Sri Lanka is bound to lose its big dream of becoming the maritime hub of the region if the country doesn’t wish to be a part of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). BRI is seen as an opportunity in Sri Lanka and not seen as a major threat, said Professor Jayanath Colombage, Additional Secretary to the President (Foreign Relations).

The Indian Ocean has become the focus of attention in the 21st century. Everyone; major powers, aspiring major powers, residential, outside powers are interested in the Indian Ocean.

“There are a large number of strategic initiatives focusing on Indian Ocean and there are now connectivity initiatives focusing on Indian Ocean. Moreover, there are other parallel connectivity initiatives which are focusing on enhancing connectivity across the Indian Ocean.

BRI and all other Chinese projects in Sri Lanka attracted a lot of attention, both positively and negatively. Many countries have been focusing their attention on Sri Lanka and it has even led to a government change in Sri Lanka in 2015. China and Chinese projects were a major campaign factor in 2015 election,” Colombage told at a seminar held under the theme, ‘Belt & Road Initiative, Challenges and Way forward,’ at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Auditorium this week.

He said further the President has emphasised that Sri Lanka wishes to be a complete neutral country and maintain friendly relations with all sovereign countries in the world. Moreover, Sri Lanka don’t wish to be engaged in the major power game taking place in the India ocean.

“Also, Sri Lankan foreign policy dictates that we wish to uphold Sri Lanka’s ownership on all our national strategic assets as the result of the evolving functional geography and other commitments in Sri Lanka. We need the support of all connectivity initiatives to achieve Sri Lanka’s dream of becoming a maritime hub status,” Prof. Colombage said.

He added that unfortunately, Sri Lanka was engaged in branding its own assets in a negative manner.

“Now we need to benefit from what is available and we’ve to make it happen for the betterment of the country. In that sense, BRI is seen as an opportunity and not as a threat. Also, we feel that many BRI related projects are beneficial, at the same time we feel that giving Hambantota Port to China Merchants Port Holdings is wrong.

That’s why the president was compelled to say in future, no national strategic assets will be given to the total control of another country.

In economic terms, we need foreign Direct Investments, build –operate- transfer models, but the control of national assets can’t be given as long as this government will be in power.” Prof. Colombage emphasised.