Colombo, Jan 19: When it comes to Indo-Sri Lankan ties the biggest concern has always been China. The Chinese have come dangerously close to India and this is not something that New Delhi was every happy with.
New Delhi had realized that Rajapaksa was in fact playing the Chinese against India and the docking of the two submarines was proof of this. However, the new regime in Sri Lanka under Mathripala Sirisena appears to have started out on the right note for India and the decision to review the billion dollar port deal with China Communications Construction Company Ltd is one step in this direction.
The new Sri Lankan government says that it would review the port deal with China Communication Construction Company Ltd. There have been concerns expressed in Sri Lanka about the Chinese firm getting so much land especially in a high security zone.
As per this deal, which was signed by Rajapaksa, 108 hectares of land would be given to the Chinese firm. The land was being given to the firm to cover its investment costs.
This included 20 hectares of land on an outright basis while the rest of it was on a lease for 99 years.
India, ever since the incident in which two Chinese submarines had docked in Sri Lanka have been very concerned. This port deal only added to the worries of India.
India has said in the past that there are security concerns attached to this deal. A large number of cargo ships which are India bound have to pass to this port in Colombo and with the Chinese investments over here there is a great deal of security risk involved.
The part where 20 hectares of land has been granted on an outright basis is the basic area of concern. With the Chinese having absolutely control over the 20 hectares there are security issues that have worried India.
What the new Sri Lankan regime proposes to do:
Sri Lanka has decided to review this project. The new government has questioned the granting of land on a freehold basis especially in a high security zone.
Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had also assured during his campaign that this project would be scrapped if his party came to power. He said that this deal seemed to be outright in nature and some tender procedures had not been followed.
Will Sri Lanka do away with China completely?
Although certain projects are under review, it will not be possible for Sri Lanka to do away with China entirely. Sri Lanka will continue to take the services of China to boost its economy.
However, the difference would be that there would be a tender process followed and more transparency involved in the entire exercise. There will be no outright granting of land on a permanent basis to China.
Indian analysts say that Sirisena would take a more balanced approach when compared to Rajapaksa. He will invite countries to help boost the economy and not play countries against each other as Rajapaksa had been accused of doing with China and India.