The Indian credit line of US$ 1bn is less than the value of month’s imports, he pointed out. It will not give Sri Lanka a big breathing space: “Probably the authorities think, ‘Let the people have a good Sinhala and Tamil New Year. They cannot think beyond that” said Anura Ekanayake, independent economist to the Sunday times.
Dr Ekanayake pointed to a lack of information, even regarding the bilateral loan. “We don’t know what is what,” he said. “It’s only speculation then. But the fact is no one ever gives anything for nothing. That has to be accepted. So we have to start asking what the terms are on which these loans have been given.” He referred to both direct and indirect conditions.
India is trying to increase its goalpost in Sri Lanka using loan negotiations, the retired military commander earlier quoted held. Sri Lanka is of strategic interest because China has already made heavy inroads into the country.
“So when they saw the mess we were in, and because China has temporarily suspended financial assistance, with us asking money for basics like fuel and medicine, they moved forward,” he said. Trincomalee Harbour is crucial. It is more of strategic advantage and commercial, and useful for having a foothold in that area.
India first demanded the Trincomalee oil tanks and Sri Lanka signed the agreement. “As we plummeted further into crisis, they asked for Sampur,” the retired commander now maritime defence analyst observed. “India always has an interest in Sampur because they don’t want any other foreign power there. And if we cannot give a coal power plant there, they asked for a solar power one. A renewable energy plant needs a huge amount of property, much more than coal power plant.”
“Anybody who controls Sampur controls the approach to Trincomalee Harbour,” he continued. “Additionally, every piece of land they’re asking for touches the sea. Nobody talks about how far the sea comes into these deals. And if they want to protect their assets, they have to bring in their security, their military and breach our integrity and sovereignty.”
“Every time India comes up with an agreement, we are tied up in it for the next 30 to 40 years,” he warned. “If you call India and China enemies, the far enemy is not too dangerous. The near enemy is extremely dangerous. Nobody is our friend right now.”
“When you see S Jaishankar’s interviews on Sri Lanka, you can understand where the Indians are taking us strategically,” he said. They are not giving us anything for free. “They have a trump card as far as financing goes. China has closed its doors. So India is lining up credit lines. We have no other place to go to than India.”
“You get trapped in that line of credit,” the Admiral asserted.” You finish one line then take another. India knows that we are bad at making calculations and using lines of credit to our advantage.”