No militarisation of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, says China
China on Monday dismissed as “baseless” reports that it will militarise Sri Lanka’s southern port of Hambantota, saying the facility was part of Beijing’s “pragmatic cooperation” with Colombo for economic development.
Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan recently met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during which he reaffirmed that China firmly upholds and supports economic globalisation and attaches great importance to its relations with Sri Lanka, according a release issued by the Chinese embassy in Colombo.
“Responding to recent baseless suspicion on so-called Chinese militarisation at Hambantota Port, the ambassador pointed out that there is no any military purpose for China to conduct friendly and pragmatic cooperation with Sri Lanka,” the release said.
According to analysts in Colombo, the comments appear to allay concerns raised by India over Chinese plans in neighbouring Sri Lanka on the broader Indian Ocean context.
“China never interferes in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and is willing to work with the Sri Lankan side to push forward the latter’s economic and social development by promoting new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, win-win cooperation,” Cheng was quoted as saying.
Wickremesinghe highlighted that Sri Lanka attaches great importance to cooperation with China on mega-projects, like Hambantota Port and Industrial Park, Colombo Financial City, the statement said.
The Sri Lankan government hopes to work with the Chinese side to accelerate the implementation of the ongoing projects and attract more Chinese investment to promote economic and social development, it said quoting the prime minister.
Meanwhile, in a separate meeting with the Sri Lankan Navy commander, the Chinese ambassador warned that both the nations must become aware of baseless rumours which aims to harm the good relations between the two countries, the embassy said.
The Wickremesinghe government had in 2015 stalled the Chinese port city project before approving it later.
The pact with China, to lease out the $1.3 billion Hambantota port for 99 years to develop an industrial park, has met with resistance from the Opposition. China invested heavily in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure during the 10-year tenure of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.