PTI (Beijing): China’s State media today said Sri Lanka should retain friendship with cash-rich China as India is “not capable of providing large investment and loans”, in the first commentary following the defeat of pro-Beijing Mahinda Rajapaksa in the recent Parliamentary elections.
As the new Sri Lankan Government seeks to reverse the pro-China policy pursued by Rajapaksa, an article by a State-run thinktank said the former President turned pro-China only after he was pressured by India and the West over alleged human rights violations following the war with the LTTE.
Rajapaksa, 69, was defeated politically for the second time by an alliance led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who was backed by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Rajapaksa’s defeat in the 17 August polls has cemented the hold of Sirisena over the government and the opposition United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and its main constituent, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), analysts say.
“Sirisena’s wish to get investment and assistance from India is unrealistic. India itself needs enormous funds to improve its own basic infrastructure. Despite (Prime Minister) Modi’s ambition, the Indian government is not capable of providing large investment and loans,” the article in Global Times said.
It said: “Besides, Indian enterprises, especially in the construction and infrastructure sectors, cannot compete with Chinese ones in either funds or technology and can hardly replace the Chinese ones in Sri Lanka.”
“It is not that Rajapaksa didn’t want close ties with India. But when Rajapaksa asked for funding and contracts from India when the country built the Hambantota Port, India declined to help and Rajapaksa had no choice but to turn to China.”
The article said that India is “willing to see Sirisena reduce his dependency on China with an omni-directional diplomacy, but India doesn’t like it unless Sri Lanka puts India first.”
It said despite rivalry with Japan, China is “willing to see” more Japanese investments in Sri Lanka as “the two have common interests in safeguarding freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean.”
“China is willing to see Japan provide assistance to Sri Lanka. At the same time, India is not against Japan’s presence in the Indian Ocean,” it said.
“The growing importance of the Indian Ocean has made Sri Lanka of greater interest to big powers, which will bring huge development opportunities for the country. Sirisena should retain a good relationship with China, and meanwhile warm up ties with the West, India and Japan.
“He should inject new impetus to the country’s development rather than striking a poor balance with these partners at the cost of relations with China,” it said.
The Chinese media has earlier blamed Western and Indian media for projecting Rajapaksa’s pro-China. Sri Lanka had secured a $ 5 billion loan for strategic projects from China during Rajapaksa’s tenure, expanding Beijing’s influence in India’s backyard.