Sixteen agreements have been signed during the current visit of Chinese leader Wu Bangguo to Colombo,mostly focusing on infrastructure development in Sri Lanka including USD 760 million aid to help the island nation to become “Asia’s miracle”.
The agreements signed yesterday ranged from visa exemption and marine development to economic and technology cooperation with expanded investment and increase imports from Sri Lanka,official media here reported.
Wu,a second ranking Communist Party leader after President Hu Jintao is the highest Chinese official to visit Colombo after the end of ethnic war between Sri Lankan army and LTTE.
Prior to his visit,the Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie visited Colombo while on his way to New Delhi this month.
Chinese officials said the expanded cooperation demonstrates deepened political trust,and will help make Sri Lanka a “Asia’s miracle” in terms of economic growth,state-run China Daily reported.
The agreements included exemption of holders of diplomatic and service passports of each other countries from visa requirements. Cooperation on marine development and management,and economic and technological cooperation,will be boosted,it said.
Other agreements include favourable loans offered by Chinese banks to some major infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka and cooperation on telecommunication and railway system renovation.
No details of these agreements have been revealed,the Daily said.
The Sino-Sri Lankan bilateral trade volume reached $3. 14 billion in 2011,registering an increase of 49.8 percent year-on-year.
China also remains involved in almost all the large-scale projects under construction in Sri Lanka.
Some of the biggest projects financed by China include a USD 1.3 billion coal power plant on the north western shore and a host of other investments in the south including a USD 1.2 billion port and a USD 209 million airport.
China has also pledged USD 760 million to improve the country’s road network and is heavily involved in highway construction,the report said.
Chinese officials however continue to down play the significance of rapidly expanding heavy Chinese aid and investment in China in Sri Lanka as the island nation politically drifted towards Beijing,much to the disquiet of India,especially in the backdrop of recent political developments in Tamil Nadu.
Commenting on concerns that China is attempting to increase its influence over South Asia by expanding cooperation with Sri Lanka,Sun Shihai,president of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies,said Chinese assistance to Sri Lanka does not negatively affect a third party.
He said that with the development of globalisation,China and South Asian countries will engage in more communication and cooperation,which will have global benefits.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Wu,China’s top legislator,witnessed the signing ceremony of the agreements.
During a meeting with Rajapakse yesterday,Wu said China will continue to adopt various measures to increase imports from Sri Lanka and will encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in the country.
He proposed the two countries maintain and expand cooperation in infrastructure construction and will expand collaboration in new sectors such as marine scientific research,climate change,disaster prevention and relief,animal husbandry,agriculture product processing,bio-energy and tourism.
Rajapakse said Sri Lanka is now devoted to becoming “Asia’s miracle” and there is a great need for infrastructure construction and the training of professionals.
He said the country welcomes Chinese investment and would like to offer favourable policies for big infrastructure projects such as the railway,ports and power generation stations.