Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse recently met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the two leaders pledged closer cooperation. In an email interview, Swaran Singh, a professor and chairman of the Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, discussed China-Sri Lanka relations.
WPR: What is the recent history of China-Sri Lanka relations, and what is driving the relationship?
Swaran Singh: China has been a major source of economic, military and technical assistance for Sri Lanka, which in turn supports China on its "One China" policy and on human rights. Recent years have witnessed a rising China expanding its engagement, using one-sided trade and investment flows, especially in infrastructure projects such as important buildings, expressways and ports. Their most recent joint project, the $1.5 billion flagship Hambantota Development Zone, has serious strategic implications for the region, though it is touted as a mere commercial venture. Involving 85 percent subsidies from China, this megaproject includes building an international container port, a bunkering system, an oil refinery, refueling facilities and an international airport around the deepwater Hambantota port, about 150 miles south of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. The zone is slated to emerge as the region's largest transshipment hub.