- Beijing denies the deal is being renegotiated after reports that Colombo is revisiting the agreement
- Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the previous government had agreed to a 99-year lease with the option of another 99 years
The port deal – signed in 2017 by the previous Sri Lankan government to cover its debts to China – has been the subject of intense international scrutiny amid accusations Beijing is using “debt trap diplomacy” for geopolitical clout.
Hambantota’s location at the southern tip of Sri Lanka, overlooking South Asia’s vital sea lanes, makes it a potential key maritime hub in the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, younger brother of two-time former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, said he wanted to renegotiate the deal with China soon after he took office in late 2019, but later denied he had such a plan.
However, on February 6 the chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority told Ceylon Today that the president was revisiting the port deal. General Daya Ratnayake also said Sri Lanka had not gained much from the agreement and that it had relocated its naval base from the area controlled by China “after many discussions with the Chinese officials”.
“We are revisiting the proposal even now,” Ratnayake was quoted as saying. “It was unfortunate and such a deal on Hambantota port shouldn’t have been done. But the review process is going on.”