The Government of Sri Lanka sees both India and China as important allies, but interacts and deals with them separately, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe.
In an exclusive interview to Thanthi TV, Prime Minister Wickremasinghe said Friday, “We keep the Indo-Sri Lanka relations separate from the Sino-Sri Lanka relations… Both are important for us. With India, there is a historic link. Under the Indo-Lanka agreement, both countries have agreed that they will not take any measures that will harm the security of the other country. So, in conducting our relations with China or, with other country, we keep this in mind.”
“With this way, we are able to handle the Indo-Sri Lanka relationship separately from the Sino-Lanka relations. What we did not like was the attempt at the time of Rajapaksa regime to play India off against China. Play the China card with India, (and the) India card with China. That is not a wise policy. India also helped us. Without the help of India, President Rajapaksa could have not wiped out the LTTE. He got that help and he agreed to give concessions even beyond the 13th amendment…But he did not do so,” Wickremasinghe added.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister further went on to say that India did help his country in the civil war against the LTTE, and rather humorously said that those in denial of this fact, were suffering from selective amnesia.
When asked specifically to respond to the view that India has been categorically denying its role in the war against the LTTE, Wickremasinghe said, “Yes… certainly (they did have a role). Amnesia, you know is very common among politicians.”
Asked to respond to the perception that the previous regime (of Mahinda Rajapaksa) was largely in tilt towards China, Wickremasinghe first reaction was, “As I told you, we have no Pro china tilt; we have No Pro India tilt.”
When his attention was specifically directed to talk about as to why the previous government had a pro-China tilt, he told Thanthi TV, “Because they had a strained relations with the West. They relied on china for all the economic assistance.But in our case, while we welcome Chinese investment and assistance, we will also be getting investment assistance from other countries. There won’t be a tilt as far as the UNP is concerned, President Sirisena is concerned and other parties in the National Government are concerned… As a result of how they conducted their foreign policy, there is a general feeling that the Rajapaksa regime had tilted towards China.”
Commenting to China’s involvement in the USD 1.5 billion Port city project and the government’s move to suspend it temporarily because it had some doubts about it, Prime Minister Wickramasinghe said, “No doubt. I’m the first person to raise the Port city in the Parliament… I asked for the reports. Now, we have appointed a committee to go into the port city and to make a report. Depending on the outcome of the report, we will decide what our measures are going to be. But once we get the report, we will also give a copy of it to the Chinese Government and then commence discussion.”
When asked whether Colombo is seriously considering plans to scrap the project, he said, “I still think if the report is adverse, then the project should be scrapped.If the report is adverse, we have to scrap it. But then, we want to hear all parties. My contention on the report has not been tabled… Hear all the parties and then take a decision.