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India cautious after appointment of pro-China PM Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka

Prime News, National (New Delhi), October 30:- India, caught flatfooted by the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka`s premier, has opened urgent diplomatic and political contacts with the strongman who drew close to China during his previous tenure as president, officials said.

The tear-shaped island, located off the southern tip of India, has become an arena of a tussle between New Delhi and Beijing, which has built ports, power stations and highways as part of its Belt and Road Initiative of trade and transport links across Asia.

Rajapaksa had opened up Sri Lanka`s main port to Chinese naval submarines when he was president, which stoked anger in India. His return to power in a surprise move by current President Maithripala Sirisena has drawn concern in New Delhi that China would tighten its grip on the island that lies along busy shipping lanes.

“It is advantage China at the moment,” said Srikanth Kondappali, a specialist on India-China ties at New Delhi`s Jawaharlal Nehru University who closely tracks the regional rivalry between the Asian giants.

He said Beijing had invested in Rajapaksa and in his political constituency of Hambantota in the south of Sri Lanka where it has built a $1.5 billion deepwater port, an airport and also planned an industrial zone.

China`s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cheng Xueyuan, was among the first diplomats to meet Rajapaksa soon after he was sworn in as prime minister and he presented a congratulatory message from Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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