Sri Lanka assures India of its security interests amid Chinese spy ship in Maldives

Team India Sentinels Friday 23rd of February 2024 12:08 PM

Tharaka Balasuriya. (Photo: X/@TharakaBalasur1)

New Delhi: Sri Lanka reaffirmed that it will not allow any other country to use its territory to harm India’s security interests, as a Chinese spy ship was seen in the Maldives waters on the same day.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the 9th edition of Raisina Dialogue in the national capital, Sri Lanka’s state minister for foreign affairs, Tharaka Balasuriya, on Thursday, said India need not be anxious about the security issue.

He said Colombo is aware of New Delhi’s growing role, and it will not be exploited by any third party or country to endanger India’s security. He said, “We know India’s growing stature and we will not be used by any third party or country to jeopardize India’s security,” adding, “So, through honest and candid exchange of views we can overcome any problem.”

Sri Lanka permitted China to dock its spy ship in the former’s waters until October 2023, amid India’s worries that the vessel could be used to spy on the region. However, Colombo prohibited the entry of the Chinese research vessel in its waters earlier this year, which is seen as a sign of increasing cooperation after New Delhi stepped in with huge financial and material assistance to the island nation reeling under an economic crisis.

As India Sentinels had reported earlier, the Maldives allowed Chinese spy ship named Xiang Yang Hong-03 to dock at a port in the atoll nation alarming India.

In reply to a reporter’s question on China’s leverage over Sri Lanka, Balasuriya said both China and India are Sri Lanka’s. However, he added that it has a special relationship with India, which is due to a civilizational connection. He said, “If you read ‘Mahavamsa’, [then you will know that] the people of Sri Lanka came from India. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and Buddhism came from India. It is much stronger – like a big-brother and small-brother relationship between two countries.”

However, Balasuriya highlighted the importance of China as a major trading partner, although he tried to play China’s importance at the same level with other Sri Lanka’s trading partners. He said, “China is an important trading partner, as are the other countries. If you look at most of our exports, they go to Europe and the United States. So, they are also important trading partners.”

Comparing the trade between India and China and the trade between Sri Lanka and China, Balasuriya said, “If you look at the amount of trade that India does with China and ours with China is very small. Sri Lanka is a very small country, and we don’t have any huge international political ambitions. But we want to do trade with countries and ensure that the people of Sri Lanka will benefit.”

Balasuriya also expressed his country’s gratitude to India for New Delhi’s aid to Sri Lanka in the time of economic crisis in 2023. He said, “We didn’t have fuel, we didn’t have gas and medicine then India stepped in in a big way with a $4.5 billion loan, which helped Sri Lanka with the essentials at that time.”

As part of a wider strategy to revive the tourism sector in his country, Balasuraiya invited tourists from India to visit his country and discover the island nation. Urging tourists from India to visit his country, the Sri Lankan minister described the diverse landscape and flora and fauna of Sri Lanka and the several heritage sites that have deep connection with India.

It may be noted that in December 2023, to boost foreign visitors to Sri Lanka, Colombo announced free tourist visas for visitors from India, China, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia until March this year.


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