India looks to safeguard strategic interests in Sri Lanka

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NEW DELHI: India expects the incoming government in Sri Lanka, which is in the midst of a constitutional crisis, to safeguard India’s strategic interests including disallowing any Chinese military base in the island nation and timely implementation of India-funded projects. India is funding a number of infrastructure and energy projects in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM. Rajpaksa faces a floor test in Parliament on November 14 amid allegations of horsetrading backed by Chinese money and Wickremesinghe’s claims that he continues to enjoy the support of the majority.

Earlier, Rajapaksa, when he was in power as the President, had allowed Chinese submarines into the island nation despite India’s strong objections. Later, although PM Wickremasinghe allowed buyback of Hambantota Port by the Chinese, he had made it clear that his country would not host any Chinese military installations or submarines.

Recently, when Rajapaksa met India leaders and senior officials in Delhi, India conveyed its discomfort over China building a military base in Sri Lanka or Chinese submarines visiting the island nation, said people aware of the matter. Rajapaksa assuaged India’s concerns, they said.

Safeguarding rights of Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil population is also a priority for India, said one of the persons, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said that a floor test on November 14 will help the country restore the country’s position after it suffered a collapse in foreign investment and stock market owing to the political crisis.

In a setback to President Sirisena, a deputy minister of his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government resigned on Tuesday and backed ousted Wickremesinghe. Manusha Nanayakkara, who was in Sirisena and Rajapaksa’s original list of 96 MPs, said in a letter to Sirisena that in his opinion Wickremesinghe was still the legitimate PM as accepted by the Speaker.





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