On Tuesday, an official said that Sri Lanka will offer a strategically located deep-sea port to Japan and India, as the island nation seeks to balance traditional ties against the rising regional influence of China. Last month, the government of Sri Lanka suddenly pulled out an agreement with Tokyo and New Delhi to develop the partially built East Container Terminal jointly. The Terminal is located next to a $500-million Chinese-run container jetty within the sprawling port of the country’s capital Colombo.
But on Tuesday, Colombo reversed course by offering the West Container Terminal (WCT), which is located on the other side of the Chinese-run jetty known as the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) and the WCT is yet to be built.
The government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said, “The discussions to develop the WCT will be only with India and Japan.” Rambukwella further added that on Monday, the cabinet decided to allow India and Japan to have an 85% stake in the West Container Terminal, the same as the terms of China which were granted while building the CICT.
However, so far now, it is not so clear how Tokyo and New Delhi will divide their majority stake in the port. As per the Sri Lankan government, its latest offer has been “approved” by the Indian High Commission in Colombo. Although, from the foreign ministry in New Delhi, there was no immediate response regarding this matter. On the other hand, a government spokesman said Japan is yet to respond to the new proposal.
The trade unions were blamed by the Sri Lankan government as it claimed that for last month’s abrogation of the East Container Terminal, instead of foreign development, the trade unions called for local. In between the major hubs of Dubai and Singapore, Colombo is located in the Indian Ocean, which means control of its ports is highly sought after