China today proposed trilateral cooperation involving India and Sri Lanka for regional stability as the new government in Colombo sought to re-balance its ties with China, preferring to follow a "non-aligned" policy.
"China is open-minded about trilateral cooperation between China, India (and) Sri Lanka," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a joint press conference with Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera.
"I want to say both India and Sri Lanka are China's cooperative partners in South Asia," Wang said.
Samaraweera is the first Sri Lankan official to visit Beijing since president Mahinda Rajapaksa's defeat in polls this January. China made significant investments in Sri Lanka during Rajapaksa's tenure, raising concerns in India.
Samaraweera's visit to China will be followed by new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's next month.
The two ministers had a lengthy talk focussed on the new political alignment in Sri Lanka following the fall of the Rajapaksa government.
Samwarweera, however, did not comment on the trilateral proposal by China.
Wang said China wants progress in relations between all three countries, including ties between New Delhi and Colombo.
"The relevant parties may continue to explore discussions about such cooperation in future to think about what are practical ways and means in pursing such cooperation," Wang said.
"We believe that China and India may leverage their respective strength in playing a positive role in helping Sri Lanka advance its social development," he said.
"I believe sounder interaction and pursuit of common interests among the three countries is in the best interest of the three countries and also in best interest of regional peace, stability and prosperity," Wang replied to a question.
He also said China and India stay in contact over a large number of regional and global issues.
"We would certainly like to have consultations with the Indian side regarding pursing trilateral cooperation in future or cooperation involving more parties," Wang said.
Describing India as a neighbour and a relative, and China a close friend, Samaraweera said his government prefers to follow a "non-aligned policy with good relations with all the countries in the interest of the Sri Lankan people.