Feature Article

Gotabaya praises Chinese President, but avoids reciprocating “strategic partnership”

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 23:06 GMT]
“Sri Lanka may have less landmass, but will soon be strong economically. China will be with Sri Lanka in its striving to reach this goal,” said the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who met SL President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday. “As Sri Lanka’s strategic partner China will continue to standby Sri Lanka’s interests. China stands for the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. We will not allow any outside influences to interfere with matters that are essentially internal concerns of Sri Lanka”, the Chinese FM said. China was expecting Colombo to reciprocate ‘strategic partner’ status and benefit from its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in a “win-win” manner. However, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was responding to the call in a sophisticated manner.

Rajapaksa was only applying the term “strategic” to the location of the island.

“China is not a stranger to me,” he said.

“Sri Lanka is a small country. Fortunately or not, it is geographically placed in a most strategic location. As a result, the country has to face many political challenges. The only way to overcome them is to be economically strong. The economic independence will ensure political independence”, Mr Rajapaksa told the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, who nodded in favour the ambition.

Mr Wang was inviting Mr Gotabaya to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to a statement issued by Rajapaksa’s office on Tuesday.

Rajapaksa said he was an admirer of Chinese President Xi Jinping and that he had followed the speeches and statements closely and thanked the Chinese minister for the invitation to visit China.

Back in China, Geng Shuang, the spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry referred to Sri Lanka as “strategic cooperative partner”.

“China and Sri Lanka are strategic cooperative partners with sincere mutual assistance and ever-lasting friendship built upon a long tradition of friendly exchanges. Recent years has seen fruitful cooperation under the Belt and Road framework. China stands ready to work with Sri Lanka’s new administration to carry forward the traditional friendship, strengthen political mutual trust, dovetail development strategies and bring bilateral relations to new heights,” Mr Shuang told the press.

In the meantime, China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported that Gotabaya was aiming at “win-win cooperation” in various fields, and said he was actively promoting the joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative “to build regional shipping and logistic hubs.”

In the meantime, China’s news agency Xinhua reported Mr Wang as saying that China would “firmly support Sri Lanka in safeguarding its national sovereignty and dignity.”

SL Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena described China as a “close friend” and “important development partner”, the Xinhua report said.


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