Wickremesinghe highlighted the importance of probing the development in India to find the connectivity that is going to take place between India and Sri Lanka…writes Susitha Fernando
Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickermesinghe has said that in the backdrop of India becoming the world’s most populated country while having industrialisation which is on fast track, Sri Lanka can reap the benefits, and plan to become an air and sea hub in the region.
Addressing the 30 year development plan of the Colombo North Port workshop here, Wickremesinghe highlighted the importance of probing the development in India to find the connectivity that is going to take place between India and Sri Lanka and pointed out the opportunities that India’s southern neighbour would receive.
“By 2050, India will be the most populous country in the world. From 1.4 billion, it will be up to 1.7 billion people. The industrialisation of India is happening fast, especially in some areas. You find Gujarat, Maharashtra and other one in southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu,” Wickremesinghe said on Friday.
“But this is the beginning. From there it should spread to other areas. So, industrialisation manufacturing is now taking place in India. It still has not reached the level that China reached somewhere in 2010. It still has to go there. So, if at all at some stage, it will be that the progress will be not arithmetic but geometrical progression,” Wickremesinghe stated.
“So, we will have the development in India. Then what is the connectivity that’s going to take place between India and Sri Lanka. Our closest point is in the north. Are we going to have a role in the role of ferries? Are we going to have more permanent structures? These are issues that we have to resolve and that will also determine the viability of our ports, especially of the port of Colombo. So in looking at the port there’s only two issues which came to my mind.
“Firstly, it is the environment, especially the impact on fishing that we have to take seriously. Because before you start building you have to get the support of the people in the area,” the Sri Lanka President said.
Wickremesinghe said that in its journey to make Sri Lanka a hub and a developed country within the next 25 years, the island nation has to look at the development in India and the region including Bangladesh, Iran and the entire Makran coast.
“With the Trincomalee Port, we are discussing with India on the development of the Trincomalee Port on the basis that in the next 25 years there will be vast development in the Bay of Bengal, both on the Indian side, the Bangladeshi side, Malaysia and even Myanmar.
“So we have to look at the Trincomalee Port and also its capacity to be a point for cruise tourism in the Bay of Bengal.”
He said the island nation with over 22 million has to think of the future, what we will do in the next 25 years, how we are going ahead to make this a developed country. We have to look at the developments in India, in Bangladesh, in Iran, and total, in assessing the role that Sri Lanka has to play as a hub, that is important.
“We have to remember one thing only that what is going to take place in India, what’s the development in Pakistan and what’s the development going to be in Iran. Those three will decide the capacity, the number of TUs that we can have, the number of containers, the units we have would depend on that. As it is now, people have a very bright forecast for India, and that’s possible if it can be achieved,” Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Referring to a report on the feasibility of the north port, Wickremeisnghe also said though Pakistan is going through a financial crisis now like Sri Lanka, the country has a great capacity for development considering its population.
“If Iran goes ahead with the Chabahar Port which will join up to Central Asia and Russia, then Makran coast itself is something to look at. So these are all areas we have to think of development,” President Wickremesinghe who took over Sri Lanka while it was going through the worst ever post-independent economic crisis said.
He also stressed that to become the hub of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka should adjust with the logistic and transport changes taking place with East to West railways in Africa undertaken by China.
“Remember that the Chinese are undertaking east to west Railways in Africa together with the African nations. One which will go from Kenya all the way to West African coast and another which will most probably go through Congo. So the whole logistics and transport in the region will change and we have to take that into account and make whatever adjustments we do now to ensure that Sri Lanka becomes the hub of the Indian Ocean. We can do it, we should do it, and we did that over a thousand years ago. I am sure we make up our mind, go ahead,” Wickremesinghe reiterated.