Sri Lanka and China agreed yesterday to renegotiate the Hambantota Port project, but in a manner that would not harm traditional friendship ties between the two countries, informed sources said yesterday.
Former Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka Wu Jianghao called on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo as an envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday. The discussion centred on the development of the entire gamut of bilateral relations.
Earlier, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he would renegotiate the terms of the Hambantota Port entered into by the previous government. The former rule leased out the port for 99 years to a venture led by China Merchants Port Holdings Company.
During yesterday’s meeting, attention was paid to the port deal. According to sources, the two sides exchanged their views in this regard and agreed finally to renegotiate the lease agreement without jeopardising the long-standing friendship between China and Sri Lanka. Instead, the Sri Lankan Government stressed the need to elevate bilateral friendship.
In addition, the Chinese envoy conveyed his country’s interest in extending economic cooperation to Sri Lanka. He recalled how Chinese tourist arrivals rose from a mere 40,000 during his time as the ambassador to Sri Lanka and has spiked to 250,000. He is reported to have pledged further assistance to increase arrivals from China.
Also, both sides decided to revisit some of the projects signed in the past but were not implemented by the former government. The Colombo-Ratnapura expressway is one among them.
China has already invited the newly elected President to undertake an official visit at a mutually convenient time. (Kelum Bandara)