Reuters: Sri Lanka’s relationship with India is not at risk over expanding ties with China or other nations, India’s Foreign Minister said on Friday.
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is on a three-day visit to Sri Lanka to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa, sign trade and financing deals and open two new consulates.
One is in the former Tamil Tiger stronghold of Jaffna in the north and the other in southern Hambantota, Rajapaksa’s hometown and site of a new Chinese-financed harbour that has stirred national security concerns in New Delhi.
“The relationship between India and Sri Lanka need not be at the cost of other countries,” Krishna told reporters. “Our ultimate objective is hoping to see a prosperous, stable Sri Lanka at peace with itself.”
In August, Krishna told India’s Parliament that China was “showing more than normal interest in Indian Ocean affairs”.
New Delhi is worried that Beijing is trying to widen its influence over countries it considers in India’s sphere of influence, such as Sri Lanka.
India in the 1980s trained the Tamil Tigers, who fought for a separate state for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority in a war that began in earnest in 1983 and raged off and on until the Government – with New Delhi’s backing – won decisively in May 2009.
The Indian Government has been swift to support post-war reconstruction in the former war zone, populated mainly by Tamils, of whom there are more than 60 million across the Palk Strait in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state.
Krishna on Friday signed a credit agreement for $ 416 million for the construction of the northern railway line that was destroyed in the war. India is also financing the building of 50,000 houses for victims of the war.
Another outcome of Krishna’s meetings was an announcement that India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and Sri Lanka’s state-owned Ceylon Electricity Board have finalised agreements for to build a 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant near the northern port of Trincomalee, which will be signed soon.
Krishna also said that India and Sri Lanka expected to resume ferry services between Colombo and the southern Indian ports of Tuticorin, Talaimannar and Rameswaram, which were interrupted by the war.
Sri Lanka has strategically balanced its ties with India and China since Rajapaksa came to power, playing each off against the other to gain support, especially during crucial points in the final years of the war.
China is Sri Lanka’s largest infrastructure lender and has been the main actor in the country’s $6 billion post-war redevelopment drive.
Sri Lanka’s Government points out that Sino-Sri Lanka relations date back centuries.