Hambantota port not being used as military base: Sri Lankan army chief

ANI | Updated: Feb 27, 2018 15:35 IST

New Delhi [India], Feb 27 (ANI): Sri Lankan army chief Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne on Tuesday clarified that the claims about the Hambantota port in southern Sri Lanka being utilised as a foreign military base was false.

Speaking at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue 2018 at the Manekshaw Centre here, Admiral Wijegunaratne said, "There had been a widespread claim about Hambantota port being earmarked to be used as a military base. I can assure that no action will be taken in our harbours and waters which would jeopardise India's security concerns."

China recently opened its foreign military base in Djibouti in western Africa to strengthen its maritime presence in the region in July last year. The facility comprises of a large helicopter base, a naval port and a huge accommodation for nearly 10,000 Chinese troops.

It is also reportedly planning to establish a second base in the Gwadar Port in Balochistan in Pakistan, where the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project is being built.

The Sri Lankan army chief reiterated that the maritime preparedness in the Indian Ocean region was of utmost priority for Sri Lanka and that it was undertaking regular joint military exercises for the same.

Admiral Wijegunaratne stated that the Sri Lankan government clearly said that it would not enter into any military alliance with any country.

"Our political leadership led by President (Maithripala) Sirisena and Prime Minister (Ranil Wickremesinghe) clearly stated that the government will not enter into military alliance with any country for making our bases available to foreign countries," he asserted.

Sri Lanka formally handed over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease, which government critics have denounced as an erosion of the country's sovereignty in December last year.

The China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority will own the port and the investment zone around it, according to officials.

The Chinese firm will now hold 70 percent stake in a joint venture with the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), who will hold the remaining 30 percent. (ANI)