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Chinese Operation of Strategic Sri Lankan Port Fuels Indian Consternation

© AFP 2023 / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHIIn this photograph taken on February 10, 2015, shows a general view of the port facility at Hambantota
In this photograph taken on February 10, 2015, shows a general view of the port facility at Hambantota - Sputnik International
Sri Lanka’s handing over of its strategic Hambantota port to a Chinese state-owned company has increased the chances of the two Asian giants engaging in a more intense power-struggle with “unexpected consequences,” in the Indian Ocean Region, according to former national security advisor.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — India's Former National Security Advisor (NSA) M. K. Narayanan has cautioned that the differences between India, China are likely to deepen in the near future and the consequences could be unexpected.

"China's taking over of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, Gwadar port in Pakistan and setting up of a naval base in Djibouti [in Africa] and intent to increase such presence will only lead to worsening of relations between the two Asian giants," Narayan asserted while addressing the international symposium "India-China relations — Resolving Contentious Issues" in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.

"I don't say there will be a war but there will be constant conflict," Narayanan, who is also a former chief of the country's Intelligence Bureau, warned. 

Earlier, India's defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed concern over Sri Lanka allowing a Chinese company to operate the port.

While responding to a question about  Sri Lanka handing over Hambantota port to China on a 9-year lease, Sitharaman said, "Not sure if I'll comment on any one particular instance. But yes, we are being watchful of all the developments in the neighborhood." 

Sitharaman said this while chairing a high-level meeting on the implementation of "New India Vision 2022" in Tamil Nadu last week. The vision basically focuses on Modi's long-term Indo-Pacific strategy.

Experts are of the opinion that China's activities will not only be confined to Sri Lankan ports but much beyond that, and it is indeed a challenge for India to catch up.

"India, in fact, needs a better plan to counter Chinese presence in Sri Lanka. China has plans to invest $5 billion during the next 3 to 4 years in the new economic zone in southern part of Sri Lanka. Therefore, obviously, China has a diverse interest in Sri Lanka which includes infrastructure projects and other major economic activities. China's growing footprint in Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka is basically its plan to encircle India," Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Sputnik.

Another analyst, Abhijeet Singh, also opines that competing with China in the Indian Ocean Region would be no cakewalk for India.

The views and opinions expressed by experts in this article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.

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