By Jamila Najmuddin
Amidst concerns by some countries that China is trying to strategically build its military presence in the South Asian region through various projects including a port in Hambantota, a Chinese official in Sri Lanka insisted that the project in Southern Sri Lanka was only for commercial purposes.
Countries such as India had raised continuous concerns over China’s presence in Sri Lanka and fears that Beijing, with the help of countries such as Pakistan, Aden and Sri Lanka plans to encircle its influence in the Indian Ocean.
However Political Officer, at the Chinese High Commission in Colombo, Zhang Xuehia told Daily Mirror online, that China’s presence in Sri Lanka in building a port in Hambantota was clearly a “commercial project” and Beijing had no other intention of being present.
“China is here to build a port only after both countries (China and Sri Lanka) decided on it. It is a commercial project and nothing more,” Mr. Zhang said.
When questioned about India’s raising concerns over China’s presence in the country Mr. Zhang refused to comment.
In August, last year, India had said that the Indian Navy has turned out to be a 'weak area' for China in the Indian Ocean and the Asian neighbour was not happy with the Indian naval presence there, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta had said. “We are in the Indian Ocean and it is not easy for them to come inside. They are not happy and concerned about this", The Naval Chief had told reporters in Chennai.
On Beijing's help to build strategically located ports in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Naval Chief had said that China was constructing such “dependency ports” to gain access to the Indian Ocean and to be present in larger numbers in that area.