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Rivals Competing over Sri Lanka’s Seaports

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China’s geopolitical rivals, particularly India and Japan, are intent on catching up and making their own claims to Sri Lanka’s strategic assets.

[Dr Dushni Weerakoon | East Asia Forum]

When it comes to Sri Lanka’s national security and sovereignty, nothing seems more guaranteed to generate heated discussion than the spectre of foreign involvement in seaport developments. After years of wrangling, Sri Lanka, India and Japan finally signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on 28 May 2019 to develop the strategically-located Colombo port’s East Container Terminal (ECT). But the ink was barely dry when disputes broke out again about the government’s authority to divest ‘strategic assets’ to foreign companies.

The ECT deal is yet another of Sri Lanka’s entanglements in regional and global power rivalries, which are being played out on its shores. Ownership over maritime port connectivity appears to have become symbolic of this power play.

A tripartite agreement on the ECT is expected to be concluded within three months. Japan has stepped forward with the offer of a soft loan for the first phase of the project. Other institutional arrangements appear to include the setting up of a Terminal Operations Company (TOC) in which Sri Lanka will hold a 51 per cent majority equity stake, while India and Japan will together hold the other 49 per cent. In........

© Oped Column