Ties with China not at the cost of relations with India, says Lankan envoy

  • Ashok Tuteja/SNS | New Delhi

    June 10, 2017 | 06:28 PM
Maithripala Sirisena, Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena (R) (PHOTO: Twitter)

Sri Lanka has denied the growing impression in New Delhi that China's influence in the island nation has been increasing at the cost of India, saying Colombo was desirous of enhancing ties with all friendly nations in the larger interest of its own economic development. 

In an interview to The Statesman, Lankan High Commissioner to India Chitranganee Wagiswara also ruled out the possibility of the LTTE raising its ugly head again in her country. ''Some people outside the country are trying to indulge in propaganda and whip up emotions but they are marginal in numbers'' and will not succeed, he said.   

''We went through a very difficult phase of three decades of conflict. Now as the conflict is behind us, we have to look at developing the country for the people. But one cannot say our ties are improving with one nation at the cost of another,'' she said.

The Lankan envoy said Colombo would like to work with India, China, Japan, the US and ASEAN and EU nations to attract investments in the island nation. The country has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India and is negotiating one with China.

While she would not comment on India's decision to boycott the recent One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum hosted by China, Wagiswara said her country favoured connectivity links. ''Lanka wants to project itself as a hub in the Indian Ocean and work closely with India as well.''  

Acknowledging that India was keen on signing an agreement for participating in the economic development of the Trincomalee region in Lanka, she said she was not in a position to say by when the two sides would arrive at an accord.

She did not agree with a suggestion that there were still complaints of violation of human rights of Tamils in Lanka, saying the government was doing its best for the community. ''The main thing is that there is no war, no killing, no child is anymore taken to fight as a soldier. Human rights issues like these were there in the North and stretched to the East but now people can move about freely and get access to educational and employment opportunities.''

Wagiswara said India and Lanka were hopeful that they would find a permanent settlement of the fishermen issue with the mechanisms they had put in place now.

Asked how Lanka looked at the South Asian Satellite launched by India and Pakistan's refusal to join the project, she said it was entirely for Islamabad to take its own decision but Colombo had welcomed the project since it would help the entire region in communication and in projects like weather forecasting, disaster management, information systems and health.

She admitted that the progress of SAARC had been slow at the political level but pointed out that the regional grouping had succeeded in establishing linkages in nearly 100 areas, including trade, culture, student welfare, judges, legislators and journalists. ''We need to look at soft areas where there is an understanding before moving on to political issues,'' she said.