South Asia

Sri Lanka to bar Chinese submarines from docking in its waters

Sri Lanka on Saturday declared that it will not allow Chinese submarines to dock in its waters as part of a new policy barring hosting of foreign submarines.

Asked to comment on the new government’s view on the docking of a Chinese submarine in Colombo last year, visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told a press conference: “I do not know what sort of circumstances led to some submarines coming to Colombo on the very day the Japanese Prime Minister was visiting Sri Lanka.” Elaborating on his remarks regarding the two-time docking of a Chinese submarine during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure, the Minister asserted that Sri Lanka “will ensure that such incidents, from whatever quarter, do not take place under our tenure”.

The Minister stressed that the new government had adopted a centrist foreign policy based on engagement of the entire world, without identifying with any camp, for the benefit of the Sri Lankan people.

In response to a question by a Chinese correspondent, Mr. Samaraweera firmly endorsed the suggestion of establishing a cooperative trilateral partnership between China, India and Sri Lanka. Avoiding a zero-sum formulation, he said: “I agree that it is a very good idea, and a tripartite agreement between China, Sri Lanka and India is most welcome”.

Referring to the strong advocacy of a Beijing-New Delhi-Colombo partnership by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday, Mr. Samaraweera affirmed that his counterpart had “very correctly yesterday called for a tripartite understanding between the three countries and we welcome that”. He referred to the deepening engagement of Sri Lanka and India with China, underscored by the two-day visit of President Maithripala Sirisena from March 26, and the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Beijing.

On Friday, Mr. Wang had stressed that the “relevant parties may continue to explore discussions about such cooperation in future to think about what are practical ways and means in pursing such cooperation”. A diplomatic source told The Hindu that the idea was further discussed during lunch between the two delegations following the presser.

Mr. Samaraweera said as a government committed to rule of law, transparency and good governance, Sri Lanka has decided to take a fresh look at the $5-billion loans that have been raised from China. He added that Sri Lankan Finance Minister will visit China to discuss this issue following Mr. Sirisena’s visit. “During the run-up to the last presidential campaign, the people of Sri Lanka raised many, many questions about the interest rates especially, and also in certain cases about the manner in which these loans were raised,” he observed.

Mr. Samaraweera said the review of certain projects should be welcomed by foreign, including Chinese, investors as this signalled the emergence of a “rule-based investor climate” premised on merit alone.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 11:12:35 PM |

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