Colombo: Amid China`s growing assertiveness in the South Asian region, Japan has increased its focus on Sri Lanka by providing assistance to develop Colombo`s maritime capabilities.
In June, the Japanese Government granted 1.8 billion Yen to Sri Lanka to implement the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement project, reports the Colombo Page.
The project which aims to contribute towards the improvement of maritime safety capability of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG), also allows Sri Lanka to procure two petrol vessels to ensure safe navigation of vessels, anti-piracy and transnational crime countermeasures and prevention of destruction of marine environment and resources.
This comes amid China`s increasing maritime initiatives in the South Asian region, including in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which have sparked concern among countries such as Japan and India.
Both Japan and China are among Sri Lanka`s main foreign funders, and over the years, Colombo has tried to strike a balance between the two countries.
The Sri Lanka-Japan Dialogue on Maritime Security kicked off in Colombo in January this year and during the meeting, Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Kenichi Suganuma, said securing freedom of navigation and safety of sea routes is a major concern for Japan, adding that they wish to see the establishment of an open, stable ocean where rule of law dominates.
According to experts, in the backdrop of Asia`s growing inter regional trade, a strategic maritime location such as Sri Lanka is vital for strong nations to ensure trade and security.
With China`s Belt and Road initiative to link trade with continents, including Africa, and to access new markets both by sea and land, Sri Lanka is important as a strategic maritime mode for supply chain security as it sits between Dubai and Singapore and will serves as a gateway to Asia and probably Hong Kong to India.