Sri Lanka ‘inviting trouble’ with India by giving port to China: ex-Defence Secy
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is ‘inviting trouble’ by giving Hambantota port on a 99-year lease to China, as India had earlier objected to a land reclamation project and container terminal in Colombo, ex-Defence Secretary Gothabya Rajapaksa said.
Sri Lanka is giving China 80 percent control of an entire port to China along with the breakwater, utilities, an oil tank farm with 1200 acres of land instead of leasing commercial facilities like terminals, jetties, tanks or space separately as is done usually.
"It is a very dangerous thing," Rajapaksa, brother of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa told members of Sri Lanka’s foreign correspondents association.
"And by this (we are) inviting trouble."
Rajapaksa said India’s current national security advisor Ajit Doval had objected to the ‘Port City’, a sea reclamation project and even a container terminal leased to China on standard international contract in the Colombo South Port.
"Mr Ajit Doval personally said, "No nothing, You have to stop Port City. You have to change back the Southern terminal…"
"That is what he told me twice, and that is how they looked at us at that time. And I do not know how they will look at this government when they want to give permanently the Hambantota Port.
India had wanted to remove the Rajapaksa administration. He was at a loss to understand why India now seems quiet now.
"I don’t know whether they are quiet or whether they are waiting for some other thing."
Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka had managed to re-assure the Congress administration and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanka Menon that no military activity will be carried out in Sri Lanka against India.
Rajapaksa said when China wanted to bring a submarine to Colombo, permission was sought from Sri Lanka and it was given as was done to other countries including from Russia and anti-piracy task force.
He said the submarine was given permission to enter Colombo on its journey Westward and also on its return.
"We explained that to the (Indian) Defence Attaché and the High Commissioner. Unfortunately in India the media played it up."
Rajapaksa said Mahinda Rajapaksa administration had worked in close co-ordination with the congress government during the war and had good relations with Foreign and Defence Ministers and the national security advisor at the time.
The Rajapaksa administration reassured Indian that there would be no Chinese military involvement and nobody would be allowed to use "Sri Lankan soil to do anything against India."
However perceptions had changed after the Modi administration came power, Rajapaksa said.
"Yes they had this issue with China. I think when this (Modi) government came to power, they completely mis-understood the issue.
"I think that is why they wanted to change the Rajapaksa government." (Colombo/Mar28/2017)