NEW DELHI: Red flags are going up in India over China’s fresh attempts to expand its footprint in northern Sri Lanka in the garb of infrastructure projects, with Beijing even making efforts to woo the ethnic Tamil community there.
China, which has already made deep strategic inroads into Sri Lanka through its predatory debt policies, is now assiduously working towards establishing its presence on the island nation as close to the Indian coast as possible, say sources in the Indian security establishment.
“Proliferation of Chinese economic activity and proposed infrastructure development projects in the Northern province of Sri Lanka, which could be later exploited for strategic reasons, is certainly a matter of concern for India,” said a source.
Earlier, the Chinese projects were largely restricted to southern Sri Lanka. “But the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government is now facilitating several Chinese ventures in northern Sri Lanka as well, often ignoring sentiments of Tamil residents there. We are closely monitoring the developments,” he added.
India has already protested against Sri Lanka’s decision to award a $12 million hybrid wind and solar energy project to the Chinese Sinosar-Etechwin joint venture in three islets off the Jaffna Peninsula in February this year.
With the islets being barely 50 km from the Tamil Nadu coast, India has countered with an offer of a $12 million grant to Sri Lanka for execution of the projects.
“Another Chinese joint venture has been allotted land in a coastal village in northern Sri Lanka for farming sea cucumber fish despite protests by local farmers. Several such inroads in the region are being observed,” said another source.
India, of course, continues to be upset with Sri Lanka for going back on its tripartite pact to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port along with Japan. Then there are also festering differences over the oil tanks farm project at Trincomalee.
But it has been smooth sailing for China in the island nation, from the 99-year lease of the Hambantota port to the new Colombo Port City Project. Apart from Sri Lanka, China has been systematically spreading its wings in the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by forging maritime links with Seychelles,Mauritius, Maldives, Bangladesh, Myanmar and east African countries, among others.