Sri Lankan PM reaches China to deepen ties

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena reached China on Monday for a six-day official visit during which he will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang on ways to further deepen bilateral ties. Gunawardena was received on his arrival by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to India Sun Weidong, Chinese official media reported.

This will be the first visit by a Sri Lankan leader to Beijing after Colombo put a moratorium on recurring visits by Chinese research ships to Hambantota port, reportedly due to India’s security concerns.

Colombo’s move had drawn angry reactions from China.

Earlier this month, however, Sri Lanka said it would allow foreign offshore research ships for replenishments at its ports despite a one-year ban on such vessels.

Some of China’s infrastructure investments in Sri Lanka drew global concerns over Beijing’s debt diplomacy especially after China took over Hambantota port on a 99-year debt swap.

Gunawardena’s visit also comes days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka for the next phase that would enable it access to USD 337 million from the nearly USD 3 billion bailout approved in 2023 for the cash-strapped country.

In 2022, Sri Lanka announced a default on over USD 51 billion foreign loans, following which India pitched in with about USD 4 billion in assistance to enable the island nation to recover from a deep economic crisis.

According to Sri Lanka’s official data, China tops the list of its creditors with 43 per cent followed by Japan with 23 per cent and India with 15 per cent.

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