Congress MP and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday flagged India’s concerns over China’s presence in Sri Lanka, pointing to “military intervention in the guise of trade” even in the earlier avatar of China’s Silk Road initiative.
He was speaking at the launch of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s political biography, authored by Dinesh Weerakody.
Referring to Chinese admiral Zheng He’s explorations in the 15th century, Mr. Tharoor said they were not just initiatives to promote trade, but also “direct military intervention under the pretext of ushering in a harmonious world order under China’s emperor”.
Some in India wondered whether China’s interest in the Indian Ocean Region undermines India’s own historical links and cultural networks built over generations and centuries, said the former Minister of State for External Affairs, echoing South Block’s apparent preoccupation with Beijing’s growing presence in the region.
Batting for Indian private sector firms seeking to enter the Sri Lankan market, Mr. Tharoor said many of them voiced concern over “the extraordinary stringency” of Sri Lanka’s Environment Impact Assessment regulations, as applied to Indian firms. “Some of the Indian executives say that Chinese companies don’t face as many environmental hurdles as Indian companies do,” he said.
India is keen that the island reach a political settlement keeping in line with values enshrined in the Sri Lankan and Indian constitution.
Assuring India, Mr. Wickremesinghe said, “We see a lot of opportunities in the region, the wealth of which helped the West in the past. It is now time for us to ensure we can rebuild the Indian Ocean and strengthen ourselves. There is much more scope for us to work together with India.”