Indian lawmaker Dr. Shashi Tharoor yesterday voiced his country’s concerns about China’s presence in Sri Lanka as well as its growing influence in the Indian Ocean.
“There are some concerns in India if China’s interests here undermine our own historical and cultural links built over generations,” Tharoor said in his keynote at the launch of a political biography of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe authored by Dinesh Weerakkody.
Dr. Tharoor said that China ‘s ambitions in the South China Sea have extended well into the Indian Ocean and the prospect of an emerging superpower casting its shadow has caused anxiety in a number of states that have been looking to India as an alternative security provider.
Referring to China’s latest push, the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, he said it must be remembered that the older silk route at that time carried serious geopolitical tensions too.
“India has been better at projecting soft power in the region than hard power but there are concerns that we are gradually being strangled by China’s string of pearls around our oceanic neck, “he said.
Dr. Tharoor said while India investments in Sri Lanka today amount to over a billion dollars, with another billion in the pipeline, there were concerns among the India business community if they were getting a level playing field on par with their Chinese competitors.
“One concern that many in the private sector in India have expressed to me is the extraordinary stringency of Sri Lanka’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) s applied to Indian firms. They feel Chinese companies don’t face as many hurdles as Indian companies do,” he said.
Dr. Tharoor, who is also a former UN Under-Secretary-General, former Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs, said India has consistently expressed the need for national reconciliation through a negotiated political settlement in Sri Lanka which is acceptable to all communities and is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.
He said that India cannot help but be involved as Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor but also due to the India Tamil population which remains greatly concerned about their ethnic cousins across the Palk Straits.
“We are not merely committed to mending the past but we are also committed to Sri Lanka’s future,” he added.
Courtesy: Daily FT