India raises concerns with Sri Lanka over delay to implement projects

The national unity Government led by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe — from the rival parties SLFP and UNP —is under pressure. It faces large-scale corruption allegations in addition to a challenge from the SLFP faction led by former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has vowed to topple the government. India has raised concerns with Sri Lanka over the delay to implement India backed projects in the island, The Hindu newspaper reported today.Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who met President Maithripala Sirisena and discussed bilateral matters, had also noted the perceived delay in implementing India backed projects in the island, a top source in Colombo told The Hindu. In addition to jointly developing a World War-era oil tank in the strategically located eastern port town of Trincomalee, India has more recently expressed interest to operate Sri Lanka’s second international airport in Mattala. The southern town is 40 km away from Hambantota, where China has majority stake in a port. However, New Delhi has been concerned over Colombo’s apparently slow-paced efforts in taking the projects forward.Ms. Swaraj was in Colombo to participate in the Indian Ocean Conference, 2017, which was organised by the India Foundation. (Colombo Gazette) The Government’s agreements with foreign actors including China and India have come under sharp criticism from sections in the country’s Sinhala-majority south.The specifics of a host of India-supported development projects in Sri Lanka have been under negotiation since April 2017, when the neighbours signed an overarching MoU. While Ms. Swaraj assured President Sirisena that New Delhi appreciated the domestic political challenges facing his government, she urged Colombo to expedite decision-making on Indian projects, the top source said, requesting anonymity.