India offers $450 mn development, anti-terror aid to Lanka …. reports Asian Lite News
India announced lines of credit amounting to $450 million to Sri Lanka as its newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on ways to push the bilateral relations and undertake developmental activities jointly in the island nation, including those benefiting ethnic Tamils.
Rajapaksa, who took over as the Sri Lankan President on November 18, has chosen India as the first country of his foreign visit, accepting an invitation extended by Modi soon after his election.
The Indian Prime Minister had sent External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Colombo on November 19 to personally hand over the invitation.
Modi and Gotabaya Rajapaksa held detailed talks here on Friday, covering various aspects of bilateral relations and the reconciliation process underway in Sri Lanka, keeping in mind the interests of ethnic Tamils.
Addressing the media jointly with Gotbaya Rajapaksa after their meeting at Hyderabad House, the Prime Minister underlined India’s neighbourhood-first policy and said the Sri Lankan President’s visit will boost the age-old ties between the two countries.
He assured Rajapaksa that India is with Sri Lanka in its fight against terrorism and announced a line of credit of $50 million to the island nation for the purpose.
Modi announced another line of credit of $400 million to help strengthen Sri Lanka’s economy.
He noted that India is already undertaking a project to build houses for ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka.
“Under Indian housing project, 46,000 houses have already been built in Sri Lanka and 14,000 more are being constructed for Tamil origin people,” Modi said.
“We exchanged our views on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa told me about his inclusive political point of view on ethnic harmony… I hope and believe the Sri Lankan government will take forward procedure of reconciliation to fulfil ambitions of equality, justice, peace and respect for Tamil citizens of the country,” the Prime Minister said.
The process of reconciliation includes implementation of 13th Amendment, Modi added.
On the occasion, Rajapaksa said the Indian boats seized by Sri Lankan forces will be released.
Ties with China
Days after Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa called the Hambantota Port lease agreement with China a “mistake” and said it should be renegotiated, China in a statement said the cooperation between the two countries was based on “equal-footed consultation and win-win spirit”.
Responding to an email query by the Daily Mirror, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “Our cooperation, including the project of Hambantota Port, is based on equal-footed consultation and win-win spirit. It aims to help Sri Lanka to leverage the country’s own advantage for better development.
“China would like to work with Sri Lanka to build the Hambantota Port into a new shipping hub in the Indian Ocean, which will further boost local economic and social development.”
A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, Luo Chong, told the Daily Mirror that the Hambantota Port was “totally owned and controlled” by Sri Lanka and any approvals and decisions regarding the port were to be taken by the Sri Lankan side.
“It is a joint venture and any approvals, including calling of ships at the Hambantota Port, is entirely Sri Lanka’s decision,” Luo said, the newspaper reported.
President Rajapaksa, in his first interview since taking office, said that while he remained committed to close ties with both China and India, he would re-negotiate the Hambantota Port lease agreement with China, terming it a “mistake” and calling on the Chinese company to be open to the move.
“We were never to give control of the port to China; that was a mistake,” President Rajapaksa said, pointing out the decision was made by the previous administration.
“The previous government gave it on a 99-year lease, and even though China is a good friend of ours and we need their assistance for development, I am not afraid to say that was a mistake.”
The President stated he would request the Chinese to renegotiate the joint venture and come with a better deal to assist Sri Lanka.
In July 2017, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority entered into a partnership with China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) to develop and manage the port.
Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2017 agreed to lease the port for 99 years to a venture led by China Merchants Port Holdings Co. in return for $1.1 billion.