In a worrying development for India, the Sri Lanka government has given its approval to China to hold majority stake in Hambantota port. The revised agreement was approved today by the Sri Lanka cabinet. It may be recalled that the original agreement had attracted widespread protests in Sri Lanka. The Hambantota port is in close proximity to the world’s busiest shipping lanes, which is why China has been eying it for a long time. The agreement has been signed with the state-run China Merchants Port Holdings, which will now hold 80 percent stake in the port.
China’s long-term game plan is to encircle India by partnering with its neighbors and with this latest deal, it has struck another strategic win. The only good thing about the deal from India’s perspective is that the new agreement restricts China from using the port for military purposes. As per the new agreement, the port will only be used for commercial operations.
However, the port being used solely for commercial purposes should not be lead to complacency since China is known for its aggressive behavior and in the future, it may persuade Sri Lanka to open the port for military use also. If that happens, Chinese naval vessels and submarines will get easy access to the Indian Ocean, which will pose a major threat to India’s security. Already, China has plans to acquire 15,000 acres (23 sq. miles) near the port for the development of an industrial zone.