No talks on Hambantota port envisaged during Sri Lankan PM’s visit to China

No talks on Hambantota port envisaged during Sri Lankan PM’s visit to China

Colombo, May 17 (newin.asia): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who will be in  China on Saturday to attend the One Belt One Road Summit, will not be discussing the controversial Hambantota port issue with Chinese leaders, reliable sources said.

The sources also said that Wickremesinghe will not be discussing the Sino-Lankan Free Trade Agreement either.

Wickremesinghe has been talking of concluding these agreements soon.

The Hambantota port issue has become a politico-nationalistic issue in Sri Lanka. Influential political lobbies are opposing the grant of 80% stake for 99 years to  a state owned Chinese company. Even a revised formula by which the Chinese company will offload 20% of its share holding in 10 years to a Sri Lankan entity is not acceptable.

As for the FTA issue, it is also ticklish since there is little that Sri Lanka can sell to China to make free trade meaningful. Trade will be heavily in favor of China.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Chinese here, confirmed that China is not interested in sewing up  agreements qucikly as the Sri Lankans have shown a tendency to go back on signed deals.

China Denied Permission To Use Lankan Waters  

The sources also said that China had sought permission from the Sri Lankan government to allow one of their submarines to pass through Sri  Lankan waters in mid May. But the government came back after consulting the political leadership to say that permission could not be granted (apparently because of India’s sensitivities over this issue). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to visit Sri Lanka on May 11 and 12.

However, the sources added that if permission is sought at a later date, it may be granted.

(The featured picture at the top shows Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an earlier meeting)