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Sri Lanka- China nexus: Hambantota port is next, after defence ties

Colombo, Mar 5 () : In a growing and fast developing Sri Lanka – China nexus, the China-built $1.5 billion Hambantota port is next on the  cards to be unveiled in Sri Lanka this June. Hambantota port is set to become Sri Lanka’s biggest port.

This might result in escalation of India’s fears when a series of similar port developments stretching from Myanmar to Pakistan gives a strategic boost in the region to the Chinese navy, though the ports are intended for commercial operations and are mostly not fully operational as yet.

For the first phase of the new port in Hambantota, China has lent $400 million and another $810 million has been given for the second phase with China Communications Construction Company as the contractor.

Another China-backed infrastructure project built with a $209 million Chinese loan, the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport is due to open on March 18, with China Harbour Engineering Company constructing the first phase of it.

With the strategic aim of expanding its presence in Sri Lanka, China is also involved in construction of $209 million airport, Norochcholoi coal power plant, Colombo Port expansion project, and irrigation and power projects that are pegged at costing millions.

Foreseeing a future role of being a strategic hub in knowledge, commerce, navigation, aviation, and energy, Sri Lanka is making better use of the commercial and trade opportunities offered by China for which it is primarily expansionism in the ‘backyard of India.’

Earlier, in September 2012, Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie made a five-day visit to Sri Lanka, when he claimed that close military ties between the two countries were intended for “maintaining regional security and stability and not targeted at any ‘third party’.” During the visit Mr. Liang promised to provide Sri Lanka with USD 100 million aid for Army welfare projects kicked off by the Sri Lankan ministry of defence.

China’s announcement to offering  new grants to build and modernize Sri Lankan military training establishment had led to “closer cooperation” between the two nations as voiced by the Sri Lankan officials.

Later,the key Chinese Communist Party leader, Wu Bingguo visited  Sri Lanka during when 16 agreements had been signed focusing on infrastructure development in Sri Lanka including USD 760 million aid to help the island nation to become “Asia’s miracle” as reported in The Indian Express.

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