Sri Lanka backs China’s Maritime Silk Road project

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today assured full support to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping’s ambitious Maritime Silk Road project, saying it will open new era of relations between the two countries.

In his message to Xi on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Sirisena said Sri Lanka is firmly dedicated to promoting its relations with China.

He said that he believed on the basis of the ancient Maritime Silk Road (MSR), the Belt and Road Initiative will open up a new era for bilateral ties.

MSR has evoked serious concerns in India as it facilitates active presence of China in the strategic Indian Ocean with security implications in India’s backyard.

The project is part of One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative which also incorporates USD 46 billion China, Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) Economic corridor.

Sirisena’s pro-China predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa was one of the first leaders in the region to come out in full support of MSR.

After his election, Sirisena who took a critical view of Chinese investments and ordered review of various China-aided projects. With over USD eight billion debt to China, Sirisena government recently allotted 80 per cent share in the Hambantota project to a state-run Chinese firm for 99 years lease on debt swap basis.