Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena visited China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping from 25th March to 29th March 2015. Apart from the bilateral meetings in Beijing, he also attended the Bo Ao Forum in Hainan on 28-29 March. This was Sirisena’s maiden visit to China since taking office.
In the bilateral talks, President Xi Jinping emphasized that Sri Lanka is a close neighbor and China has always regarded Sri Lanka as important in its neighbourhood policy. He said China’s cooperation with Sri Lanka is based on mutual benefit and China does not attach any political conditions. China and Sri Lanka understand and support each other on matters of territory and sovereignty. Xi Jinping pointed out that China wants to deepen economic cooperation and infrastructure investment in Sri Lanka through Chinese enterprises; that China wants to expand military cooperation through exercises; and, coordinate in international as well as regional affairs. China hoped that Sri Lanka will increase its collaboration with China in SAARC.
Sirisena affirmed that his government will carry forward the friendly relations and will adopt more effective measures to promote friendship and cooperation between the two countries. He said that the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) had established relations between two countries in ancient times and that the 21st century MSR will further strengthen ties between China and Sri Lanka. On the recently suspended Colombo Port project, he said the project has been suspended temporarily and there was no fault with the Chinese side. He expressed his gratitude towards China for their help in building Hambantota port and welcomed more investment from Chinese enterprises.
The two sides signed the following MoUs:
- Settling of FTA negotiations.(President Sirisena showed his country’s interest in “genuine progress” on the FTA. Two sides will be soon convening the third round of FTA negotiations.)
- Chinese grant assistance to establish a hospital, a special laboratory and a modern pharmaceutical laboratory, institute for research and treatment of chronic kidney disease which is an acute health problem in Sri Lanka.
- Five MoUs were signed in the areas of public health, trade and commerce, agriculture and human resource development.
- Development of coconut industry.
- Refurbishing of the Superior Courts complex in Colombo
- Cooperation on tourism industry.
China has offered 2000 training opportunities for young scientists from Sri Lanka in the next five years.
China - Sri Lanka bilateral trade exceeded $3 billion in 2013. China is Sri Lanka’s second largest source of imports after India and is Sri Lanka’s biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). It has provided development loans for projects such as the Hambantota Port, Sri Lanka’s first four-lane expressway, and a new National Theatre.
In a media briefing by accompanying Ministers, it was stated that:
China will provide a grant worth more than US$ 300 million to the health sector in Sri Lanka and a grant of Sri Lanka Rs.4 billion to refurbish the Courts complex;
President Xi Jin Ping has conveyed to President Sirisena the idea of setting up a Silk Route Fund through which Sri Lanka would benefit.
Separately, press report said that China had agreed to write off US $30 million from the construction of Outer Circular road negotiated during Rajapaksa’s regime.
Published Date: 8th April 2015, Image Source: http://www.zimbio.com