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India hopes Sri Lanka remains 'mindful' of maritime security, as Colombo okays Beijing-backed port city project

ANI | Updated: Jun 17, 2021 20:26 IST

New Delhi [India], June 17 (ANI): With Sri Lanka deciding to proceed with the China-backed Colombo Port City project, India on Thursday said that it is closely following the development and hopes that Sri Lanka remains mindful of security in the maritime domain.
Speaking at his weekly press briefing, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: "Regarding the Colombo Port City project, We have been closely following recent development from our security perspective. We have also noted the concerns that have been raised in Sri Lanka regarding several aspects of the framework for the Colombo Port City project."
"We expect Sri Lanka would remain mindful for excellent bilateral cooperation, including for mutual security in our shared environment which includes the maritime domain," added Bagchi.
The MEA also stressed that India has a very extensive portfolio of development partnership projects in Sri Lanka. Bagchi said that India is in regular contact with Sri Lankan authorities regarding the implementation of these projects.
Amid criticism from opposition parties, Sri Lanka unveiled a contentious draft law for a Colombo Port City Commission which allows for sweeping tax breaks, tax-free salaries and be an offshore financial centre.

The USD 1.4-billion Colombo Port City project is slated to be the single largest private sector development in Sri Lanka. There have been concerns about Beijing seeking to increase its footprint in the country through contentious infrastructure projects.
Dr Harsha de Silva, an opposition party MP from SJB told Daily Mirror last month had said that they won't accept the draft law on Port City. "I have three main issues. One, the draft is to create a private company. The commission is actually a privately held corporate body run by five-seven commissioners appointed by the President."
"Two, the regulation is by the Commission. That is a recipe for disaster in today's tough global anti-money laundering environment. If we are to attract top financial names we must have credible regulation," he added.
This comes at a time when Sri Lanka's tax revenues have plunged in 2020, raising concerns over debt and the fiscal path, credit downgrades and the ability of the government to provide vital public services to the people, while managing loss-making state enterprises.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Alaina Teplitz had earlier warned Sri Lanka of unintended consequences of 'nefarious actors' who may try to misuse a China-backed Colombo Port City's easy business rules as a permissive money laundering haven amid concerns of tax leaks. (ANI)