Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage has said that Sri Lanka will always have an India-first approach as far as strategic security is concerned.
In an interview with Daily Mirror, Colombage also said Sri Lanka will not do anything harmful to India’s strategic security interests.
“China is the second-largest economy in the world and India is considered the sixth-largest. In 2018, India was the world’s fastest-growing economy. That means we are between two economic giants. How we benefit from both is diplomacy or art. That is why the President mentioned that as far as strategic security is concerned, Sri Lanka will always have an India-first approach,” he said.
“That means Sri Lanka will not do anything harmful to India’s strategic security interests. As far as economic development is concerned, we cannot depend on one country. We are open to anyone. We know China is one country willing to invest and develop. They have the capacity to do it. We have to benefit from it. We have to balance,” he added.
Referring to the agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port, he said an MoU was signed between India, Sri Lanka and Japan.
He said the President is committed to honouring it. “The only thing is that there is opposition to it from port workers. The president, the chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority and other stakeholders are studying it thoroughly. They will find a solution. India has a solid argument on this,” he said.
He said that 38-40 per cent of trans shipment containers handled by Sri Lanka arrive from India.
“About 70 per cent of businesses we handle are from India. Colombo port is the second biggest port for Indian containers after Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai,” he said.
He also said that as per the new guidance from President, no national asset “is given with total control to any country”.
“It means at least 51 per cent of the stake will always remain with the GoSL, and the balance can be divided,” Colombage said.
“In 2015, India feared that we had moved towards China too much. Probably, India wanted that regime to be changed. India was happy that the regime was changed. What happened afterwards made India happy. We actually made India jittery during the period between 2015 and 2019. But India is comfortable with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” he added.