President Ranil says Sri Lanka does not allow ‘spy ships’ to dock

President Ranil says Sri Lanka does not allow ‘spy ships’ to dock

November 23, 2023   04:04 pm



President Ranil Wickremesinghe says there was no evidence indicating that the Chinese research vessels that had docked in Sri Lanka were ‘spy ships’.

“We asked for evidence, and there was none. These were civilian ships.”

In an exclusive interview with the Indian news agency Firstpost, the Sri Lankan leader said the island nation would not allow ‘spy ships’ to make port calls here.

Responding to a question on the arrival of two Chinese research vessels in Sri Lanka amidst the concerns raised by India and the United States, Wickremesinghe emphasized that Sri Lanka always welcomes both research and military vessels, not only from China but also from other countries as well.

He pointed out that only the arrivals of Chinese vessels make headlines, despite Sri Lanka often allowing the entry of vessels from other countries as well.

When asked if he thinks Sri Lanka is caught in the ‘great power battle’ between China and India, Wickremesinghe assured that the island nation would not do anything that would compromise the national security of its neighbour.

Commenting on the progress of the debt restructuring process, the President said China, despite being the biggest bilateral creditor, opted to negotiate with Sri Lanka separately because it was not satisfied with the terms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. “They feel that they should have a bigger role to play in the IMF. So they decided to opt out of it. It is making life more difficult for all of us who are in debt.”

He mentioned that it was not easy to negotiate the terms of Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring in international geopolitics.

In response to a question about India’s efforts to bring all creditors of Sri Lanka to one platform and China’s refusal to join it, Wickremesinghe said “dealing with two groups [for debt restructuring] was not easy”, adding that the outcome would nonetheless be the same.

On October 11, the Sri Lankan government said it had reached an agreement on the key principles and indicative terms of a debt treatment with the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China, noting that the agreement in principle covers approximately USD 4.2 billion of outstanding debt.

Wickremesinghe told Firstpost that the terms of the Colombo-Beijing debt deal have been shared with other creditors.

When asked about the country’s economic recovery, the President said Sri Lanka got through although the past year has been challenging. “We are not out of the woods yet but will come out.” He said Sri Lanka still has to balance the budget and trade and increase its revenues. He expressed hopes that things would get better in 2024-2025.

Wickremesinghe is confident that there would not be any problems in unlocking the remainder of the IMF’s bailout package as Sri Lanka has fulfilled the global lender’s benchmarks.

Responding to a question on the upcoming presidential election, which he earlier said would definitely be held in 2024, Wickremesinghe said his priority is to get the economy in shape. “Thereafter, I can decide what I want to do.”


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