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China leases Sri Lanka port for nearly 100 years

China leases Sri Lanka port for nearly 100 years

The government has given assurances that China will run only commercial operations from the port, on the main shipping route between Asia and Europe.

Minister of Ports and Naval Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe and China's Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang took part at the signing ceremony held at the Ministry.

The agreement was signed between the government-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the state-run China Merchants Port Holding Co.in the capital Colombo on Saturday.

Sri Lanka's Cabinet on July 25 approved the sale to a Chinese firm of a 70 per cent stake in the Hambantota port, tweaking the deal after the initial agreement sparked protests.

Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that in addition to the US$ 1.12 billion further 600 million USA dollars will be spent to modernize the Hambantota harbor considered as the largest swimming pool of the world.

The plan envisages the eviction of thousands of villagers but the government says they will be given new land.

"With these maritime infrastructure investments and other diverse investments such as the proposed global maritime centre, Sri Lanka will be well positioned to play a strategic role in the one-belt-one-road initiative of China", Hu said.

Government and diplomatic sources told Reuters that the United States, India and Japan have raised concerns over possible military activities by China in Hambantota port. The One Belt, One Road initiative aims to create the world's largest platform for economic, social and cultural cooperation through a network of road and sea links and infrastructure projects connecting China with South and Central Asia, West Asia and Europe.

The amended agreement gives the SLPA a 30 per cent stake in the port, in contrast to 20pc, which it was supposed to get earlier under the December 2016 Framework Agreement.

China's influence in Sri Lanka makes neighboring India anxious because it considers the Indian Ocean region to be its strategic backyard.

After 10 years, the Sri Lankan side will gradually purchase an additional 20 percent stake, resulting in the two sides owning an equal share of 50 percent each, according to the agreement, which is valid for 99 years.

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