COLOMBO : President Ranil Wickremesinghe, addressing concerns about China’s increased presence in the Indian Ocean region, said the island nation would not allow anything that would jeopardize India’s security.
During an exclusive interview with Indian news channel WION, the Sri Lankan leader said, “We’ve kept Indian security in mind and we will not allow anything to happen that will be harmful to Indian security, and these are all hydrographical vessels.”
When asked about the Sri Lankan government’s decision to not allow the visits of Chinese vessels, Wickremesinghe, who is in Australia for the 7th Indian Ocean Conference, explained that the administration decided to say no to ships from any country hydrographic matters as it is focusing on building its own hydrographical capacity.
“But if they are Navy ships that are coming in for visits, yes we will allow it,” the President told WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal in Perth.
Responding to a question on China’s purported attempts to create a wedge between India and Sri Lanka, Wickremesinghe allayed the doubts, saying, “Chinese ships have been coming to Sri Lanka [for] over a period of time. China has never tried to create a rift between India and Sri Lanka they always say that we have to get along with India. There has never been an issue as far as we are concerned.”
He added that Sri Lanka is also encouraging the arrival of ships from other countries as well. “Japan, India, Pakistan US, their ships have been coming. But we’ve asked many of the other European countries to come to Sri Lanka.”
With regard to debt restructuring, Wickremesinghe expressed hopes about concluding the negotiations by June 2024. He said after reaching formal agreements with the Official Creditor Committee (OCC), Sri Lanka will have to come to formal agreements with all other creditor nations as well as other financial organizations.
Speaking on the economic support given by India amid Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, Wickremesinghe said he is thankful to India. “Without that (India’s support) we could not have survived and this is why we are also looking at closer relations between the two countries”. India provided support of almost USD 4 billion to the island nation during the economic crisis.- Ada Derana
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