Refering to relations with China and India, Sri Lanka said today there was no reason to change its current non-aligned foreign policy.
“China’s support for the Hambantota Port is commercial in nature, and should not be misconstrued as fitting the “String of Pearls” paradigm. Sri Lanka has always pursued a non-aligned foreign policy. We continue to provide logistical and other support to ships including naval vessels or warships belonging any country that call over at our ports. There is no reason for this state of affairs to change in the future,” Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.
He expressed these views when delivering the keynote address at the ‘Galle Dialogue-2013, which began this morning.
He also said: There is much speculation in the international community about the ambitions of these nations with regard to the Indian Ocean. The intention of both China and India to increase instruments of maritime power is an interesting aspect of great power strategic competition.
Much attention is given to the potential tension between Chinese security concerns regarding sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean, which are critical to its economy, and India’s supposed attitude to this region as its backyard. There is also wariness about China’s relationships with India’s near neighbours, and Indian commentators in particular are concerned about ports funded by China in these countries, which they dub “the string of pearls”.
From Sri Lanka’s perspective, India is our largest neighbour and the most important country in the region. Notwithstanding occasional bilateral issues, our social, cultural, economic and political ties are both historic and robust. At the same time, it has to be noted that Sri Lanka’s relationship with China also dates back many centuries, into historic times. Sri Lanka recognised the People’s Republic of China in 1950 and formal diplomatic relations between the two nations were established in 1957. This bilateral relationship is multi-faceted and deep rooted.
There is great mutual trust and friendship between the two nations. China has been one of Sri Lanka’s foremost development partners over the last few years, and Chinese support for many infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka is particularly noteworthy. Chinese support for construction of the Hambantota port was instrumental in fulfilling a longstanding need in Sri Lanka to cater to the shipping lines passing south of the island.