CHENNAI: Sri Lankan Minister for national integration, official language, social progress and Hindu religious affairs Mano Ganesan on Monday expressed the hope that India would step up its socia-economic collaboration with Sri Lanka considering that the Island nation is critical for India’s security being its closest southern neighbour besides the Tamils of both the countries share umbilical cord relationship.
The Minister who was on a personal visit to Chennai felt that India, given its credentials, should involve more. “China, which is an emerging power in the world have their own intentions and ambitions…to Sri Lanka India is more important than China as it is the closest neighbroug. China is far away,” he said responding to a query on growing Chinese presence in the island country, during a media interaction here on Monday. He however termed as “exaggerated” media reports that Chinese have “taken over” the island nation as “exaggerated.”
“The Chinese would have taken over if (former President) Mahinda Rajapaksa had remained (in power post 2015 polls)…the Hambantota Port had almost been sold to the Chinese,” he alleged apparently referring to the previous government. “But we have redone the agreement and ensured the strategically located port was leased to China for a 99 year period and not sold,” he added.
Mano Ganesan, who is UNF member and Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) leader said India is emerging as fast developing country and its economy is booming. “Being a neighbouring country, it is our expectation that we become a stake holder in India’s development,” he said and added that India benefited in terms of revenue through the transshipment hut of Colombo port.
When asked about India’s role in the economic development of Sri Lanka, he said “yes, it should go up.”
On the upcoming Presidential elections in Lanka, Mr. Ganesan exuded confidence over defeating Opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya, though the ruling coalition was yet to name its candidate.
“Gotabaya is respected and feared.But he would not get the votes of the Tamils nor of the Lankans who fear that Sri Lanka would become a police state under his rule,” Mr. Ganesan claimed and added that he had no “personal issues against Gotabaya but expressed the pulse of the people.