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 Chinese investment in H’tota purely economic

Sri Lanka which always pursued a non-aligned foreign policy and economic development being its sole interest, welcomes assistance from any quarter willing to support it without harsh conditions. This should not be misunderstood as a form of alignment with any one country or another, Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

He made this observation delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 3rd Galle Dialogue Maritime Conference at Light House Hotel in Galle yesterday under the theme ‘Strategic Maritime Cooperation and Partnerships to Face the Future With Confidence.’

Representatives from 28 countries participated in the conference, organised by the Sri Lanka Navy and the Defence and Urban Development Ministry.

The Defence Secretary said many development projects were in progress in Sri Lanka funded by India, China, Japan and other countries. “We value and appreciate the support and assistance given to us,” he said.

Secretary Rajapaksa said after having suffered three decades of terrorism, Lankans yearn for a better tomorrow.

“Because our past opportunities for growth were suppressed due to the war, the country does not have the capacity to fund projects that are necessary to unlock its economic potential.

It is only natural that we extend our hands to our friends in other countries,” he said. The Defence Secretary said Chinese investment in Hambantota is purely economic.

He said about 300 ships cross the Indian Ocean 10 nautical miles away from Sri Lanka every day and its economic potential was identified long ago but many governments’ attempts of setting up a deep water port in the South did not succeed due to many reasons. Secretary Rajapaksa said when Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President, he was keen to get this project off the ground.

“Because of the then on-going war and the country lacked the economic strength, economic assistance was sought internationally for the construction of this port.

As one of Sri Lanka’s key development partners over the last few years, China was an obvious nation to approach.

After many requests and representations at the highest level, this assistance was granted,” he said.

He said it should also be noted that most of the larger companies setting up operations at the Hambantota Port are actually Indian companies. “Placing the Hambantota Port within the paradigm of the String of Pearls theory is not correct,” the Defence Secretary said.

Secretary Rajapaksa said unfortunately, it has to be admitted that there is a degree of mistrust between major powers in the Indian Ocean region that presently limits the degree to which effective and long lasting multilateral cooperation can be achieved.

India is the largest naval power in the region, and has a vital role to play with regard to the future of the Indian Ocean.

He said many presentations and discussions that take place at the conference will be instrumental in fostering improved multilateral cooperation between the nations with an interest in this region.

Secretary Rajapaksa said greater cooperation and partnership between naval powers in the region will benefit not only nations in the Indian Ocean littoral but the entire world, and enable all of us to face the future with confidence.

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