China says its focus is still on South Asia, Praises India for helping Sri Lankatext_fields
After Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said China has shifted its strategic focus from South Asia to Southeast Asia and Africa, Beijing assured that its focus is still the same region. The country also praised India for helping Colombo during the economic crisis.
China had made big investments in Sri Lanka before the crisis took a noticeable shape but has been hesitant to help once the situation got worse.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the media that Beijing has noted the Indian government has made great efforts in helping Sri Lanka. "We recognise that''. He added that China is also willing to work with India and other members of the international community to help Sri Lanka.
India has sent the island nation about $3 billion in assistance in the form of line credit and other modes. China has also promised about $73 million for essential goods. However, Beijing hasn't yet responded to President Rajapaksa's request to defer the loan repayment and consider a $2.5 billion loan facility.
Sri Lanka has virtually declared insolvency and defaulted on all foreign loans including that of China totalling $51 billion. Colombo has earlier received about $8-10 billion in investments and loans from China. It is one of the biggest recipients of China's biggest investments and loans in South Asia.
Zhao responded to the Sri Lankan President's speculations and said China is closely following the situation in Sri Lanka as a traditional and friendly neighbour. "We feel deeply for the current difficulties and challenges faced by the country. China has been doing our utmost to provide assistance for the socio-economic development of Sri Lanka."
He added that China's diplomatic priority lies in neighbouring countries, including South Asian countries. China attaches high importance to developing good relations with these countries. "China will continue to work with all relevant parties to build BRI and uphold the good momentum and see greater benefits to people in this region".
The Chinese minister blamed the Russian-Ukraine war, Covid-19, and unilateral sanctions imposed by the West for fiscal difficulties faced by South Asian nations and Beijing.