Sri Lanka to Allow India to Develop Trincomalee Port to Counterbalance China
Sri Lanka is aiming to counterbalance China's presence in the island nation as it will allow India to develop its Trincomalee port. The island nation has reportedly prepared a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the joint development of the project, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi would likely sign it during his visit to Colombo.
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However, the Economic Times noted that India is not that interested in developing the Trincomalee port as it sees the project as not economically feasible. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the country first considered and approached India for the Hambantota Port and China was only a second option. But India still expressed the same concern on the Hambantota port before. Now, Sri Lanka has permitted China to establish a special economic zone, which is poised to expand to the Mattala airport.
However, strategic expert Brahma Chellaney noted that "Jointly developing the Trincomalee port with India cannot counterbalance the Chinese leverage over Sri Lanka but it can help Colombo build countervailing influence."
The MoU will include plans to build a petroleum refinery at Trincomalee. And at least 73 of the 99 storage tanks will be managed under a new equity agreement between the two nations, Petroleum Minister Chandima Weerakkody said.
"We want to ensure that we develop all our ports, and all these ports are used for commercial activity, transparent activity, and will not be available to anyone for any military activity," Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.