An Echelon Media Company
Thursday December 9th, 2021
International Relations

No threat to Indian interests, Sri Lanka president assures India foreign secy

President Rajapaksa in discussion with the visiting Indian foreign secretary and other officials

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will not allow any activity that could pose a threat to India, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla when they met on Tuesday (05).

President Rajapaksa’s assurance comes at a time when China is making much headway in investments and lending for Sri Lanka’s infrastructure projects. Diplomats and Sri Lankan officials say India has raised concerns over increasing Chinese influence in the island nation.

Beijing’s activity in the island is expected to rise when the Chinese built Port City starts commercial operations in the near future.

President Rajapaksa was emphatic that Sri Lanka will not be used for any activity that could pose a threat to India’s security since there is a clear understanding about the geographic location of the two countries, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the president had comprehensively explained Sri Lanka’s relations with China and reassured the Indian official that there was no reason for India to have any concerns.

Since Rajapaksa was elected in 2019, his government has cancelled a 293 million US dollar India-backed airport project near the Chinese port in Hambantota and a 500 million US dollar East Container Terminal project at the Colombo port, next to a Chinese-controlled container terminal and the China-backed Port City.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna has been of the view that some of the oil tanks in Trincomalee oil tank farm should be taken back to the government from India’s state-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) which has control of the farm through a 35-year lease up to 2038.

However, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila told parliament on Monday (04) that Sri Lanka cannot develop the oil tanks even after 2038 due to the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord.

Analysts say the moves have strained diplomatic relation between the two neighbours and the foreign secretary’s visit was seen as an attempt to rebuild “time-tested” bilateral relations.

At Tuesday’s meeting, President Rajapaksa also said an environment has been created for investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

“The President said that Indian investors will also be invited to invest,” the PMD statement said.

Rajapaksa had also told Shringla that the Minister in charge of the subject has been entrusted with the task of resolving the situation regarding the Trincomalee oil tanks in a manner that is beneficial to both countries,

The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said in a statement that the foreign secretary had reiterated India’s position on complete implementation of the provisions in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, including devolution of powers and the holding of Provincial Council elections at the earliest.

The 13th amendment was included as a result of the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord, but successive Sri Lankan governments had resisted its full implementation fearing it could pave the way for independent states, analysts say.

The Indian concern on the 13th amendment is due to its close cultural and religious ties with Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority Tamils who predominantly live in the island nation’s north and east.

“The president pointed out the urgent need to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the 13th Amendment and act accordingly,” the PMD statement said.

“President Rajapaksa told Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla that he wished to create a conducive environment for the Tamils, who left Sri Lanka, to return to the country and that he had openly invited the Tamil diaspora and Tamils living abroad [when he addressed] the UN General Assembly to contribute their support in making the government’s efforts in this regard a success.” (Colombo/Oct06/2021)

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