China-Sri Lanka cooperation unaffected after attacks

By Yang Sheng and Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/6 22:48:41 Last Updated: 2019/5/7 16:25:30

China should share intelligence: experts

The St. Sebastian's Church where a blast took place is cordoned off in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 23, 2019. The explosions which rocked Sri Lanka Sunday killed more than 300 people and injured over 500 others. Photo: Xinhua

While the Sri Lanka terror attacks that killed four Chinese scientists last month inevitably raised some concerns about China-Sri Lanka cooperation and the security of Belt and Road (B&R) projects, Chinese institutes and operators in Sri Lanka told the Global Times on Monday that all cooperation remained unaffected.

China nonetheless needs to strengthen counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation with countries like Sri Lanka along the routes of the B&R to safeguard its overseas interests,  ncluding the security of Chinese personnel, Chinese analysts said.

The South China Sea Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences released a report on its website May 1, noting that senior engineer Li Jian, 38, and Pan Wenliang, 35, an associate research fellow from an oceanology institute at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Li Dawei, 30, and PhD candidate Wang Liwei, 28, died in April 21 attacks.

The oceanology researchers were killed in the bomb attack at the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo while having breakfast together on April 21.

They had been scheduled to board the Chinese research vessel Shiyan 3 and start China-Sri Lanka joint scientific exploration missions in the East Indian Ocean. 

Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea, said that China and Sri Lanka have profound cooperation on ocean exploration, especially the exploration of marine resources.

"The East Indian Ocean and the South China Sea have a similar climate environment, so the two sides can share experiences and technologies, and China has technological advantages which can help Sri Lanka improve its personnel training and equipment," Chen said.

The attacks have brought great losses to Sri Lanka as well as the Chinese team, but its impact on cooperation between the two sides was limited, Chen noted. 

"The attacks were not targeting China or the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, so there is no need to be too scared. Sri Lanka is not the only country threatened by terrorism along the routes of the B&R," Chen said. 

Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' institute of international relations and an expert of South Asian studies, said that the attacks tell China that security cooperation with countries like Sri Lanka is urgent and necessary. 

"The attacks show that countries like Sri Lanka have not enough capability to prevent massive terrorist attacks. So as long as China cares about its overseas interests and the BRI, it should strengthen cooperation with its partners' national security agencies to realize intelligence sharing," Hu said.  

Chen noted that countries like Sri Lanka also need security cooperation from China to guarantee the success of joint projects in their territories. "The BRI cooperation should not focus only on economy, trade and infrastructure construction. Security is a key to ensuring the safety of cooperation in other fields," Chen said.

The South China Sea institute noted in its report that the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka and relevant institutions will firmly promote oceanology cooperation with Sri Lanka "to comfort the souls of the victims [of the attacks]."

Unshakable ties

China Merchants Port Holdings Co (CMPort), which operates the Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT) and the Hambantota Port projects, said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Monday that it had beefed up security with the assistance of the Sri Lankan military and police, but that port business continued in a normal and orderly way.

The severe security situation has had some negative impact on rank and file employees trying to complete their work roster and on their commute trips, CMPort said in the statement. Management arranged shuttle buses and temporary shelters for those who live faraway.

"As a result, safe and nonstop production at the port has been ensured," the Shenzhen-based port operator said. CMPort has also secured a $60,000 charity fund for medical assistance from its headquarters in China to help Sri Lankans in difficulty.

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