As China continues to expand its in- fluence in the region, India must navigate a delicate bal- ance between diplomacy and safeguarding its national security interests.
Local Sri Lankan fishermen in the northern part of the island nation come forward to oppose the Chinese exploitation of maritime resources in their waters.
Led by several Chinese corporations and entities, Beijing has launched a campaign to gain dominance in the sea near Sri Lanka, according to Mawrata News. Beijing appears to be eyeing the cultivation of sea cucumbers, which is one of the island nation’s primary economic activities, the report said.
Media reports indicate that Sri Lanka shipped approximately 336 tonnes of sea cucumbers to China, Singapore and Hong Kong in 2021.
“Consequently, breeding and exporting the aquatic creature like a sausage that is considered a delicacy in China and Southeast Asia is a profitable market for Chinese businesses,” the report said.
This comes as Colombo is pursuing a Cabinet-authorised plan for large-scale commercial sea projects in Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, and Kilinochchi.
After the Sri Lankan cabinet plans were made public, a Macau-based Chinese firm offered to establish a large-scale sea cucumber farming operation in the Puttalam and Jaffna districts.
According to Mawrata News, this 10-year project looks to include more than 36,000 acres of water to yield 8.6 million kilograms of sea cucumber.
Due to fear of possible marine depletion, locals are reportedly opposed to the project under discussion.
Annalingam Annarasa, the President of the Jaffna Fisheries Federation, was quoted as saying in local media that the proposed project will bring more harm than benefit to locals.
Even as Sri Lankan government continues to promote these sea projects, the fishermen believe that this would lead to lasting damage to the local marine ecology and hurt their livelihoods in the long run.
Earlier, a similar Chinese project in the Kilinochchi district faced stiff opposition last year from local fishermen who objected to the fencing of the land adjoining the sea.