India Says All Well in Relations with Sri Lanka
While India Sri Lanka relations were in the limelight in the run up to the vote on the US Sponsored resolution in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for all the wrong reasons, a week after, Indian officials described the relations as, “win-win,” even discounting growing Chinese in the Island.
Outlining some facets of the relations Mr Syed Akburddin, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in the weekly media briefing on 03 April asserted that Indian projects in Sri Lanka were on track specially related to the ones focused on Tamil speaking people [or in Northern Sri Lanka]. He outlined the progress in the main project for housing and said, “On October 2, we launched what is called the second phase of that project after completing the first phase. In the first phase, 1,000 houses were constructed and handed over. In the second phase, construction of 43,000 accommodations was initiated”.
He was particularly vehement of transparency in the process having been established with direct cash transfers to the beneficiaries where the owner was selected by a transparent process with names available on the website of the High Commission of India in Colombo and get information about every owner that is available. Security Risks checked out the list of beneficiaries district and location wise available on the Indian Housing Project link of the Web Site of the High Commission. This initiative is supported by monitoring by the UN Habitat, International Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity who are said to be the implementing partners as per Mr Akburddin. 11,379 beneficiaries have begun work on the project and, “3,488 have availed their second installment, about 700 have availed the third installment, and almost five hundred have completed their houses”.
On infrastructure in construction of two rail lines, MEA spokesperson claimed that they are ahead of time both in Kankesanthurai and in Thalaimannar. He also obliquely brushed aside the question Indian concerns on Chinese engagement in Sri Lanka by highlighting India’s commitment to Sri Lanka. He said, “India is the largest trade partner of Sri Lanka. India is the largest investor in Sri Lanka. India is also the destination of largest number of Sri Lankan tourists travelling outside Sri Lanka. We also have a large number of Indians travelling there. There are large amounts of Sri Lankan investments coming into India. We are on the cusp of working on the next phase of the CEPA because the CEPA we already have. We are now already starting to work on that. As far as we see our relationship with Sri Lanka, we do not see it in competitive terms. We see it as a win-win situation both for India and for Sri Lanka and we are quite comfortable with that situation”.
Indian officials may avoid commenting but the deepening influence of China in Sri Lanka should be worrying. China’s state owned Poly Technologies Inc. signed an agreement to construct a 704-bed fully fledged teaching hospital worth US$ 202 million for the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) in Colombo as per a report in Colombo Page dated 4 April 2013. Pakistan’s influence is also growing having has recently posted a retired army officer, Maj Gen (R) Qasim Qureshi as the High Commissioner to Colombo a veteran of India Pakistan Track 2 initiatives including Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue, Ottawa Dialogue and India-Pakistan Military to Military Dialogue.