No Chinese military activity at Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, envoy assures

Monday, 6 February 2017 00:40 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Beijing: Allaying India’s fears, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku has assured that Chinese military activity will not be allowed at the Hambantota Port following the handover of 80% stake of the strategic port to a Chinese firm.

“I do not know about other countries but Sri Lanka has very categorically informed the (Chinese) investor that it will not be allowed to be used for any military purposes,” Ambassador Karunasena Kodituwakku told the media on the sidelines of the Sri Lankan Independence Day reception in Beijing.

The envoy played down protests by locals and labour unions over the handing over of 80% stake in the Hambantota port to a Chinese firm and said that considering India’s concerns, no military activity would be allowed at the port, Press Trust of India reported.

Admitting to concerns expressed by China over the protests, the Ambassador said: “Despite the opposition from a small group, the Government will go ahead.”

The Government signed a framework agreement in December regarding the port with China Merchant Holdings and according to the agreement, 80% of shares of the Port of Hambantota will be given to the Chinese company for $ 1.12 billion. The rest will be held by the Sri Lanka Port Authority.

Last month Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, accompanied by the Ambassador of China to Colombo Yi Xianliang, inaugurated a special industrial zone in Hambantota amid protests by Joint Opposition politicians and Buddhist monks to bring in Chinese investors. The Ambassador said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the high-profile One Belt One Road (Silk Road) summit called for by Chinese President Xi Jinping in May.

Wickremesinghe will be present at the Silk Road summit as China regards Sri Lanka as an important base for its 21st Maritime Silk Road in the Indian Ocean over which India has expressed strong reservations.