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Chinese Ambassador visits North-East amidst heavy Sri Lankan security

China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka embarked on a two-day visit to Jaffna and Mannar on a “familiarisation tour” today, amidst heavy Sri Lankan security and brewing tensions with India.

Sri Lankan security forces from the army and police stepped up their presence across the region, as the ambassador travelled to the Tamil homeland.

Ambassador Qi Zhenhong travelled through Vavuniya to Point Pedro, the island’s northernmost point, just miles away from the Indian shoreline. He will also visit Mannar island.

His visit comes days after the Sri Lankan government stated that a Chinese project to develop three hybrid power plants in Delft Island, Analativu and Nainativu, worth an estimated USD$12 million, has been cancelled and reportedly given to India instead.

“We originally intended to carry out this project under a loan from an international financial institution, and a Chinese firm was selected through the standard bidding process,” said Sri Lankan State Minister Duminda Dissanayake last week. “But the Indian Government has offered a 75% grant for this purpose, and, therefore, we have cancelled the contract for the time being.”

However, the Beijing-based Global Times cited “security concerns from a third party” as the alleged reason behind the contract cancellation.

“It is ridiculous that India uses security reasons to meddle in the project,” a source close to the company told the Global Times. “The Sri Lankan project is small, supplying electricity to villages on three small islands. Since the islands and the main territory of Sri Lanka are separated by the sea, it is very likely that the power grid will not be connected to other places in Sri Lanka.”

China has now instead moved the project over to the Maldives.

In Mannar, India's Adani group reportedly submitted a proposal to the Board of Investments of Sri Lanka (BOI) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to develop a USD $1 billion renewable wind power project.

Zhenhong’s visit will carry on tomorrow.

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