Steering clear of a perception of China-India rivalry, Beijing has proposed at triangular partnership with India and Sri Lanka, ahead of a month-end visit to Beijing of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Asked to comment on the visit to India by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “We are happy to see close and friendly development of India-Sri Lanka relations”. She added: “We believe the sound relations among the three countries are conducive to the three countries and to the whole region. Therefore we are happy to see development of relations between Sri Lanka and India.”
China’s new strategic construct of inclusive ties with India and Sri Lanka follows its advocacy of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), where India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan are visualized as partner countries in South Asia. While India is connected to the MSR through the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, China sees Sri Lanka as an important point of trans-shipment in the global trade network. The Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is to be connected to Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Province, is also one of the nodes of the MSR.
Alarmed by the >visit of a Chinese submarine to Sri Lanka during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure, and the award of strategic construction projects in Sri Lanka to China, India appears to be showing a proactive approach in its dealing with the Sirisena government. In New Delhi, the visiting President on Monday signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, apart from deciding to expand New Delhi-Colombo defence and security ties.
Mr. Samaraweera arrives in the Chinese capital for a two-day visit on February 27. “We hope to use the opportunity of this visit by Foreign Minister Samaraweera to have a further deep exchange of views on the future of Sino-Sri Lanka ties under this new situation,” said Ms. Hua.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister’s visit follows, swift behind the scenes diplomacy, following the landmark election in the island nation, which removed Mr. Rajapaksa from power.
China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao had visited Colombo earlier this month. Mr. Samaraweera is now expected to do the groundwork for Mr. Sirisena’s visit to China in March. Arriving on March 26, 2015, the Sri Lankan President will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and attend the annual Boao Forum for Asia.