Sri Lanka’s Historic Mistake To ‘Gift’ Hambantota Port To China – OpEd


In governing a country, it is necessary that the government should pay due consideration to the long term implications of its decisions. Sri Lanka government’s decision to handover the Hambantota port to China is a classic instance of a government taking decision, without viewing the long term implications, that can prove disastrous for the country in several ways.

It is now well known all over the world that Government of China with Xi Jinping as President has huge territorial ambitions and it wants to emerge as the undisputed leader of the world. The ambition of China is not much different from the ambition of Germany’s Hitler who initiated the second world war, thinking that he could conquer the world with his military might. China has learned lessons from the misadventure of Hitler and has realized that dominance of the world can be achieved only by combination of economic dominance and military might.

China forcefully occupied Tibet several decades back and has now consolidated it’s total control over the region. As the world has been watching China’s aggression in Tibet silently, China has now gained more confidence that it can have it’s way in achieving it’s ambitions. It is taking the world opinion for granted or viewing it with unconcern.

China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is part of it’s carefully and cleverly designed strategy to move on with it’s world dominance target.

Now, China’s domination over Pakistan is nearly complete with it’s 50 billion USD China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. China has already made huge investment in Pakistan by way of this CPEC project and extended large loan and gained access to several vital infra structure projects in Pakistan. There is no way that Pakistan can get rid of China’s control in future.

In the same way, China has extended loans to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other neighboring countries to push them into debt trap and leverage these countries within it’s strategic orbit. China has recently signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka and Maldives that would enable it to get greater say in the economy of these countries. China will gain much more by signing the FTA with these small countries than what Sri Lanka and Maldives will gain.

While the Asian countries are becoming increasingly apprehensive about China’s strategies and plans and China is already claiming that Arunachal Pradesh province in India belong to it, it is shocking that Sri Lankan government has closed it’s eyes to the ground realities and has taken the decision to hand over the Hambantota port to China, which many people think that it amounts to almost irresponsible decision with least care for long term sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan government is giving some weak justification that it has handed over the Hambantota port to China in a 99 year lease to settle the debt. It is giving an apologetic explanation that with Chinese management, it would be converted to a major port of Indian Ocean, leading to economic development and promotion of tourism.

Sri Lankan government further provides laughable explanation that the Hambantota port would not be permitted to be used as a military base by China and security measures of the port would be under its control. . Under the agreement, only the Sri Lankan navy will be responsible for the security of the deep sea port , which is a tall order for Sri Lankan navy , with the effective presence of Chinese with full control of the port. Having now allowed China to become the owner of the strategic Hambantota port, the question is whether a small and militarily weak country can effectively prevent China from using the port for it’s military advantage.

The fact is that China’s dominance and control over Sri Lanka has now reached alarming level, as China is already involved in constructing the Colombo Container Terminal expansion and the Colombo Reclamation Project overlooking Colombo port. With 99 years lease agreement for Hambantota port, China’s dominant presence in Sri Lanka has now become permanent and this step is a big leap forward for China in it’s world dominance target.

There is really nothing wrong in two countries collaborating for setting up projects. Investment of companies based in one country in another country is also now a well accepted practice. But, what is happening in the case of Hambantota port is that Sri Lankan port authorities signed 1.1 billion USD deal with CM port for the control and development of the port. It is well known that China is a totalitarian country and CM port controlling the Hambantota port virtually mean control by government of China.

Unfortunately, the public opinion in Sri Lanka has not been strong enough to prevent the Sirisena government from signing this suicidal agreement with China.

The earlier Mahinda Rajapaksa government was accused of getting into the debt trap of China with least level of care and caution,. Now, Sirisena government has shown that it is no better.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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