B. Muralidhar Reddy

  • Deal includes developing a harbour, bunkering system
  • One of the eight pacts signed during the visit of Mahinda Rajapaksa

    COLOMBO: China and Sri Lanka have signed an agreement on "establishment of friendship city relationship" involving Hambantota district. It includes developing a harbour, bunkering system and tank farm.

    Enhancing influence

    It was one of the eight pacts signed during the just-concluded visit of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa (February 26 to March 4). Observers believe that the Hambantota Development Zone agreement is significant as China is keen to enhance its influence in the Indian Ocean.

    It is immediately not clear if Sri Lanka intends to seek China's assistance to develop the Hambantota harbour on the same pattern as the Gwadar deep sea project in Pakistan undertaken by Beijing.

    Technical support

    A joint communiqué issued at the end of the President's visit said Sri Lanka expressed gratitude for assistance given in the form of technical support and financial aid for major infrastructure projects, including the Puttalam Coal Power Project on which work has commenced, in the island nation. "It was noted that discussion has proceeded on the Hambantota Development Zone, which includes developing a harbour, bunkering system and tank farm, and that positive progress was made between the Chinese companies concerned and the Sri Lankan authorities. The Chinese side assured it would encourage and facilitate financial institutions to effectively examine feasibility reports and other aspects on the priority project to enable its early commencement," the communiqué said.

    Other pacts

    The other important pacts signed during the visit include one on economic and technical cooperation, a memorandum of understanding on two-way investment promotion cooperation and an MoU on the film industry.

    The year 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, and is designated as "China-Sri Lanka Friendship Year."

    The two sides have agreed to organise a series of activities to increase friendly exchanges, consolidate traditional friendship, strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and promote the China-Sri Lanka All-round Cooperative Partnership to a higher level, including high-level visits in different areas of activities.

    In an indirect reference to the ongoing undeclared war in the island nation, the joint communiqué said: "The two sides resolved to fight tirelessly against the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and would step up consultation and coordination on regional and international counter-terrorism action."