COLOMBO: China wants its projects in Sri Lanka to be Joint Ventures either with local Lankan companies and state organizations or with foreign companies, including Indian companies, says the Chinese Ambassador in Lanka, Yi Xianliang.
He told the Regional Center for Strategic Studies here on Monday that the common Lankan and Indian perception that Chinese projects are primarily meant to bolster China’s strategic interests in the region will be dispelled if they are Joint Ventures with local entities and foreign companies and run as commercial enterprises.
China has no hidden agenda, he emphasized. The entire 21 st. century Maritime Silk Road project is meant to promote development all across its route so that every country on the route benefits from it, he said.
If development is placed in the forefront, other conflicts and disputes in the region will not pose the kind of threat to regional stability as they do now, he reasoned. To illustrate, the envoy cited the Sino-Indian consensus on promoting economic cooperation while “managing and controlling the border dispute.”
The envoy said that mutual antagonism in South Asia will be mitigated if China, India and Pakistan form an economic alliance and co-opt Lanka and other South Asian nations. Lanka and India should sign the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), he said and added that he had discussed a China-India-Pakistan-Lanka business link up with the Indian envoy in Colombo and found him to be responsive.
China is already opening up its projects in Lanka to non-Chinese participation to allay India’s fears about their strategic impact. Ambassador Yi Xianliang said that the Marketing Manager of the Chinese company executing the US$ 1.4 billion Colombo Port City project had gone to India recently and found that Indian companies were willing to invest in the mega project about which India had reservations earlier.
What Lanka Must Do
However, Yi Xianliang made it clear that if foreign investment, including Chinese investment, is to come to Lanka, the island nation will have to put its house in order so that there is policy stability, the procedures are simple and there is no overlapping of authority. Policies should also not change with a regime change, as was the case when the Rajapaksa regime was replaced by the Srisena-Wickremesinghe government, he said.
Dispelling the notion that China had exceptionally close ties with the Rajapaksa regime, the envoy said that China deals with Lankan state and not with any particular regime.
Stand On Reconciliation
On China’s unqualified support for Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council, which annoys the world human rights lobby, Ambassador Yi Xianliang said that China is against outside interference in domestic affairs. He also advised Lankan leaders to see that the reconciliation mechanisms suggested by the UNHRC do not themselves create new conflicts. He also said that it would be ill advised to put reconciliation before development because it is only all round equitable development which will prevent social, political and economic conflicts.