Namal Rajapaksa had said that the government wanted India to build the Hambantota airport and the seaport nearby to China in order to "balance India" Photograph: (Others)
China's right-leaning newspaper today raked up the Hambantota airport issue in Sri Lanka, also known as "emptiest airport in the world", asserting that it "will not be easy for India to bring the airport to life" and then use it to "create jobs".
The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Mattala near Hambantota opened in 2013 has become a bone of contention in Sri Lankan domestic politics.
Recently, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's son Namal Rajapaksa demonstrated outside the Indian Consulate in Sri Lanka. In an exclusive interview to WION, Namal Rajapaksa had said that the government wanted India to build the Hambantota airport and the seaport nearby to China in order to "balance India" and keep regional "geopolitical" interests at bay.
China has been openly lobbying support for its OBOR project, it has already bagged rights to build 'Colombo Port City' in the heart of the Sri Lankan capital in a deal worth $1.4 billion.
The Colombo Port City is the largest project between China and Sri Lanka under the China- proposed Belt and Road Initiative. China has invested millions of dollars in Sri Lanka's infrastructure.
"A quick deal to buy an existing airport, instead of focusing on greenfield manufacturing investment that can generate sustained income, is a shortcut to increasing New Delhi's presence in Sri Lanka to counter China's influence," the Global Times said.
"In addition to the Hambantota Port, China is setting up an industrial zone in Hambantota, which will likely transform the area into an important trading and logistics hub and attract massive investment," the newspaper said.
"Both China and India have been stepping up infrastructure investment in Sri Lanka. Now it's time to consider how to expand the investment scope to energize the local economy in Sri Lanka," it said.
"India and China must work together to tap the potential of manufacturing cooperation and establish sustainable relations with the island country," the newspaper concluded.