Beijing: Sri Lanka on Thursday played down
India`s concerns relating to the USD 1.5 billion China-funded
strategic port in Hambantota in the country, saying that it
has no "military dimension".
Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris, who is on a five-day
visit to China, said Hambantota port, the first phase of which
will be inaugurated on August 19, will never be used for
"There is no military dimension to the port operations
altogether," he said, while replying to a question on India?s
concerns over China`s growing influence in Sri Lanka.
In his interaction with the media at the China
Institute of Strategic Studies, (CIIS), a a major think tank
here, Peiris said India has never raised it (the issue) with
Terming it as "a non issue", he also said India has
never raised it with Sri Lanka.
He thanked China for helping with the development of
the key port and other infrastructure, saying China played key
role in helping with the development of highways, power
projects and schools.
This year Sri Lanka expect the largest number of
tourists from China to boost its tourist industry, he said.
The Hambantota port, situated along one of the world`s
busiest shipping lanes, aims to be the engine to drive the
country`s economic recovery after decades of ethnic conflict.
The government hopes it will become a magnet for global
investment in transshipment and other business opportunities.
Earlier, after his talks with Chinese Foreign Minister
Yang Jiechi, Peiris said the Lankan government was ready to
enhance cooperation with Beijing, as it was entering a new era
of development and opportunities after the end of ethnic war
with the LTTE.
He also expressed appreciation of China`s support for
Lanka`s efforts to safeguard independence, sovereignty and
territorial integrity, apparently referring to military aid
provided by Beijing to quell the LTTE rebellion, which came to
an end in May 2009.
Yang said China has always attached great importance
to developing ties with Sri Lanka, and was ready to expand
bilateral cooperation for mutual benefit.
"China and Sri Lanka are friends and trust each other
equally, and can also work together as partners to withstand
difficulties," Yang said.
Peiris said the bilateral relationship had great
potential to develop given the current situation, and that his
country was willing to work together with China to strengthen
the traditional friendship.