Enhanced dialogue with India in 2022 - SL Envoy | Daily News

Enhanced dialogue with India in 2022 - SL Envoy

To allay fears over Chinese investments:
To build mutual trust and understanding:
To seek more investments:

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Milinda Moragoda said dialogue with New Delhi was important for the development of trust and understanding between the two countries in 2022 on the issue of the Chinese presence in the island nation.

High Commissioner Moragoda said on Wednesday that the two countries are trying to develop an understanding to the extent of having “red lines that the two sides will not cross”.

“China does not have any security presence in Sri Lanka, and India has never told Sri Lanka not to accept Chinese investments,” Moragoda further said.

“Of course, given the nature of the power play in this region, the Chinese presence can be looked at differently. In that context, I think our dialogue with India is what is important – to build trust and to understand each other. And, maybe, have some sort of red lines which both sides will not cross,” Moragoda said through a video link during an interactive session organised by the Gandhinagar-based Rashtriya Raksha University.

“Those understandings are what we are trying to develop. I think as long as that is there, we should be able to move forward, because nobody has told us, definitely India has not, not to accept Chinese investment. China is one of the biggest investors in the world today. But as long as the investment does not create any strategic issues in India, we should be able to entertain that investment,” he added.

The envoy said a better, transparent and candid dialogue between India and Sri Lanka will create less chances of misunderstanding.

In what was seen as a big jolt to New Delhi’s investment plans in Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa government had cancelled a tripartite deal with India and Japan to build a strategic deep-sea container port.

Sri Lanka, which had agreed in 2019 to develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo port with India and Japan, scrapped the deal and termed the ECT “a wholly-owned container terminal of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.” Colombo said it would instead develop the port’s West Container Terminal (WCT) with investment from India.

Sri Lanka’s main focus remains on how to get its economy right, and the visit of a delegation led by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa to the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in January will be to facilitate Indian investments in the island nation, he said. He said that India has a “crucial role” to play in helping Sri Lanka get its economy right.

Minister Rajapaksa, in New Delhi on a two-day visit this month, called on Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar where they discussed the four pillars of involvement potential for India to help Sri Lanka out of its economic crisis.

“In that context, on January 9, our Finance Minister will be traveling to Gujarat for the Vibrant Gujarat (Global Summit) meeting, and we are having a private sector delegation going out there as well. We will also have tourism presence from Sri Lanka. And that will be the beginning of the activation of the fourth pillar to try to encourage investment to come in,” he said in a reply to a query.

The country is also looking at the energy sector, with a focus on sustainable energy, as some of its regions have a potential to produce up to 5,000 MW of renewable energy, he said. The two countries also have possibilities in the petroleum sector, he added.

“Pre-COVID (pandemic), India accounted for 20-25 per cent of tourists coming to Sri Lanka. India is a main market …From Sri Lanka, we have pilgrims who go out to Buddhist sites, we are looking at how we can broaden that, not only focusing on Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, but also other states like Odisha…We have also been looking at Gujarat,” he said.

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