China is expected to increase its maritime strength by securing port development deals in Sri Lanka, soon after President Xi Jinping tours South Asia.
Despite Beijing’s good intentions to countries in the region, the port deals could incite fears that China will use the facilities for strategic purposes, such as encircling India, reports the South China Morning Post.
The Hambantota port, on Sri Lanka's southern coast, is already heavily financed by Chinese loans, and is in the second phase of development.
According to Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao, China and Sri Lanka hope to sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation over the Hambantota port.
Chinahas also pumped US$500 million into a container terminal at Colombo Port, on Sri Lanka's west coast.
The push is part of Beijing's efforts to create a “Maritime Silk Road” – an initiative to expand sea trade routes but which could also serve strategic purposes.
To read more about Sri Lanka's involvement with the 'Maritime Silk Road', click here
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, executive director of Sri Lanka government think tank Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies said: “Sri Lanka supports the initiative. It is one of the drivers for growth.”
President Xi Jinping is due to stop in the Maldives tomorrow before heading to Sri Lanka to wrap up his tour in India on September 19.