Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has accused India of taking a softer line towards the Maithripala Sirisena government over its policies towards China, as he embarked on a week-long visit to Beijing to meet top Chinese leadership. Ahead of his trip to China on the invitation of the Chinese government, Rajapaksa while talking to reporters yesterday recalled the “tensions” his administration encountered with India. Recalling an incident where Chinese submarines had docked at the Colombo port, the former President said, “They (India) were furious when submarines docked at Colombo. From what I know, the Chinese inform the Indian embassy in Beijing before a submarines enters the Indian Ocean. But they made a huge cry about it.”
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On the contrary, he said, India is now silent as the present government of his successor Maithripala Sirisena handing over to China the port in Hambantota.
China was Rajapaksa’s main international ally when it supported him at international fora and funded his mega development projects, mainly in his home district of Hambantota.
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“They (New Delhi) made a big issue about the submarines, but today even if you give the entire port (to China), it is not a problem for them (India). This shows the difference in diplomatic relations,” he said, accusing India of taking a softer line towards the Sirisena government.
“The government is trying to give land from Trincomalee to India. To China from Hambantota. They are trying to give 1,000 acres to Japan to grow vegetables,” he said.
During his week-long visit to China, Rajapaksa will meet the leaders of the Chinese Government on November 28 and is scheduled to stay in Guangzou and Beijing.
He will visit the Dafo Monastery, free trade zones and the city of Shenzen.
The former president is accompanied by Parliamentarian Lohan Ratwatte, former foreign minister Prof GL Peiris and others.
Rajapaksa’s visit to China assumes much significance in the wake of a recent public spat between Beijing and Colombo.
Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianliang called a rare press conference and criticised Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake for his statement that Chinese had lent money to Rajapaksa government at high rates of interest.
Ambassador Yi said minister Ravi Karunanayake was asking for more Chinese loans after publicly criticising the Chinese funding as “expensive loans.”
The Sri Lankan finance minister said he was happy to pay back Chinese loans at 2 per cent if the Ambassador says he would be happy to lower the interest rates.