Editorial: Welcome words

Amid concerns from a few quarters that the new government in Sri Lanka, led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, might work against the interests of India, especially Tamils, the island nation’s President, in a welcome statement, has said Sri Lanka will work with India and it won’t do anything that will harm its interests.

Ahead of his visit to New Delhi later this week, Rajapaksa, who is considered pro-China, said he wanted Sri Lanka to be a ‘neutral country’ and work with all the countries.

”We will work with India as a friendly country and won’t do anything that will harm India’s interests,” said Rajapaksa, who will travel to New Delhi on 29 November on his first official trip abroad as Sri Lankan President.

”We want to be a neutral country,” Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s President last week, said in an interview. ”We don’t want to get in between the power struggles of superpowers… We are so small and we can’t survive to get into this balancing acts,” he said.

Rajapaksa said he wanted to work very closely with both India and China. ”We want to work with all the countries and we don’t want to do anything which will harm any other country for that matter, we understand the importance of Indian concerns, so we cant engage in any activity which will threaten the security of India,” he added.

Noting that the Indian Ocean is an important place and plays an important role in the present day geopolitics, he said Sri Lankan was placed in a very strategic location and all the sea lane are passing close to the country from east to west.

”So, these lanes should be free and no country should control these sea lanes,” he said.

Asserting that Sri Lanka’s involvement with China during the presidency of his elder brother Mahinda (from 2005-2015) was ‘purely commercial’, he said, ”I invite India, Singapore, Japan and Australia to come and invest here. Don’t allow only China to invest.”

He vowed to create an investment friendly environment in Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa also said that giving away the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease was a mistake by the previous government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena.

On allegations of him being ”authoritarian” and ”racist”, the President said, ”It’s a wrong perception created during the civil war with the LTTE.”

Rajapaksa sounds optimistic and let’s hope for better things.

NT Bureau