Sri Lanka is looking at developing the East
terminal of the Colombo Port on its own and former Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe absolutely had no business to go to India or any country and
give assurances regarding it, Foreign Minister Sarath Amunugama told a Indian
news channel according to Sri Lankan Media reports.
"The port is very vital for Sri Lanka
because it is a trans-shipment port and most of the traffic goes to India.
India is also developing its own ports, so we have to take a futuristic view of
how to develop this port. Three parts of Colombo Port are developed. The next two are the East and
the West terminals that are due for construction," he said.
Amunugama added that the East terminal is
extremely important to the country as it is a deep water port. "We all
agree and the President has intimated that to Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi
himself that the west terminal can certainly be developed by India. Sri Lanka
is looking at developing the East terminal on its own," he said.
The Foreign Minister also criticized former PM
Ranil Wickremesinghe for giving an assurance to India regarding the development
of the East Terminal.
"He absolutely had no business to go to
India or any country and give assurances regarding this port. That is not how
it works. It has to be passed by parliament. It was under discussion but was
not signed and sealed. We will have to heed the opinion of the workers and the
trade unions that it [developing the east terminal] has to be a Sri Lankan
operation," he said.
Informatively India and Sri Lanka have signed a
memorandum of Understanding last year in New Delhi. The MOU was signed by
external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj
and a Sri Lankan Minister in the presence of Prime Minister Ranil
Amunugama also stated that Sri Lanka has not
undermined her sovereignty by taking loans from China and that he is grateful
that Sri Lanka sought Chinese assistance to develop infrastructure a decade ago
without waiting. He also dismissed claims that Hambantota Port has been taken
over by the Chinese.
"We cannot compromise [on] our sovereignty.
These are commercial operations carried out on the basis of detailed
feasibility study. We are glad that we did it ten years ago because projects
today cost much more. It is a win-win situation. It cannot be seen as an attack
on our sovereignty.
Take Hambantota port for example. It is clearly a
Lankan operation. Not a single ship can enter Hambantota unless it is guided by
the harbour guards who come under Sri Lankan Navy. No Chinese submarines can
dock here. Sri Lanka will protect its sovereignty. Just because we take loans
from China, it does not mean we will subscribe to their strategic
interests," he said.
Amunugama also said that Sri Lanka has economic
relations with China and wants more [expansion of ties] with India. "Our
first choice is always India. We donít want to be dragged into the military and
strategic interests of any country. Nobody should infringe on the sovereignty
of Sri Lanka. We are grateful to India for respecting that. There might be some
differences but largely it is a strong relationship."