Friday, October 13, 2017

India Eyes Airport In Sri Lanka, Near Chinese Belt And Road Outpost

Colombo/New Delhi: India is in advanced talks with Sri Lanka to operate an airport on the southern tip of the island, where China has invested heavily as part of its Belt and Road initiative, a Sri Lankan minister said.

Sri Lanka's civil aviation minister, Nimal Siripala, said the country had been looking for alternative investors in the Hambantota area, where China has built a seaport and is in discussions to build an investment zone and a refinery.

"It was during this time India came up with a proposal," Siripala said Monday. "They were ready for a joint venture with the Airport and Aviation Services Limited," he said, referring to the state-run company that runs Sri Lanka's main airport in the capital Colombo and the one in the south, in Mattala.

China said it was not aware that Sri Lanka was considering allowing India to manage the airport. China also put in a bid to operate the facility, but the two sides failed to agree on financial terms.

"China hopes the relevant country does more to play a constructive role in increasing mutual trust and cooperation between nations in the region and promoting regional peace, stability and development," the Chinese foreign ministry said in response to an email request for comment.

The town of Hambantota sits near one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and is an important part of the Belt and Road initiative, aimed at building trade and transport links across Asia and beyond to Europe.

China runs the seaport with a 99-year lease and was planning to expand its footprint in the area with the refinery, which would be Sri Lanka's largest, and an investment zone of about 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres).
13/10/17 NDTV

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