Sri Lanka considering India’s grant instead of China project

Tamil parties also oppose Chinese involvement

February 16, 2021 10:13 pm | Updated 10:13 pm IST - COLOMBO

A file photo of Nainativu North Jetty with the gopuram of Naga Pooshani Ambal Kovil in the background.

A file photo of Nainativu North Jetty with the gopuram of Naga Pooshani Ambal Kovil in the background.

In an apparent bid to displace a Chinese company that had won the contract to install renewable energy systems in three small islands off Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, India has offered a grant of $12 million to execute it, Colombo-based media reported.

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power Dullas Alahapperuma has recently said that the government would consider India’s proposal, and that he would present a Cabinet paper on the matter soon. Newspaper reports quoted him as saying that receiving a grant “is an advantage” that would ease the burden on the Treasury, as opposed to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan, as per the original project proposal, that would have to be repaid.

The development comes less than a month after the Cabinet cleared a project to install hybrid renewable energy systems in Nainativu , Delft or Neduntheevu , and Analaitivu , located in the Palk Bay, some 50 km off Tamil Nadu. The Cabinet decisions taken on January 18, published officially, included a proposal to award the contract to Sinosoar-Etechwin Joint Venture in China, with funding from the ADB.

‘Security threats’

Meanwhile, a group of northern Tamil political parties have voiced opposition to Chinese involvement in the project, citing “security threats” to Tamil people and India. “We are not opposed to China but given that India has known security concerns in this regard, and also because the project is to come up very close to Tamil Nadu, we oppose Chinese involvement,” Jaffna parliamentarian Dharmalingam Sithadthan told The Hindu . “The people of Tamil Nadu have been lending unconditional support to the Tamil cause, so their security, as well as that of India, is very important to us,” the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislator said, adding that India was a “long-term friend” of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.

It remains to be seen if India’s proposal gets official clearance, but India’s swift offer comes in the wake of being ejected — along with Japan — out of the East Container Terminal (ECT) development project at the Colombo Port, following another Cabinet decision taken on February 1 this year.

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