Ships including submarines from all countries can visit Sri Lanka, will inform neighbours: Wickremesinghe

Sri Lanka will allow future submarine visits by China provided they are not too frequent, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said underlining that the mistrust with India in the past could have been avoided if it had been kept in the picture about the dockings.

Singapore: Sri Lanka will allow future submarine visits by China provided they are not too frequent, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said underlining that the mistrust with India in the past could have been avoided if it had been kept in the picture about the dockings.

"We have put out the criterion for visits by naval ships. Under that, ships including submarines from all countries can visit Sri Lanka. As far as we are concerned if it is a friendly visit we will inform the neighbouring countries and we will spread out the (frequency of the) visits," he said in an interview published in The Straits Times.

"The problem with the last visit by a Chinese submarine was that India claims it was not informed. So far, from what we found out, that seems to be correct," the Singapore daily quoted Wickremesinghe as saying.

Wickremesinghe suggested that some of the mistrust could have been avoided if India had been kept in the picture about the visit by the Chinese submarine, which was en route to deployment in the Gulf of Aden.

Wickremesinghe, ended a four-day visit to Singapore yesterday.

He met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and other ministers during the visit.

He offered a cautious assessment of relations with New Delhi, saying "ties with India are improving".

In future, Sri Lanka will set out definite criteria for calls by foreign naval ships.

He also touched on Sri Lanka's economic cooperation.

"We are doing an Economic and Technological Cooperation Partnership with India. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China will follow and hopefully, also with Singapore after that."

"We have an FTA with India but we have to upgrade it to economic and technological collaboration. We are looking at (India's strengths in) software, and Indians are looking at what they can get from us. The new Indian government is favourable to it," he said.

Touching on India and China ties, he said, "We have told India what our policies are. We have an agreement that neither nation will do anything to harm the security interests of the other country. Subject to that, we carry on with our work.

"We are taking part in maritime security in the Indian Ocean. In peacekeeping operations with the UN. We sent an army contingent to Nepal when the earthquake took place. With China we have no military relationship but we have a strong economic relationship.

"We have told India that China and we have a long relationship. Chinese economic investments are welcome in Sri Lanka. We did have some problems with China on infrastructure projects. (But) that's a bilateral issue between Sri Lanka and China. It doesn't involve India."

"We support India's entry into Security Council. That aside, we run our own domestic and foreign policy. Our economic policies are more open than India," said the Sri Lanka Premier.