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3:03 pm - Tuesday August 22, 2637

Sri Lanka allays India’s concerns

Agencies, Colombo

Sri Lanka’s cabinet has cleared a revised agreement for its Chinese-built southern port of Hambantota on Tuesday, the government said, after terms of the first pact sparked widespread public anger in the island nation.

The port, close to the world’s busiest shipping lanes, has been mired in controversy ever since state-run China Merchants Port Holdings, which built it for $1.5 billion, signed an agreement taking an 80 per cent stake. Under the new deal, which Reuters has examined, the Sri Lankan government has sought to limit China’s role to running commercial operations at the port while it has oversight of broader security.

Chinese control of Hambantota, which is part of its modern-day “Silk Route” across Asia+ and beyond, as well as a plan to acquire 15,000 acres (23 sq miles) to develop an industrial zone next door, had raised fears that it could also be used for Chinese naval vessels. Sri Lankans demonstrated in the streets+ at the time, fearing loss of their land, while politicians said such large-scale transfer of land to the Chinese impinged on the country’s sovereignty.

Details of the new agreement have not yet been made public. But according to parts of the document seen by Reuters, two companies are being set up to split the operations of the port and allay concerns, in India mainly but also in Japan and the United States, that it won’t be used for military purposes.

Posted in: Featured, World

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