A senior Tamil parliamentarian has accused Sri Lanka of seeking to undermine Indian interests by privileging China.
Addressing the parliament on Friday, R. Sampanthan, leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA), asked if it was a clear indication of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s insensitivity to the concerns of neighbouring India or whether Colombo was pursuing a “deliberate, pre-determined programme” to undermine Indian interests to isolate India and free itself from obligations and commitments made to India. Almost 98 per cent of Chinese funding came by way of loans, while one-third of India’s approximately $1.3 billion-assistance was a grant, he said, on the support extended by two countries.
“Is a position sought to be created where India will not be able to play any role in Sri Lanka in keeping with India’s role over the past three decades and consistent with India’s historical, geographical and cultural links with Sri Lanka?” asked Mr. Sampanthan, who headed the TNA delegation that met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in August.
“ Is a position sought to be created where India will not be able to play any role in Sri Lanka in keeping with India’s role over the past three decades and consistent with India’s historical, geographical and cultural links with Sri Lanka? ”
In response, Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris denied claims that China had hidden interests in Sri Lanka. He told parliament that China’s ties with Sri Lanka went back several years before the current government came to power in 2005. The Ministry’s monitoring MP Sajin de Vass Gunawardena said: “We are maintaining good ties with all countries. We know the importance of India.”
The debate comes at a time when India has been raising serious concerns over China's expanding military presence in Sri Lanka. In October, The Hindu reported Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa's visit to New Delhi in this connection, and his meeting with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley. It is learnt that New Delhi raised the issue of a Chinese submarine that docked at the Colombo Port twice in the last two months. “Even after our repeated requests for prior information, Colombo informed the Indian Mission only after the vessel was docked at the port,” a senior official in New Delhi told The Hindu .