The Chinese have a grand design to counter the US Navy in the Indian Ocean as well as encircle India. To further this, they are in the process of setting up a string of bases in the Indian Ocean. One of their bases will be at the Hambantota, located at the southern tip of the Sri Lanka island. In 2005 the then President Rajapaksa had invited the Chinese to set up the port and the airport. The Lankans were to pay back the Chinese investment from the proceeds of use of the port and airport. Both entities were dead investments, and Lanka has been unable to pay back the Chinese loans.

china now arm twisted the Lankans and agreed to not only write off the loans but also invest 1.1 billion dollars in an economic zone, provided Lanka handed the port to the Chinese for a lease of 99 years.

Protests

The Lanka government has now signed on the dotted line and for all practical purposes handed over the base and adjoining land to China on 99 years lease. This has sparked protests from the local Buddhist monks who feel that this will lead to a Chinese enclave being established. In addition, the local farmers will lose much of their land for the proposed industrial zone.

Dragon flexes muscles

The dragon will also look after the security of the naval base, and Chinese submarines and warships will be able to use the facilities in the port.

This will give it an opening right into the Indian Ocean. Chinese have a similar base in Pakistan and Bangladesh. These bases give unparalleled reach to the Chinese navy to disrupt the line of communications in this region as well as threaten US Navy facilities at Diego Garcia. India will also be under threat from its southern flank.

Last word

The Lanka government has already suffered a loss of Rs 18 billion and the country has no choice but to cave into the Chinese demand. It has also agreed to make available 15000 acres of land for an enclave and Industrial zone. The previous government was resisting the deal, but the new president has no choice but to agree to the terms.

In the meantime, its navy is on the way to asserting itself as a maritime power with global reach.

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