Sri Lanka has insisted that its ports will not be used for any military purpose. (Representative)
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday announced the revival of an Indian and Japanese investment project to develop a deep-sea terminal in the port of Colombo, near a controversial $ 500 million Chinese-run ship.
A tripartite agreement by the previous Sri Lankan government was pending amid union resistance, but Rajapaksa said the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) would continue.
The approval came after considering “regional geopolitical concerns,” the Rajapaksa office said, a reference to India’s suspicion of China’s role in the same port.
The terminal will be developed with 51 per cent ownership by the Sri Lankan government and the remaining 49 per cent as an investment by Adani Group and other stakeholders including Japan, officials said.
The State Port Authority of Sri Lanka (SLPA) entered into a memorandum of cooperation in May 2019 with Sri Lanka, India and Japan to conduct ECT before the Rajapaksa enters into force in November 2019.
The deep-sea vessel is located next to the Colombo International Container Terminal which is 85 percent owned by China and was commissioned in 2013.
SLPA owns the remaining 15 percent.
India staged protests when Chinese submarines made surprise visits to the Chinese-managed terminal in 2014.
Since then, Sri Lanka has refused permission for further submarine calls.
Nearly 70 per cent of the shipping containers handled by Colombo were Indian export-import goods.
In December 2017, Sri Lanka, unable to repay a large Chinese loan, handed over another deep-sea port south of the island to a Beijing company in a deal that raised concerns at home and abroad.
The $ 1.12 billion deal, first announced in July 2016, allowed a Chinese state-owned company to lease the 99-year-old port of Hambantota, which lies on the world’s busiest east-west transport route.
India and the United States are both concerned that a Chinese foot in Hambantota, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Colombo, could give it a naval military advantage in the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka has insisted that its ports will not be used for any military purpose.
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