In a rare gesture, China commended India’s efforts to assist Sri Lanka to deal with its worst financial crisis but refuted the island nation’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remarks that Beijing has shifted its strategic focus from South Asia, including Pakistan, to South East Asia, saying the region still remained its priority. Sri Lanka has been grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has created political unrest with protesters demanding President Rajapaksa’s resignation.
We have taken note that the Indian government has also done a lot in this regard. We commend those efforts, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing while replying to questions about whether China, which has made big investments in Sri Lanka, is hesitating to help it when the island nation is facing the worst economic crisis. China is ready to work with India and the rest of the international community to help Sri Lanka and other developing countries experiencing difficulty to pull through the hardship as early as possible,he said.
China has announced assistance of 500 million RMB (about USD 74 million) for the supply of essential goods but remained silent about President Rajapaksa’s request to defer the loan repayment and as well as its earlier announcement to consider a USD 2.5 billion loan facility for Colombo. Beijing appeared to be peeved over the remarks by Rajapaksa that China appears to be shifting its strategic focus towards South-East Asia and Africa noting that South Asian countries in financial trouble are not getting the same attention from Beijing as before.