Sri Lankan government has signed a 70-year lease
agreement with China Merchants Port Holdings on the development of the
Hambantota Port, but it can be terminated any time, Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe said on the sidelines of
3rd Indian Ocean Conference which was held in Vietnam recently, according to
Sri Lankan media reports..
Wickremesinghe has assured India that his
government would not allow anything to take place in Sri Lanka that might
adversely affect Indian national security.
The PM is quoted as having said: Hambantota
harbour is a public-private partnership, the public part being the Sri Lanka
Ports Authority and the private part being China Merchant. We firstly asked for
two other Chinese firms but whoever offered, Chinese or non-Chinese, it was
going to be for commercial shipping purpose. So now they have come in, they
have paid their stake and they are putting in some additional money to develop
the port. The joint venture has a 70-year lease but the government can at any
time terminate it, if the government thinks it has to be done. The police will
be there, the customs will be there and immigration will be there," he
Wickremesinghe said that the government was also
looking at developing a 15,000 acre industrial zone in Hambantota to lease out
to developers as Bangladesh had done. He added that his government wanted India
to get more involved in Sri Lanka and that he wanted India to develop
Trincomalee, Mattala Airport, Kankesanthurai harbour and Palaly Airport. Palaly
was used by the Indian Air Force when the Indian Peace Keeping Force had taken
over the Northern Sri Lanka.
"But nothing will be allowed to be used for
military purposes, but commercially yes. We also told the Chinese, the Japanese
and others that there was an understanding between India and us that Indian
territory will not be used for anything harmful to our security. Similarly, Sri
Lankan territory will not be used for anything harmful to Indian security. So
we are functioning within that framework."