Colombo/Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and stressed the importance of starting a new chapter in the China-Sri Lanka Strategic Cooperative Partnership.
In a congratulatory message, Xi said: “China and Sri Lanka have been maintaining traditional and friendly relations, which have stood the test of a changing global arena and become more vivid and vital. I highly appreciate your continuous support and contribution to China-Sri Lanka friendship and cooperation.”
“I attach great importance to the development of our bilateral relations and wish to work together with you to enhance our mutual political trust, docking our development visions and deepening our practical cooperation within the framework of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, to start a new chapter of the China-Sri Lanka Strategic Cooperative Partnership and to bring more tangible benefits to our two peoples”.
The Rajapaksa family is seen as leaning towards China, though Gotabaya has stated that he will follow a neutral foreign policy.
“As a policy, we will maintain an equi-distant and yet, cordial relations with all countries and remain neutral in the power struggles amongst nations. I also appeal to all global leaders to respect the sovereignty and unitary status of Sri Lanka,” he said on Tuesday.
Under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidentship, Sri Lanka had secured almost $7 billion in loans from China, dislodging Japan as Sri Lanka’s main funder of infrastructure.
Mahinda is likely to become Prime Minister in the new dispensation.