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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Maithri More Valuable to China Than Mahinda – Upul Joseph Fernando

The media raised many questions about the future of the China funded Colombo Port City Project when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met them last week.

When an editor pointed out that the Port City crisis could hamper the smooth relations between the two countries, Ranil explained, that as Sri Lanka was located in a strategic location in the Indian Ocean it was essential for Sri Lanka to continue good relations with all countries. When Ranil made this observation President Maithripala Sirisena was in China. As a result of Maithri’s visit to Beijing, China has agreed to grant a Kidney Hospital to Sri Lanka. Chinese are cunning it is said in historical terms.

During 1970-77, China donated the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall to the then Premier Sirima Bandaranaike in memory of her late husband, Premier S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike. When Chandrika was the President, China expressed willingness to construct a cultural theatre in Colombo, in memory of her late husband Vijaya Kumaratunga who was a popular actor. Later, it was declared open as Nelum Pokuna. However, it was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who got the opportunity to declare it open. China constructed an airport and port in Mahinda’s hometown Hambantota. Now, being told about the acute kidney ailment prevailing in the North Central Region, China has opted to construct a hospital there to treat kidney patients. All these developments indicate that China is well aware of the needs of Sri Lankan leaders. Maithripala, during the presidential election campaign pledged to free the people in the North Central from the rapidly spreading kidney disease. So, China has now come to assist him.

More valuable than Mahinda

Following Maithri’s visit to Beijing, it is clear that China has realized that Maithri is more valuable to them than Mahinda. That’s because Mahinda made enemies with the West and India and lived in the pocket of China. Since Maithri is forging better relations with the West and India, China is now attempting to win over Maithri. India too was watching the developments in Beijing, closely, when Maithri visited there. India is not ready to throw money like China. India plans to compete with Chinese projects in Colombo via the United States. The glaring example is the recent visit to Colombo by the Emir of Qatar. He expressed his desire to take the Mattala International Airport on lease. Mattala Airport is a Chinese funded project. It operates at a loss as no aircraft lands at that airport. It is learnt that the State of Qatar has agreed to take it on lease in a manner that Sri Lanka would not incur loss. Qatar is a close friend of America. Qatar has allowed the Unites States Air Force to use its Al-Udied Air Base. For the United States, this air base is useful for its operations in the Iraqi and Afghanistan region. Hence, Qatar may have offered to lease Mattala Airport with American blessings.

Latest reports state that many other countries have opted to lease the Mattala International Airport. China’s thoughts over this issue cannot be exactly predicted. However, following Maithri’s visit to Beijing, Indian Defence Adviser Doval publicly stated that creation of any Chinese bases in the Indian Ocean was a threat to India’s security interests.

Change in the world order

Following is the statement made by Doval:

“Pointing out that China’s rise will impact the globe and the region including India, National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval has suggested that the change in the world order should be internationally approved and indicated that building military bases by China in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will be detrimental to peace in the area.

“Global expansion of China is a reality, which is manifesting itself as a powerful economy, having powerful military and rising defence budget. Emergence of China in a dramatic fashion is a reality. It is true that things will be affected globally with whatever China does. The region will be affected. India will also be impacted. We just feel that the change in the order should be internationally approved,” noted Doval while addressing a three day international conference – ‘The Growth Net’. This was first and free frank remarks from Doval, since he took over as NSA last year, on the phenomenal rise of China and the alarm bells that it has sent ringing in various parts of the world particularly in the region neighbouring India. Doval just completed 18th round of Special Representative level boundary talks with China here this Monday – the first such talks under the Modi Government.

Replying to a question on Chinese maritime initiatives primarily Maritime Silk Route strategy in the IOR, Doval hoped that building up military bases do not lead to rivalry in the region. “In 1971 IOR was declared as a zone of peace at the UN. India has interests in keeping IOR peaceful. We do hope that there is freedom of navigation in the maritime lanes,” suggested Doval indicating India’s reservations on the China’s ambitions in the region considered as India’s extended neighbourhood.”

While China was emphasizing the importance of the Chinese Silk Route Strategy to Maithri in Beijing during the latter’s visit, it looks like India is trying to use America to defeat that Chinese strategy.

The Indian media quoted Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake as saying that the Chinese President had asked Maithri as to why India, China and Sri Lanka could not work together. It could be a Chinese plan to net in India to eliminate the American presence in the Indian Ocean.

– Courtesy Ceylon Today


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