Last couple of weeks, the South Asian region heated up over Eastern Terminal (ECT) of Colombo Port. India and Japan had a MOU with Sri Lankan Government over ECT development project. According to the primary proposal, ECT ownership needed to be shared with Adani Corporation, India as 51% shares to Sri Lankan Port Authority and 49% shares for Investing party/parties.
23 Port workers unions, JVP (Political party) and many other parties conducted protests and strikes against this investment plan. Their demanded that The ECT should be remained as 100% state owned.
Let’s learn Terminals in Colombo Port
JCT is fully owned by State. SAGT is majority of shares owned by Private under PPP. CICT majority owned by China. CPEP and ECT P2 is proposed projects. ECT P1 is almost in. Compared to others, ECT/s, CPEP and CICT can operate largest commercial ships in the World.
Strategically importance of Colombo Port
Colombo port is popular since ancient time between East and West Shipping Routes. Sri Lanka is located in the middle of Indian Ocean and Middle of Silk Route. And currently India do not have many deep terminals as Colombo port does have. Krishnapatnam is the deepest one and it about 17.5 m. Mumbai which is the largest port in India is just 12 meters deep. Currently, Colombo Port is acting as the Transshipment hub to India. India is very large economy and India is interesting to involve in currently available hub instead of building another hub in Indian territory. China owns Sri Lanka’s other International Commercial Port, Hambantota, Colombo Port City and CICT deep terminal. So, it seem India interests to secure a spot in Colombo. In other hands, Sri Lanka will never achieve alone that goal to become India’s transshipment hub. It should be granted by India if Sri Lanka can share some opportunity. India with it’s massive economical and technological power can built an alternative to Colombo without hassle. So, it is a game for Sri Lanka to secure the place. And Chinese influenced Rajapakse Government can easily turn the Country to Beijing until Beijing is about to take care of all the necessities. As per recent news reports, China has granted immediate loan of 1500 million dollars to Sri Lanka.
In last week, Sri Lankan Cabinet noticed that ECT will continue under government administration after PM assured protestors. Instead of ECT government may offer CPEP (not built yet) to develop under 85% ownership to India says some reports. There is no confirmed decision has taken yet. Sri Lanka recently lost USA Millennium Challenge Corporation grant of US$ 400 grant for develop public transport and land management after new Rajapakse government formed. Further, Japan funded Light rail system of Colombo also abandoned and offered it to China.
After cabinet decision, Indian High Commission to Colombo issued a notice by asking Sri Lanka to respect primary MOU on ECT. And India has recently requested to settle previous US$ 400 million currency swap after those events. However, China has granted a big loan to manage those crises along the day today issues occurred.
Solution pending and most of people in Sri Lanka who influenced with nationalism, will happy with a deal with China than US or India. Many appreciate China and Russia who helped Sri Lanka on Human Rights violation cases in Untied Nations. Majority of Sri Lankans who backed with nationalists and current ruling party, believe China as a close loyal friend.
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