China claims that Sri Lanka has agreed to develop the Hambantota port and other on-going China-assisted projects as per the “existing consensus,”, thus virtually opting out of a bid to renegotiate the controversial 2017 agreement on the Hambantota port which had leased it out to China for 99-years.
A Chinese embassy statement, put out by Xinhua on Monday, said that during the visit to Colombo of Wu Jianghao, representative of the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday and Monday, China and Sri Lanka had agreed to speed up the implementation of cooperation on big economic projects, including the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, “under the existing consensus”.
The statement added that on the basis of the existing consensus, the two countries will “draw up and promote a new blueprint for future cooperation.”
Wu Jianghhua and the Lankan leaders also agreed to “further strengthen robust political trust between the two countries and upgrade their pragmatic cooperation,” the statement further said.
It is significant that Foreign Minister Wang Yi sent Wu Jianghua as his representative because Wu was China’s Ambassador in Sri Lanka during the earlier Rajapaksa regime between 2005 and 2014. Wu therefore knew Gotabaya Rajapkasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa well. Mahinda Rajapaksa was then the Lankan President and Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Defense Secretary.
Wu had paid separate calls on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and other Sri Lankan leaders.
“No” To Renegotiation?
The Chinese statement, in effect, means that China will not agree to renegotiate the 2017 agreement on Hambantotaa port as desired by the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Gotabaya had told Nitin Gokhale editor-in-chief of the Indian defense journal Bharat Shakti prior to his departure for a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 29, that he opposes the giving of Hambantota port to a Chinese company on a 99-year lease.
The newly elected Lankan President said that the people of Sri Lanka do not like the alienation of a strategic asset like the Hambantota port to a foreign entity and that for such a long period. He announced that he would renegotiate the pact entered into by the previous Ranil Wickremesinghe government.