Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hambantota: China has seaport in Sri Lanka, India may get an airport

New Delhi: After Bhutan, Sri Lanka is hedging its bet on China by creating a situation which might enable India to expand its presence in the island nation.
The Lankan government is planning to hand over to India running of the Hambantota airport near the deep-sea port to be operated by Beijing.
The loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa Int’l Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota built by China could now be handed over to India, allowing Colombo to pay back dues to China’s EXIM Bank.
The proposal to hand over MRIA to an India firm has been submitted to the Lankan Cabinet by the country’s civil aviation ministry. If India bags the order to turn around the “world’s emptiest airport”, it would signal Colombo’s intention to have a balanced approach towards Delhi and Beijing. Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka is key to China’s One Belt One Road initiative. There are reports that India could invest $205m into MRIA for a 70% share for 40 years. Sri Lanka is understood to have received eight proposals, including one from China, but India’s proposal is being reviewed separately.
MRIA, located, 250 km south from Colombo, was built for $209 m largely with Chinese assistance ($190 m). The airport located at a half-an-hour drive from the deep-sea port figured high in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s plan to develop his constituency Hambantota with assistance from China. There were apprehensions that the key infrastructure would also be used by China for purposes detrimental to India’s security interests.
22/08/17 Dipanjan Roy Choudhury/Economic Times