New Delhi has long worried that Beijing is establishing a “string of pearls” to encircle India in the Indian Ocean. One of the projects stirring those fears was a “port city” in Sri Lanka. Yet the development, which was embroiled in various controversies, looked like it might die after Sri Lanka’s former China-friendly president lost his election last year.
A year later, the new president has put it back on track. The Guardian:
President Maithripala Sirisena had suspended the contentious $1.4bn plan to build on reclaimed land next to Colombo’s main harbour shortly after taking power in January last year.
But the port city, initiated by Chinese president Xi Jinping in September 2014 and expected to include housing, a marina and a Formula One racetrack, was again given the green light on Thursday.
“The cabinet committee on economic management has recommended allowing resumption of the project subject to limitations and conditions stipulated in the EIA (environmental impact assessment),” the government said in a statement.
It did not say what the conditions were, but official sources told AFP that Chinese investors were given permission to resume work on the project without any major modifications.
In 2010, China financed another deepwater port in Sri Lanka which had India’s analysts squirming. So far, India’s response to Colombo’s decision has been muted. But we imagine officials in New Delhi aren’t happy. In the past year, we haven’t heard so much about India’s “string of pearls” worries. That could be about to change.