Sri Lanka on Tuesday offered India and Japan to develop a strategic deep-sea port in the island country, The Colombo Times reported. This came a month after the Mahindra Rajapaksa government abruptly pulled out of a 2019 tripartite agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal.
Addressing the media on the decisions taken at a Cabinet meeting, government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said approval had been granted to develop the West Container Terminal at the Colombo Port with investors nominated by India and Japan. “The discussions to develop the WCT will be only with India and Japan,” said Rambukwella, according to AFP.
The Sri Lankan government said the Indian High Commission in Colombo has approved the offer with Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited as its investors. For the ECT project earlier, India had nominated Adani Ports. Japan has not named an investor yet, said Rambukwella. However, neither India nor Japan have officially commented about this yet.
For the WCT project, the Rajapaksa government will offer India and Japan higher stakes. In the ECT project, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was to hold majority 51%. In the WCT proposal, India and Japan will be given 85% stake, but it is unclear how Tokyo and Delhi will divide it. Incidentally, the China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited holds exactly the same amount of stakes in the nearby Colombo International Container Terminal.
Sri Lanka’s new offer is being seen as an attempt to balance ties against China’s rising regional influence. Colombo’s offer also comes at a time when Sri Lanka is seeking support at the United Nations Human Right Council, where a resolution on the country’s rights record will soon be put to vote.
However, Rambukwella denied any link between the two. He said they were “two different areas – one is commercial, other one, more of international relations”.