Port deal reflects China-Sri Lanka trust: expert

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/10 21:48:39

The handover of Sri Lanka's largest multi-purpose port to China shows increasing trust among the two countries, a Chinese expert said, adding that the port is a breakthrough in China's cooperation with South Asian countries. 

The Hambantota Port was handed over to the China Merchant Ports Holdings (CMPH) on a 99-year lease agreement at a ceremony on Saturday, and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority together with CMPH will manage the operations of the southern port, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

CMPH said in a statement that the Hambantota Port will be the largest multi-purpose port in Sri Lanka and also the island nation's single largest private investment.

"The Hambantota Port will add to Sri Lanka's concept of transforming into a hub in the Indian Ocean," Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday, Xinhua reported. 

The handover is a breakthrough in China's Belt and Road initiative, as well as a significant step in China's cooperation with South Asian countries, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.

"It shows that the initiative was well received and the two countries' strategic trust was further enhanced. It will further China's influence in the South Asian region," Hu added.

However, the deal was a concern in India, which holds China as its geopolitical rivalry.

India has bought the "world's emptiest international airport," or the loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport near the Hambantota Port, expecting to counterbalance China's influence in the region, US news website Quartz reported.

"India is anxious and jealous about the deal. It has concerns that its influence in South Asia, which it regards as its 'traditional sphere of influence,' will greatly drop with China's growing influence," Hu said.

India is also concerned that the Hambantota Port will be followed by similar projects between China and other South Asian countries, Hu added.

In July, the Sri Lankan government together with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority signed an agreement with CMPH for the development and operation of the Hambantota Port on a public-private partnership basis.

According to the agreement, CMPH holds a 70 percent stake and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority holds the remaining 30 percent, Reuters reported.

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