Saturday, October 14, 2017

India takes on China at another battlefront: A Sri Lankan airport

The Doklam conflict between India and China amply highlighted the fight between the two countries for supremacy in South Asia. India is strongly asserting against China which is trying to build strategic assets in the garb of infrastructure projects all around India. It is the continuation of the old Chinese 'String of Pearls' policy that aims at ring-fencing India. But now India seems to be determined to fight China on all fronts in South Asia.
The latest battlefield is in Sri Lanka where China has leased a port. Chinese access to a port in the Indian Ocean is a direct threat to India's security. In May, Sri Lanka had rejected Chinese request to dock a submarine on its port. Emboldened after the Doklam conflict, Sri Lanka is now trying to balance China with India.

That's why it is planning to hand over a Chinese-built airport to India right next to the port China has leased. Effectively, India is challenging China's advance into Sri Lanka.

Four years ago, Sri Lanka built Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Hambantota, 250 km south from Colombo, with Chinese assistance of $190 million, more than 90 per cent of the total cost. Today, MRIA is running into losses and Sri Lanka is unable to pay back dues to China’s EXIM Bank. Ironically, Sri Lanka may now hand over the airport to India so that it can repay the Chinese loan.
India is in advanced talks with Sri Lanka to operate the airport on the southern tip of the island, where China has invested heavily as part of its One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.

Not far from the loss-making airport built with Chinese loan is a vital link in the OBOR project—the deep-sea port of Hambantota. China recently got a 99-year lease for running the Hambantota Port.
14/10/17 Economic Times

0 Comments: