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China says India made ‘great efforts’ to help Sri Lanka; South Asia remains its priority

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Published on Jun 8, 2022
China says India made ‘great efforts’ to help Sri Lanka; South Asia remains its priority

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China on Wednesday praised India for making “great efforts” to help Colombo to tide over its worst financial crisis even as it refuted Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remarks that Beijing has shifted its strategic focus from South Asia including Pakistan to South East Asia, saying the region still remained its priority. Sri Lanka has been grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has created political unrest with protesters demanding President Rajapaksa’s resignation.
“We have also noted the Indian government has made great efforts in this aspect. We recognise that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here while replying to questions about whether China, which has made big investments in Sri Lanka, is hesitating to help it when the island nation is facing the worst economic crisis.
“We also are willing to work with India and other members of the international community to help Sri Lanka and other countries with difficulties to help these developing countries to get through this situation,” he said.
India has rushed about USD 3 billion in assistance in the form of line credit and other modes to help Sri Lanka which has virtually declared insolvency and defaulted on all foreign loans including that of China totalling to USD 51 billion.
China has announced assistance of 500 million RMB (about USD 73 million) for the supply of essential goods but remained silent about President Rajapaksa’s request to defer the loan repayment and as well as its earlier announcement to consider a USD 2.5 billion loan facility for Colombo.
Beijing appeared to be peeved over the remarks by Rajapaksa that China appears to be shifting its strategic focus towards South-East Asia and Africa noting that South Asian countries in financial trouble are not getting the same attention from Beijing as before.
In an interview to Bloomberg on Monday, Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka couldn’t tap a USD 1.5 billion (credit line from Beijing) and has yet to hear back on his request to President Xi Jinping for a USD one billion loan to buy essential goods.
Rajapaksa said China indicated that it would help Sri Lanka, while adding that “usually they don’t like” lending out more money to cover earlier debt payments.
“My analysis is that China has shifted their strategic focus into South-east Asia,” Rajapaksa said. “They see more strategic interest in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, that region, and Africa.” “They have less interest in this region,” Rajapaksa said. “I don’t know whether I am right or wrong, even the focus on Pakistan has gone down. That shows that their interest here is not like earlier. Their interest has shifted to two other areas,” the Sri Lankan president said. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the biggest recipients of China’s biggest investments and loans in the region. While Colombo received about USD eight to 10 billion investments and loans from China, Beijing is currently committed to build USD 60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over which India has protested as it is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Significantly, both the countries are seeking IMF bailout packages to tide over the worst economic crisis.
Reacting to Rajapaksa’s remarks, Zhao said, “as a traditional, friendly neighbour, China is always closely following the situation in Sri Lanka and we feel deeply for the current difficulties and challenges faced by the country and we have been doing our utmost to provide assist...


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