India bags power projects in northern Sri Lanka earlier awarded to Chinese firm

India was quick to offer grants on the condition  that projects would be developed by Indian firms—an offer Colombo eventually accepted

Mar 29, 2022
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Sri Lanka awarded hybrid power projects in three islands off the Jaffna coast in the north to India, effectively replacing the Chinese firm which had first been selected for the project last year . This has led to India raising security concerns, citing the proximity of the project site to its southern coast.  

The development came during the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar who is on a three-day visit to the island country. A memorandum of understanding on the building hybrid power projects was among six agreements that the two countries signed on Monday. 

India had expressed concern last year after the Sri Lankan cabinet approved the decision to award power projects in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu islands—roughly 50 km off India’s southern coast— to Chinese company Sinosoar-Etechwin. The project was backed by a loan offered by the Asia Development Bank. 

India was quick to offer grants on the condition  that projects would be developed by Indian firms—an offer Colombo eventually accepted. 

However, Colombo's reversal prompted the Chinese Envoy to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong to urge Sri Lanka not to cancel projects abruptly as it sent the wrong message to foreign investors.   

Apart from this, five more agreements, including one on the implementation of the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity (SL-UDI) program —on the line of India’s Aadhaar card—using Indian grant assistance, were also signed by the two countries. 

Significantly, under the signed deals, India will also help develop fisheries harbors in Point Pedro, Pesalai, and Gurunagar in the Northern Province—a region where China is also courting fishermen community—and Balapitiya, south of the capital Colombo. 

Additionally, India will also help develop modern computer labs, smart boards with customized curriculum software in 200 schools in the Galle district.

Commenting on India’s energy and economic cooperation, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Sri Lanka is “rooted in the ‘Neighbourhood First “ approach and S.A.G.A.R (Security And Growth for All in the Region) doctrine. “India has stood by Sri Lanka in the hour of its need,” he said.

As a signpost of  Colombo’s changing outlook, four ministers of the Rajapaksa government met Jaishankar at the airport when he arrived Monday from Male.

(SAM)

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