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Sri Lanka, China discuss ways to step up military cooperation

COLOMBO (PTI): President Maithripala Sirisena has thanked China for its support for Sri Lanka's independence and national security in a meeting with Chinese Defence Minister as they discussed ways to bolster bilateral defence ties.

General Chang Wanquan, who is in Sri Lanka on his first official visit, met Sirisena at his residence on Monday and discussed ways to expand bilateral defence ties.

Sirisena recalled the long term relationship between both the countries and thanked for the support given by China for the independence and national security of Sri Lanka.

He also extended thanks to the Chinese government for the training opportunities which are being provided to Sri Lankan security forces for a long time. He thanked China for its assistance during the crucial period of war in Sri Lanka, apparently referring to the country's nearly three-decade long civil war with the LTTE which was ended in 2009.

Sirisena said the two countries will come into several agreements which will not be doing any harm to the pride, independence and national security of Sri Lanka, the president's office said in a statement.

At the invitation of Sri Lankan Defence Ministry, Chang arrived in Colombo on Sunday night with a 21-member delegation. After wrapping up his visit to Sri Lanka, Chang is visiting Nepal.

The Chinese Defence Ministry has said that the purpose of his visit is to strengthen military ties with Colombo.

The top Chinese official's visit, according to analysts, holds importance in view of Sri Lanka's proposal to tie up with China in the southern port of Hambantota, in addition to the ongoing work in the Colombo port city project, which is a major Chinese investment project.

China had developed a close relation with Sri Lanka during the regime of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa whose nearly a decade-long tenure was ended by Sirisena in 2015.

In 2014, India raised protests with Sri Lanka when it allowed a Chinese submarine and a warship to dock at the port of Colombo.

Rajapaksa's joint opposition had led vocal protests in January this year against the Sirisena government's business ties China, more particularly in the leasing of lands to Beijing to set up an industrial park at the southern port of Hambantota.


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