China to H’tota – India to Colombo

 

After China was handed over operations of Hambantota port, India has expressed interest to gain operational responsibilities of Colombo port, reports say.

 

Government sources say India previously showed an interest about the oil tanks in Trincomalee and an economic zone in the area. Now, it is focusing its attention on the eastern supplies terminal of the Colombo port.

Indian authorities are holding talks with development strategy minister Malik Samarawickrema, who has agreed to their suggestion in an unofficial manner, say the sources.

Meanwhile, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake told the media recently that the SLPA had developed the eastern supplies terminal at a cost of Rs. 10,800 million. However, the economic committee led by the prime minister had decided to sell an 85 per cent stake of the terminal, while retaining only 15 pc of its shares.

But, president Maithripala Sirisena vowed at the 38th anniversary celebration of SLPA recently that the terminal would not be sold for any reason.

Reports say India is displeased over China’s entry to the scene at Hambantota port and raised its concerns with both government ministers and leaders of the joint opposition. Thereafter, Namal Rajapaksa said the neighbouring India would be in difficulties after the government got a Chinese company’s involved to handle the strategically important H’tota port. The JO is trying to win over India by taking advantage of the divisions within government ranks over this matter, and has even been contacted by Indian spy services. That is why government ministers have said a foreign intelligence service was behind the JO’s sabotaging of the parliamentary debate on the issue.

However, the government says it is not opposed to attempts to pacify India. In view of the Colombo port’s South Asia Gateway Terminal being given to Australia and international container terminal jetty to China, a handover of the eastern terminal to India will not happen. If that happens, the state’s role in the port’s operations will be completely weakened, and there will be strong worker opposition. Therefore, the government wants to get Indian involvement in the Trioncomalee oil tanks complex and official level talks with India in that regard will take place.

Kashyapa Kotelawala

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