Indian energy project replaces Chinese company in Sri Lanka’s northern islands


New Delhi had previously objected to Chinese projects there, citing security concerns over their proximity to the south Indian coast

New Delhi had previously objected to Chinese projects there, citing security concerns over their proximity to the south Indian coast

India will set up hybrid energy projects on three islands off Jaffna, effectively replacing the Chinese venture approved by Colombo last year.

The memorandum of understanding for the project was among those signed during a meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs (EAM) S Jaishankar and his Sri Lankan counterpart GL Peiris late Monday. It is the third Indian energy project in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, following recent agreements for National Thermal Power Corporation’s solar project in the eastern town of Sampur and Adani Group’s renewable energy projects in Mannar and Pooneryn in the north.

In January 2021, the Sri Lankan Cabinet decided to award renewable energy projects on the islands of Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu and Analaitivu to the Chinese company Sinosoar-Etechwin following a competitive bid supported by Asia Development Bank. India was quick to express concerns to the Sri Lankan side about the Chinese project that is pending in Palk Bay, barely 50km from Tamil Nadu. New Delhi offered to undertake the same project with a grant instead of a loan. Colombo was unable to choose sides for over a year and kept the project in limbo, seemingly deterring China. In a recent press conference, the Chinese ambassador in Colombo offered rare criticism of the projects being suspended for “unknown reasons”, saying it sent the wrong message to potential foreign investors.

Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka have also agreed to set up a Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC), signaling greater defense cooperation between the neighbors. The initiative, which involves Bharath Electronics and a $6 million Indian grant, received Cabinet approval last week. India will also help develop fishing ports in Point Pedro, Pesalai and Gurunagar in the northern province and Balapitiya south of the capital Colombo, in addition to supporting schools in the southern Galle district with computer labs and smart boards and collaborating on diplomatic training, it said in a statement.

Talks between Gotabaya and TNA

Regarding developments regarding Sri Lanka’s long-pending Tamil issue, India has welcomed recent talks between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the largest grouping of lawmakers elected from the North and East.

Also Read : Sri Lankan Tamil MPs Seek PM Modi’s Intervention for Political Settlement

In a separate statement released hours after Mr Jaishankar’s meeting with a TNA delegation on Monday, the Indian High Commission said Tamil leaders had informed the visiting EAM of their March 25 meeting with Mr Rajapaksa. The meeting turned political Prisoners, land use, missing persons, implementation of the 13th Amendment and diaspora investments discussed,” the statement said.

Mr Jaishankar discussed the same thing when invoking the president, the statement said, without mentioning the details of the discussion. EAM has not commented publicly on the Tamil issue or transfer of power during this visit, while a tweet following his meeting with TNA said that he had “discussed” the realization of Tamil aspirations for equality, justice, peace and dignity. During his last visit in January 2021, he delivered a strong message to the Sri Lankan leadership that it was in “Sri Lanka’s own interest” that the expectations of the Tamil people be met. “The same applies to commitments by the Sri Lankan government to meaningful decentralization, including the 13th amendment,” he told a media conference in Colombo at the time.

The official statement released on Monday said Mr Jaishankar welcomed “the positive developments” on the issues on the government and TNA agenda, adding that he emphasized that the Indian government is committed to realizing the aspirations of the Tamils ​​of India “consistently support”. Sri Lanka for Equality, Justice, Peace and Dignity within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, in addition to its ongoing development partnership in the region.

At last week’s meeting, the first between the TNA and Mr Rajapaksa since his election in 2019, the government made fresh pledges to address long-standing Tamil concerns and promised the release of long-detained suspects to consider, among the widespread Sri Lankan criticized the terrorism law, land grabs by government agencies, enforced disappearances and the development of the north and east. However, the government deferred discussion of the TNA’s core call for a political solution through a new constitutional rule giving more powers to the provinces. Mr Jaishankar encouraged the TNA to follow up on matters that the government has agreed to instead of just waiting for the new constitutional settlement, which could take some time, said sources present at the discussion.

The EAM also met Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda and discussed the fishermen’s conflict and the transfer of power, the Indian High Commission statement said.

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