Chinese billions helping Lanka ward off Western peace efforts, fight LTTE

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London, May 2 (ANI): China is using the Sri Lankan crisis to expand its sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean region as part of its "string of pearls" strategy, and this is one of the main reasons behind failure of Western governments to negotiate a ceasefire to help Tamil civilians trapped on the front line, according to a leading UK based daily.

The world, including India, has called for a cessation of hostilities to enable civilians to escape from the war zone, but China is still encouraging the Lankan offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

China is building a one billion dollar port that it plans to use as a refuelling and docking station for its navy in Lankan fishing town of Hambantota.

The sudden spurt of construction helps, however, to explain why the Sri Lankan Army is poised to defeat the Tamil Tigers and why Western governments are so powerless to negotiate a ceasefire to help civilians trapped on the front line, The Times reported.

China has given Sri Lanka all the aid, arms and diplomatic support it needs to defeat the Tigers, without worrying about the West, ever since Colombo agreed to the plan in March 2007.

Even India, Sri Lanka's long-time ally and the traditionally dominant power in South Asia, has found itself sidelined in the past two years and this becomes clear from Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram comments said that India's response to the Lankan crisis has been impacted by China which is using this issue to expand its sphere of influence.

The Chinese say that Hambantota is a purely commercial venture, but many US and Indian military planners regard it as part of a "string of pearls" strategy under which China is also building or upgrading ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Burma.

China's aid to Sri Lanka jumped from a few million dollars in 2005 to almost one billion dollar last year, replacing Japan as the biggest foreign donor. By comparison, the United States gave 7.4 million dollars last year, and Britain just 1.25 million pounds. (ANI)

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