India has pledged to strengthen military ties and widen maritime links with Sri Lanka shortly after China assured the island nation’s leaders that it will not allow any outside influence to interfere with matters that are essentially internal concerns of the country.

China, a long time rival of India, has been widening its footprint in the region, including building ports and expressways and upgrading airports in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has traditionally been allied to India, but China has invested and loaned billions of dollars to Sri Lanka.

China has reiterated its commitment on Friday (09) to supporting the new government’s development goals contained in “Saubhagyaye Dekma” (Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour) policy statement.

Chinese support at the UN

China would stand by Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as well as other international platforms.

This assurance was given by senior Chinese leader and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi, who is a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and the director of its Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, the top policy-making body.

The seven-member Chinese delegation led by Jiechi arrived in Colombo, on Thursday night, for meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Hours before the high level Chinese delegation’s departure from Sri Lanka, Indian Defence Adviser in Sri Lanka, Capt. Vikas Sood met Defence Secretary Major General (Retired) Kamal Gunaratne, at the Ministry on Friday (09).

The Indian Indian Defence Adviser in Sri Lanka has emphasized the significance of maritime cooperation and the effectiveness of interoperability between both countries.

“India cannot match China in terms of economic clout but geography is a big advantage for India, therefore India’s neighbours have to take that into account,” economic experts said.

The visit takes place amidst fresh a COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka while relations between China and the US and China and India are fragile whereas the US seeks to expand its role in Sri Lanka with the finalization of the MCC Compact, having extended ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) in Aug 2017.

Declaring that bilateral relations were at an extremely cordial level, the leader of the delegation said that Chinese President Xi Jinping considered further improvement of China-Sri Lanka relations a priority.

The Chinese delegation is on a tour of four countries in the Asian region. Sri Lanka was their first destination. They left Colombo yesterday (10).