NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka will soon be finalising an accord to take New Delhi’s help to develop Trincomalee Port in the East of the Island nation, a move seen as Colombo’s attempt at fine balancing India and China.
China has pumped in money to develop the Hambantota port in the South and is now said to be investing in Colombo port causing much discomfort in India that sees the Indian Ocean Region as its area of influence.
Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue 2017, Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lankan Minister for Regional Development, said Trincomalee is the deepest harbour in South Asia and "things are being finalised" with India to develop the port.
Hambantota Port built at a cost of $ 361 million is yet to take off with the port and the Chinese-built airport failing to attract traffic. The project has been funded by loan from Chinese Exim bank and is now becoming a “huge burden” on Sri Lankan economy. It was then that the Island country decided to put the port up for lease and a Chinese firm took it. "So finally with the Chinese company (China Merchants Ports Holding Company)...they were the best bidders, we decided to give it on lease. But this was mainly for commercial purpose.
"There won't be any security threat (to India) and it even won't upset the Indian sentiments. At the same time, India should not get worried over it because there are preparations being done for India to develop the Trincomalee harbour. We are trying to convert it harbour as a naval base and a commercial base," Fonseka said.
Fonseka also sought to downplay the presence of Chinese naval vessel in Sri Lankan waters as part of its navy’s engagement with other militaries for training purposes.