Amid New Delhi’s apprehension over China’s growing economic presence in Sri Lanka, the Island nation’s newly appointed Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage has said that the country will always pursue an “India First” approach in strategic and security matters. Speaking to a Sri Lankan TV channel, Colombage said country’s decision to give Hambantota Port on a 99- lease to China was a “mistake”. Along with pursuing a neutral foreign policy, Sri Lanka will protect India’s strategic interest.
“That means Sri Lanka will not do anything harmful to India’s strategic security interests,” said Colombage,
who was the chief of the Sri Lanka Navy between 2012-14 and later became a foreign policy analyst mostly on the Chinese initiatives in Sri Lanka and the immediate region.
Colombage said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would have an India first approach as the key to strategic security. Colombage said that despite opposition from port worker trade unions, President Rajapaksa would go ahead with the memorandum of cooperation signed with India on the Colombo Port’s Eastern terminal. Colombo Port is the largest and busiest port in Sri Lanka.
Located on the southwestern shores on the Kelani River, it serves as an important terminal in Asia due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean.
The previous Sirisena Government had signed a “memorandum of cooperation” (MOC) with India and Japan for a tripartite effort to develop the terminal which is located just next to the USD 500 million Chinese-run Colombo International Container Terminal.
“The President has said that he is ready to honour the agreement. As per the new guidance of the President, no national asset is given with total control to any country,” he said.
Colombage said that the Rajapaksa foreign policy shift would mean that Sri Lanka would not be anymore reliant on a West-oriented policy.
The most dynamic foreign office officials would be posted in Sri Lanka’s neighbourhood, in the Middle East, Bangladesh, Africa and ASEAN in line with the new foreign policy shift where the emphasis would be on the neighbourhood.
Source:- Daily Shipping Times