In a veiled reference to India, China has said “no third party” can derail its strong ties with Sri Lanka, hours after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded his visit to Colombo
In a veiled reference to India, China has said “no third party” can derail its strong ties with Sri Lanka, hours after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded his visit to Colombo. The remark came amid the shadow of the recent fertilizer controversy that strained the ties between the two nations.
Speaking to the media after Wang's visit, Chinese Envoy to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong said Sri Lanka-China bilateral ties were only poised to grow stronger for the mutual benefit of the two countries and its people and that "no third party could derail it," reported Daily FT.
Ironically, it was the China Embassy in Sri Lanka that had last month blamed Colombo for the cancellation of an energy project that was awarded to a Chinese energy firm due to the "interference" from a "third country".
New Delhi had objected to these projects which were to be executed by the Chinese in three islands off the Jaffna coast, located hardly 50 km from India's southern coast. India, which considers developments in Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean sensitive from its security perspective, remains wary of expanding Chinese footprints in its 'backyard'.
The two Asian powers are locked in a bitter race to secure their respective spheres of influence in South Asia. Colombo Port City Project, the pet project of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, is looking for Chinese investment. During his visit, Wang assured the Sri Lankan leaders of more investments in the city.
The two nations had signed four agreements covering bilateral cooperation in the fields of health, economic, and technology cooperation. One of the agreements was for technical cooperation in health and related sectors in addition to 2,000 construction of low-cost housing in Colombo, an area India has been involved in.
Significantly, last year Sri Lanka had passed the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act, which bypassed many of the country's existing laws to streamline Chinese investment. The bill sparked fierce criticism both within and outside the country. Critics in Sri Lanka accused the government of mainly the Port City a “Chinese colony”. [ read more]
Reacting to the bill, New Delhi said it was monitoring the development from a “security perspective” [Read More]
However, last year Beijing became concerned when Sri Lanka canceled a fertilizer deal, initially awarded to a Chinese firm, and quickly sought assistance from India, which promptly dispatched its air force planes to deliver nano-fertilizer. Colombo’s outreach to New Delhi didn't go down well with Beijing, which blacklisted a state-owned bank in Sri Lanka and started arbitration proceedings against Colombo.
The recent visit by Foreign Minister Wang to Sri Lanka, at a time when the latter is going through its worst economic crisis, is being seen as renewed attempt to arrest the perceived slide in their bilateral ties.