China’s increasing presence in Sri Lanka will benefit all countries in South Asia

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/16 0:18:39

Domestic news portal reported over the weekend that Japanese media was saying China's increasing presence in Sri Lanka's Hambantota port is making Japan and India worried. It is understandable that the cooperation has left some Asian countries vigilant as media reports suggest that an 80 percent share of the port, which sits on an important trade route, and land for an industrial zone will be leased to China for the next 99 years. However, joining the project would be better than standing aside and being jealous.

The Chinese-funded project in Sri Lanka is not a nail being knocked into the geopolitical landscape of South Asia to curb India's rise. China's economic cooperation with Sri Lanka does not target any third party, including India and Japan, because the project is just another move in pushing forward the Belt and Road initiative, an open, inclusive international cooperative proposal that any nation is welcome to take part in. India and Japan should feel free to join the initiative in a bid to boost their presence in Sri Lanka's economy, but it is questionable whether the two countries are willing to spend a large amount of money on supporting the economy of Sri Lanka and pushing forward regional economic integration.

If Sri Lanka could not get enough financial support from India and Japan to build its port facilities, it seems inadvisable to prevent the South Asian country from seeking help from China, a country that is witnessing a boom in outbound investment. Sri Lanka is located along a vital sea-lane and trade corridor which connects the oil-rich Middle East and East Asia. India and other nations could use the new port facilities in Sri Lanka as a regional transit hub for their own shipping.

Some countries like India and Bangladesh will be the first batch of beneficiaries of China's efforts to build a network of roads and infrastructure facilities in South Asia to open up new trade routes. In this regard, China's economic cooperation with Sri Lanka will contribute not just to the local economy but to the whole region.

As more and more South Asian countries keep a positive attitude toward China's efforts to improve infrastructure in the region, skeptics in countries such as India should rethink their stance toward the Chinese-funded project in Sri Lanka. China is likely to adopt an open attitude if other countries can put aside the idea of geopolitical confrontation and join in on harbor construction of the island nation.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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