Delhi frets over chinese portal

Published: 31st October 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st October 2016 02:24 AM   |  A+A-

The nagging question of how Sri Lanka would repay the USD 1.5 billion loan it had taken from China to build the non-performing Hambantota harbour has now been resolved with Beijing agreeing to convert 80 per cent of the debt into equity.

To make the port commercially viable, Colombo has given Beijing 15,000 acres around it to be developed as an economic center. The deal reduces the amount owed to China from USD 8 billion to USD 6.8 billion. But it is of concern to India, which sees Sri Lanka as its strategic backyard and China as its rival in the region.  
Sri Lanka has been trying to assuage India’s anxieties by saying the port won’t be used for military purposes, and China, on its part, has invited Indian participation in hinterland development. But India continues to be concerned, given that the Sri Lankan Finance Minister admitted China agreed to the deal not because it believes the port can be run profitably, but because it is of “strategic value”.

Given that Hambantota sits on the main East-West shipping route in the Indian Ocean, and China is posing a threat to unfettered navigation in the South China Sea, New Delhi is apprehensive about Beijing’s intentions. With terror and separatism making Gwadar in Balochistan problematic, China needs a safe alternative port in the Indian Ocean, and Hambantota fits the bill admirably. A state-owned Chinese company already owns the Colombo port’s South Terminal.

Sri Lanka is acutely aware of India’s sensitivity about China’s projects in the island, especially after alarm bells went off in New Delhi after a Chinese nuclear submarine docked in the South Terminal in 2014. To keep India in good humour, Colombo is giving it many development projects and investment opportunities.
India understands the now-friendly Sri Lanka’s financial difficulties, but it can’t but checkmate Colombo whenever Sino-Lankan deals threaten India’s strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region.

Stay up to date on all the latest Editorials news with The New Indian Express App. Download now

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.