projects – inaugurated during Rajapaksa’s regime – were stopped by the government under Presideny Maithripala Sirisena.

The $1.5-billion Colombo Port City project is the flagship among Chinese investments in Sri Lanka and the green signal for it was renewed last month after work stopped for nearly a year.

Sirisena suspended work on the project amid allegations of corruption, lack of transparency in the agreement and environmental problems. Xi had inaugurated the project during a visit in 2014.

The decision to restart the project in March was interpreted as China-Lanka relations getting back on track after a lull.

By 2014, China had emerged as the largest source of FDI with more than $404 million. The commitment for funding made by China for 2012-14 was reportedly $2.18 billion, a majority of it as a loan.

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