India moves to counter growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka

New Delhi : India is boosting exports of engineering goods and services along with investing in major infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka as part of a larger exercise to strengthen its strategic presence in the southern neighbor and counter growing Chinese influence .

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Infrastructure consultancy and engineering firm RITES Limited, the rolling stock export arm of the Indian Railways, is increasing its presence in major infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. It has already supplied rolling stock and done some consultancy work.

RITES Chairman and Managing Director Rahul Mithal said a ministerial delegation from Sri Lanka visited India last month, following which a RITES delegation visited the island-nation last week.

“We discussed various infrastructure sectors including highways, ports, airports, rail infra and upgradation. And with the positive signals from there, we are hopeful that some of these projects can be achieved.”

He added that Sri Lanka is keen on Indian investment and participation in major infrastructure projects and RITES is well placed to utilize the opportunities emerging from the country. “We, through RITES Videsh (a company entity), are looking to expand our presence in Sri Lanka through a mix of rolling stock exports and consultancy work.

“There is no payment problem from Sri Lanka as they are just settled to 100 crores 118 crore dues payment which got delayed as the country was passing through a severe economic crisis followed by political turmoil. Things have become much better now and its business is back to normal,” Mithal said.

RITES bags four major orders from Sri Lanka since 2017 1,400 crores. But, most of the orders were for the Railways. It is now expanding into other areas such as consultancy on highways, airports and seaports.

After a Chinese spy ship berthed at the Hambantota port despite its objections, India sharpened its development focus on Sri Lanka. Rights are expected to emerge as the initial medium for this and its projects could open doors for a bigger presence.

The Ministry of Shipping has already started talks with Sri Lanka to secure terminal rights for Indian companies in existing and upcoming ports. The power ministry is looking after transmission and generation projects, while the Center has extended the line of credit to other infrastructure projects.

Mittal said RITES Videsh operates projects in a dozen countries and is looking to enter regions such as Latin America, Central Asia and Africa.

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