Sri Lanka relaunches port agreement with India and Japan

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Sri Lanka has insisted that its ports will not be used for military purposes. (Representative)

Colombo:

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday announced the relaunch of an Indian and Japanese investment project to develop a deep-water terminal in the port of Colombo next to a controversial 500 million container jetty. dollar led by Chinese.

A tripartite agreement reached by Sri Lanka’s previous government had been suspended amid union resistance, but Rajapaksa said the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) would continue.

The approval came after looking at “regional geopolitical concerns,” Rajapaksa’s office said, referring to India’s suspicion of China’s role in the same port.

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The terminal will be developed with 51% ownership by the government of Sri Lanka and the remaining 49% as an investment by Adani Group and other stakeholders, including Japan, officials said.

The state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) entered into a memorandum of cooperation in May 2019 with Sri Lanka, India and Japan to develop ECT before Rajapaksa came to power in November 2019.

The deep-water jetty is located next to the Colombo International Container Terminal, 85% owned by China and commissioned in 2013.

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SLPA holds the remaining 15%.

India protested when Chinese submarines made unannounced visits to the Chinese-run terminal in 2014.

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Sri Lanka has since refused to allow further submarine calls.

Almost 70 percent of the transshipment containers handled by Colombo were Indian export-import goods.

In December 2017, Sri Lanka, unable to repay a huge Chinese loan, ceded another deepwater port in the south of the island to a Beijing-based company in a deal that raised concerns in its country and abroad.

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The $ 1.12 billion deal, first announced in July 2016, saw a Chinese state-owned company take control of the Port of Hambantota, which straddles the country’s busiest east-west sea route. world, on a 99-year lease.

India and the United States are both concerned about China’s presence in Hambantota, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Colombo, which could give it a military naval advantage in the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka has insisted that its ports will not be used for military purposes.

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