Posted on May 22nd, 2017

with Ravi Ladduwahetty Courtesy Ceylon Today

“Until you realize how easy it is for your mind to be manipulated, you remain the puppet of someone else’s game.”

Speculation was rife in political circles that India was behind the election and installation of the Sirisena- Wickremesinghe unity government. That was not only reported and published in the local media but also the Indian mainstream media as well. Even former President Mahinda Rajapaksa mentioned this in various interviews that he gave not only the local media but also the regional media as well. India was widely believed to have been behind the regime change in Sri Lanka 8 January 2015.

One of the biggest downturns in the local political economy at the time that the unity government assumed office was the temporary cancellation of the mega buck Port City Project, in which Sri Lanka was to be the beneficiary of an astronomical US$ 1.4 billion which is expected to be in the State coffers at the end of another two years with the filling up of the land at Galle Face, which was confirmed to this newspaper by Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy in the lead story in its 24 April 2017 Edition.

It is also true that there were concerns by India about the ever growing presence of China in Sri Lanka economically. It’s also known that Sri Lanka at the very outset cancelled the Port City project due to Indian insistence in that direction and that was due to China’s growing presence in Sri Lanka in airport and sea port projects.

The project was stalled due to Indian domination here, but, the hard reality is that it was the GOSL which was left carrying the baby. It was up to the Chinese Government to seek damage control and where a compromise solution was arrived at with the GOSL not having any option but to increase the land in the Port City project to the benefit of China. This, ethically and technically, should have been India’s liability, which the GOSL has decided to “carry the can”!

It is true that there are issues which are historic between India and China which have persisted over centuries and throughout the sands of time but those are well beyond the territorial boundaries of Sri Lanka.

SL to negotiate $125 m penalty by Chinese firm over Port City delay

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was heading to Beijing in April 2015 to negotiate a $125 million penalty that a Chinese State firm is seeking from Sri Lanka for suspending work on a big port development project.

Sri Lanka ordered a review of the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City project last year, citing irregularities in the award of the contract to state-owned China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) by the previous government.

In March 2016, the Sri Lankan Government, facing a difficult economy, ordered the Chinese firm to resume work on the port city, being the biggest foreign investment project, that includes apartments, shopping malls and marinas near the capital, Colombo.
But CCCC, which had estimated that the shutdown would result in losses of more than $380,000 a day, has sought compensation of $125 million.

Sri Lanka has sought to balance ties with China and India under President Maithripala Sirisena.

There should be a limit to the Indian dominance on Chinese influence here. The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) which is initiated by China has a monumental influence on Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka could dominate by providing its physical resources to that project. It is true that the previous government also made various blunders with regard to the Hambantota Port project, but, it is up to the present regime to make all the infrastructure, viable ones.

There is also another development to that in that India and its media are carrying out a despicable campaign towards scuttling and wilfully sabotaging that process which it has no business to do.

The alleged purpose of that story or rather “plant” was to undermine the excellent relationship that Sri Lanka was having with China towards the OBOR.

The distortion is that the Indian newspaper has quoted Dr. Sarath Amunugama as having said that Sri Lanka backs India in the Kashmir issue . but nowhere in the story does it say anything at all to substantiate it, giving the entire story a political twist, which suggests that India is to undermine Sri Lanka’s positive relations with China.

The report says: “Sri Lanka, which attended the recently concluded Belt and Road Forum in China, has backed India’s concern over the Kashmir issue, saying it is difficult for New Delhi to accept the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it goes through the ‘heart of Indian interests,’ the Economic Times reported last Wednesday quoting a Press Trust of India news report.

“Special Assignments Minister Sarath Amanugama has said India, which skipped the high-profile meeting, would have joined ‘very happily’ in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative of China.

“Unfortunately, the issue is going through the heart of Indian interests. If it is some uncontested region, India would have negotiated its way out. Here especially the Kashmir issue getting dragged into it, makes it difficult for India to be flexible,” Minister Amunugama, who accompanied Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was quoted by PTI.

He said “India, China and Sri Lanka were very much part of the ancient Silk Road route as the Chinese Buddhist scholars like Fa Hsein visited both India and Sri Lanka (in 5th Century BC) leading to big discoveries of Buddhist relics in Sri Lanka, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized connectivity.

“These countries were connected many centuries ago. This will link up these countries on a certain rational basis. Once the regional problems are resolved, then India has to play a big role in the initiative,” he said adding that India anyway has to play a big role. “You cannot think of a belt and road without going over and close to India,” he said.

India skipped the meeting due to its sovereignty concerns over the US$ 50 billion CPEC, which goes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The two-day conference in Beijing brought together leaders from 29 countries. Besides Premier Wickremesinghe, the summit was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several other leaders, Heads of UN, World Bank and IMF,” the ET report said.


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