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People's Daily Online

Sri Lanka, China to strengthen cooperation on Maritime Silk Road: think tank chief

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 18:31, June 09, 2014

Sri Lanka and China can strengthen cooperation on trade, combating terrorism and confidence building in terms of the Maritime Silk Road initiative, Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, executive director of Sri Lanka state- owned think tank Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations said here on Monday.

Addressing a seminar on South Asia development in Hong Kong, Asanga said Sri Lanka, having elevated its relationship with China to a 'strategic partnership' during the visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2013, readily announced its support to the proposed Maritime Silk Road.

He said the two countries can develop cooperation on three areas. On the trade side, Sri Lanka aspires to develop itself as a global logistic hub, while the ongoing port development projects funded by the Chinese government will help build the country into a maritime hub, he added.

On the other hand, Asanga said Sri Lanka can share its expertise in combating terrorism with China, and carry out maritime security cooperation with the Chinese navies to maintain peace and stability of the Indian Ocean.

Another area lies in confidence building and enhancing cooperation among the South Asian neighbors, he said.

'Some political analysts view Maritime Silk Road as an attempt to counter to 'string of pearls' strategy China was accused of pursuing and an effort to counter regional anxieties about its fast-expanding naval presence,' Asanga said. 'These speculations are the results of lack of trust and confidence among the countries in China's neighborhood.'

He said if China wants to realize its dream of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, it is vital to develop friendly relations with countries in the Indian Ocean Region.

'Whatever criticisms are made of the Maritime Silk Road, according to my view, this is a platform to share the development China has achieved over the past few decades.'

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a cooperation initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Indonesia last October.

The Maritime Silk Road dates back to as early as 2,000 years ago, when ancient merchants sailed from China's eastern coast, passing Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Africa, all the way to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, strengthening economic ties and cultural communications.

Asanga also said China and Sri Lanka had established trade relations during the period of ancient Silk Road, and the two sides have continued to be steadfast friends since the island gained independence from the colonial rule.

'Today, China is Sri Lanka's largest donor providing financial and technical support for development of infrastructure, trade and commerce,' he said, 'Our president calls China Sri Lanka's 'true and tested friend'.'

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