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Rediff.com  » News » Sri Lankan Prez Rajapaksa arrives in China on sixth visit

Sri Lankan Prez Rajapaksa arrives in China on sixth visit

May 27, 2013 17:47 IST

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in Beijing on Monday on a 4-day state visit, his sixth, with Colombo saying that its ties with Beijing were not an "exclusive one" and would not harm interests of others.

This is Rajapaksa's first visit after the new leadership headed by Xi Jinping assumed power.

China was expected to announce more aid for various development projects in Sri Lanka in addition to heavy infrastructure projects like Hambantota port in Rajapaksa's home town.

Colombo will embrace China's rise, and its friendship with Beijing is "not an exclusive one" and wouldn't harm the interests of other countries, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, G L Peiris said in an interview.

"China has contributed very significantly to our economic development by assisting us with infrastructure after the eradication of terrorism," Peiris said.

Sri Lanka perceives China's rise as an opportunity, while some of China's neighbours remain skeptical toward Beijing's growing power, state-run Global Times said, referring to India's concerns over growing influence of China in the island nation.

The close ties between Sri Lanka and China have raised suspicions among other powers like India that it may be used against them, the report said.

In his interview to the daily, Peiris said such fears "have no foundation".

"Sri Lanka has friendly relations with other countries as well, but there has never been a conflict, because China has never sought to use her relations with Sri Lanka in order to put any other country in peril or to jeopardise interests of any other countries," he said.

As for bilateral ties, Peiris said while the political relationship is "as good as it can be," Sri Lanka hopes to expand trade ties with China by exporting more value-added goods so as to narrow its trade deficit.

The daily's report also highlighted Chinese assistance to Sri Lanka to enable Colombo to crush the LTTE.

Sri Lanka will benefit from the shift in the world's economic gravity to the Pacific Rim, Peiris said, noting that China is becoming a power which is more outward-looking and that this could benefit the island nation in the Indian Ocean.

Over 70 per cent of China's imported energy resources go through the Indian Ocean.

Peiris noted that Sri Lanka has no apprehensions or fears of China's rise.

"On the contrary, we think that as China's position becomes stronger in the world, Sri Lanka could benefit from that, because of the nature and quality of our relationship," he said.

China backs Sri Lanka in Colombo's efforts to ward off pressure from the international community over probe into the killings of civilians during the last stages of the war against LTTE.

In March, China supported Sri Lanka against a US-backed resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, while India backed the resolution.

China has provided loans to the war-ravaged country to develop infrastructure and Chinese enterprises are active in building highways, railroad systems, harbours as well as energy facilities in the country.

More Chinese aid was expected to be announced for various projects in Sri Lanka.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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