Keen to forge all-weather ties with India, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has lauded the developmental work undertaken by the country in the war-ravaged northern region and vowed not to allow his nation's soil to be used against it.
"India is our neighbour. We must have good relations whether in war or in peace," Rajapaksa said in an interview to Singapore's New Straits Times.
Referring to the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India, he said the businessmen should decide on it and also find out how it would benefit them.
"If you try to introduce it the way that people mind it... (That would be counter-productive). We can't enforce it by force. Let the businessmen decide and when they realise that this will benefit them, then automatically they will push for it. I think that urge is taking shape now," Rajapaksa said adding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh understands this too.
Noting that India is engaged in development of the whole of the North, he said "a lot of railway line restoration there is done by the Indians."
However, he argued that it "doesn't mean Sri Lanka has been captured by India."
"Now take Hambantota port. It was offered to India first. I was desperate for development work. But ultimately the Chinese agreed to build it. Take Treasury bonds. Who controls it? Americans invest the bulk. Now take sovereign bonds. Who controls it? The British."
But, he said China is only doing development work and" we have to pay back their loans."
Asked whether a Chinese naval base would be allowed to set up in Habantota one day, Rajapaksa said Beijing was not interested in having such a base there.
"I will not allow this country (Sri Lanka) to be used against any other country. Whether it is China, India, Pakistan...we are a non-aligned country," he said.
Asked if Sri Lanka would start buying arms from India, Rajapaksa said his country did not need weapons from outside now.
"When a shipload of arms arrived from China after the war -- this was ordered by our friend (ex-army chief Sarath) Fonseka -- I had to turn it back. We don't need that much of arms and ammunition anymore."