Incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe will be sworn-in as Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister tomorrow, returning to the office for a fourth term after his party won the closely contested general election. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) coalition won 106 seats in Monday’s parliamentary election, just 7 short of a simple majority in the 225-member assembly but enough to form a government. To reach its majority, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will extend outside ‘issue based’ support as per media reports.
Sri Lanka being geographically located at a strategic point in the Indian Ocean, it has been drawing undue attention from regional economic power China to contemplate setting up a naval base there. As per the news article dt Nov 19, 2014, published in the newspaper Lanka Herald, Chinese media has stated that China is planning to establish 18 naval bases in strategic locations of the Indian Ocean, that included the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka. (read more: ‘China to set up naval base in Sri Lanka?’)
China’s Navy boasts of a personnel strength of 255,000 servicemen and women, including 10,000 marines and 26,000 naval air force personnel. It is the second largest navy in the world in terms of tonnage, behind only the United States Navy, and has the largest number of major combatants of any navy.
As former president, Mr. Rajapaksa aggressively courted China, building economic and military ties that alarmed India and the United States. Neither country wants China to gain a larger presence on an island so strategically located along the maritime trade routes between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
Current President Mr. Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe have put the courtship on pause, saying the relationship with China needs to be deeply studied or revisited.
(Source: Lanka Herald & New York Times)