China congratulates Rajapaksa; says ready for 'greater progress' in ties with Lanka

K J M Varma

Beijing, Nov 18 (PTI) China on Monday congratulated Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the new Sri Lankan President, saying that it is ready to work with him for 'greater progress' in bilateral strategic ties and ensure 'high-quality' projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Rajapaksa defeated Sajith Premadasa in a hotly contested election on Sunday, marking the return of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty known for its pro-China tilt.

Asked for his comment on Rajapaksa's victory, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang told media here that 'Sri Lanka has successfully held Presidential election, which is a major political agenda at home. We are pleased to see that and offer our sincere congratulations to Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his success'.

'China and Sri Lanka are strategic cooperative partners with sincere mutual assistance and everlasting friendship,' he said.

'We stand ready to on the basis of respect, equality and mutual benefit work with the new leadership and the government for high-quality BRI cooperation and greater progress in bilateral ties to bring more tangible benefits to two countries and their people,' Geng said.

Sri Lanka, in recent years has carried out various development projects with an estimated USD 8 billion loans mostly secured from China under the multi-billion BRI, the pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at expanding China's influence all over the world with a chain of infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments.

The huge Chinese loans sparked concerns globally after Sri Lanka handed over its strategic Hambantota port to a state-run Chinese firm in 2017 for a 99 years' lease as a debt swap amounting to USD 1.2 billion.

The Colombo Port City project also funded by China is currently being built along the city's coastline on 269 hectares of reclaimed land. PTI KJV AMS AKJ AMS