Sri Lankan president urges the West to invest to counter Chinese influence

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Sri Lanka’s new president, Gautabaya Rajapaksa, has warned India and Western countries that not investing on the island could force his country to seek funding from China again.

Rajapaska told the Hindu newspaper in an interview published on Sunday that other Asian countries could also resort to China’s giant infrastructure project “belt and road” unless they get alternative assistance.

Sri Lanka has long allied itself with India, but has come close to China, earning about $ 7 billion in loans and investments when Rajapaska Mahinda’s brother was president from 2005 to 2015.

“I want to tell India, Japan, Singapore, Australia and other countries to come and invest in us,” said the current president, who is on his first official trip abroad since he won the election on November 16.

“They have to persuade their companies to invest in Sri Lanka and help us grow. If not, all Asian countries, not Sri Lanka alone, will face the same problem.”

“The Chinese will take their initiative in a belt and a road unless other countries offer an alternative,” he said.

India was among the first countries to be concerned about the Belt and Road initiative, fearing it would boost China’s military and strategic hegemony in the Indian Ocean region, which New Delhi regards as its backyard.

Beijing has allocated hundreds of billions of dollars to build a network of ports, railways and industrial parks in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

The president said he intends to renegotiate with China the agreement on the port of Hambantota in southern Colombo, which overlooks major shipping routes between Europe and Asia.

“I think the Sri Lankan government should have the ability to control all strategically important projects like Hambantota,” he said.

Sri Lanka was forced to hand over the port to China in 2017 as part of a 99-year lease after the government failed to pay back the debts it had accumulated to build it.


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