Pakistan offers $50 mn defence credit line to Sri Lanka

China’s ‘iron-brother’ Pakistan offers $50 mn credit line to Sri Lanka to step up defence capabilities

Imran Khan announced Pakistan’s offer of defence Line of Credit for Sri Lanka after meeting Gotabaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo

Representative image. Credit: iStockPhoto

Pakistan on Wednesday announced a $50 million Line of Credit (LoC) for Sri Lanka to help it step up its defence capabilities – just days after India offered similar concessional loan facilities for two other Indian Ocean nations, Mauritius and Maldives.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the new defence Line of Credit of $50 million for Sri Lanka, as he concluded his two-day visit to the island nation. A joint statement issued after Khan’s meetings with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa noted that both sides had agreed to expand cooperation in the security sector.

Pakistan’s move to step up defence cooperation with Sri Lanka comes at a time when India is trying to counter China’s bid to spread its geopolitical tentacles in its maritime neighbourhood.

New Delhi has been closely monitoring Islamabad’s bid to reach out to Colombo, as Khan apparently embarked on the visit at the behest of Pakistan’s “iron-brother” China.

The 10-month-long military stand-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh prompted India to renew its focus on projecting itself as a “net security provider” for the Indian Ocean region. With External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Malé and Port Louis from Saturday to Wednesday, India announced new credit lines of $50 million and $100 million for Maldives and Mauritius respectively to help them boost defence capabilities.

New Delhi also signed an agreement with the Maldivian Government to “develop, support and maintain” a harbour at Uthuru Thila Falhu naval base in the island nation. India is also pursuing similar projects in Agalega Island of Mauritius and in Assumption Island in Seychelles, notwithstanding the Chinese Government’s bid to scuttle them.

Khan on Wednesday also called upon Sri Lanka to take advantage of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for trade connectivity to Central Asia.

Beijing has pledged over $70 billion to invest in the CPEC, which is proposed to link China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the port city of Gwadar in southern Pakistan. It is one of the flagship projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the cross-continental connectivity project launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping a few years back.

New Delhi has been opposing the CPEC, because it passes through Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) areas, which India claims to be a part of its own territory and accuses Pakistan of illegal occupying.

India itself was preparing to offer Sri Lanka a $50 million defence Line of Credit last year. But the talks between the two nations over the proposed soft concessional loan came under a shadow after the Sri Lankan Government of late scrapped a tripartite deal it had inked with New Delhi and Tokyo in 2019 to let India and Japan develop and run the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port. New Delhi suspects that Beijing nudged the government led by Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa to scrap the deal.

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