China needs to dispel India’s concerns over its presence in the Indian Ocean relating to the $ 1.5 billion Chinese-backed Colombo Port City project in Sri Lanka, a media report said on Thursday.
“Dispelling concerns from India over China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean, China will need to let the Colombo Port City Project in Sri Lanka really play a role in promoting the development of the local economy,” an article in the state-run Global Times said. “What is important now is that the Colombo Port City Project can be allowed to move forward and become an engine of economic growth in Sri Lanka that will benefit the local economy. If that goal can be reached, the project itself will be the best response to India’s concerns about ties between Sri Lanka and China.”
“India has long worried that the project would serve as a platform for the expansion of China’s military power in the Indian Ocean, posing a threat to its national security” which is the reason for Sri Lanka withdrawing permission for free hold on 20 acres of land for Chinese firms and convert it to 99 years lease. However, regardless of India’s protest, it is gratifying to see that the big picture of China-Sri Lanka cooperation has not changed. After Sri Lanka announced the resumption of the project earlier this year, both China and Sri Lanka reached an agreement over compensation due to delay of the project,” it said.
“Given Colombo’s strategic location on the Indian Ocean, it is almost certain that a closer relationship between the two nations will unavoidably arouse suspicion from New Delhi,” it said. “India has great influence on Sri Lanka’s political system and has long expressed concerns over China’s enhanced cooperation with Sri Lanka.”
Tensions between China and India have been increasing, noticeably at a time when China is promoting its Belt and Road initiative and has been forming cooperative relations with countries along the route in fields such as infrastructure.
“An inevitable result of such efforts has been China’s increased presence in some South Asian countries which have been, until now, mainly influenced by India,” it said. “The successful implementation of the project will make these words all the more convincing. With the Port of Colombo’s key location in a network of international trade routes, this will contribute to economic development in Sri Lanka and the wider region, including India. In this regard, New Delhi may need to take the long view of its national interests.”