Sri Lanka has shifted its foreign policy "back to centre" in the interest of its people, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said today as he dismissed the notion that the new government is moving away from China to warm up ties with India.
On his first visit to Beijing after the new Sri Lankan government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena took over replacing pro-China Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Samaraweera today held extensive talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
"First of all I would like to tell you that if there has been a shift at all under the present administration it is a shift back to the centre because foreign policy of our government is one embracing and engaging the whole world for the benefit of people of Sri Lanka," he said, addressing a joint press conference with Wang after the talks.
Replying to a question about the new Sri Lankan government moving away from close ties with China and getting closer to India, he said, "We will continue to follow a policy of non-alignment and our foreign policy will be based on the needs of our people, their economic determent and not on ideological interests."
The Foreign Minister emphasised that Sri Lanka will work with the whole world "but will have special place for China" which he said is an "all-weather friend of Colombo for ages."
"You asked about India. India happens to be our neighbour and a relative. China has been great friend for thousands of years," said Samaraweera.
On China-funded USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project, he said, "Regarding what is called Colombo port city, we did not discuss that issue in particular but we discussed about Chinese investments in Sri Lanka."
The Lankan Minister said some projects, not only Chinese, are being reviewed in the light of certain allegation which were made by the people during the last elections.
"There are certain allegations of corruption, again not directly involving Chinese projects alone but others as well. Like the government of China, the Lankan government is committed to wage a war on corruption," he said, referring to the anti-graft campaign currently underway in China.
"We have decided to review some of those projects. Review the tender procedures and environmental procedures. The government has appointed cabinet sub-committee to review the projects and give a report on each of these projects as soon as possible," he said.
"I told the Foreign Minister, once those reports are out and anything relating to Chinese investments will be shared and discussed with the government of China before we take any final decision," he said.
Samaraweera is visiting China on a two-day trip, taking place in the backdrop of the new Sri Lankan government's decision to review the Colombo Port Project, especially its environmental impact as it will be built on reclaimed land.