02/16/2015, 00.00
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Sri Lanka, the new president chooses India to "deter” China

Maithripala Sirisena has chosen New Delhi for his first official trip and signs a cooperation agreement on civil nuclear power with Narendra Modi. Renewed relations between Sri Lanka and India means putting aside Beijing and its project of a maritime Silk Road.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Rebuilding relations with New Delhi and "putting" China "in its place":  This is the aim of newly elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, in choosing India as a destination for his first official trip.

The Head of State landed yesterday, today "Maithri" - as he is called by his supporters - met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and tonight he will attend a banquet with President Pranab Mukherjee. Before leaving on 18 February, the President will visit the Hindu temple of Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) and Bodh Gaya, a site sacred to Buddhism (Bihar).

His first major conquest is the signing of a cooperation agreement on civilian nuclear energy, which the Indian prime minister termed "another demonstration of our mutual trust." In the past Colombo and New Delhi had already held talks to reach a similar agreement, but with the Rajapaksa administration everything ended in stalemate.

More than for Sri Lanka, the agreement is a plus for India, whose main objective is to reduce the economic influence of Beijing on the former Ceylon. Under the Rajapaksa executive, Chinese investment in the island grew exponentially, from mega tourism projects to infrastructure development. In most cases, resulting in the great impoverishment of the local population - exploited for cheap labor - and the enrichment of businessmen and smug politicians.

But what troubled India most was the project - funded by Beijing - of a new port in Colombo, worth $ 1.4 billion. It was part of the Chinese plan to create a maritime Silk Road, in which Sri Lanka has a decisive, given its location in the Indian Ocean.

The decision of former President Rajapaksa to allow Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo only exacerbated Indian concerns of over the Chinese presence in Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, already during his election of the coalition Sirisena had declared that - in case of an electoral victory - he would have canceled the Colombo port project. Once in office, the new government announced it would review a number of "Chinese" projects, officially because of environmental questions.


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