Sri Lanka has issued a specific assurance that no country will be allowed to use its ports as a military base. The comment from the Army chief of India’s southern neighbour came on India’s concerns over reports claiming that China could use the Sri Lankan Hambantota port as a military base. Sri Lankan Army Chief Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne today assured India that the Sri Lankan government won’t help any action that could ‘jeopardise’ India’s security concern.
Wijegunaratne claimed that the Sri Lankan waters and harbours will not entertain any action that could compromise India’s security. He further added that the Sri Lankan President Maitripal Sirisena and Prime Minister R Wickremesinghe have clearly stated that Sri Lanka won’t enter into a military alliance with any country and won’t let any country use its port as a military base.
The recent comments by Sri Lankan Army Chief come after Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed India’s concerns regarding Hambantota Port which was handed over to China in December 2017. Notably, Sri Lanka and China have started joint operation of the Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka. Sitharaman had claimed that the Sri Lankan government had handed over the strategically important port to China on a 99-year lease after the island nation could not repay a loan. India fears that the port might be used by China as a military base rather than for just trade activities.
Chinese state media agency Xinhua has claimed in a report that the port is a part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. China has hailed the port as a commercial restructuring between the Sri Lanka Port Authority and China Merchants Port Holdings. It must be noted that the Hambantota Port is the second port project between Sri Lanka and China with the Colombo International Container Terminal being the first.