China says India made ‘great efforts’ to help Sri Lanka; South Asia remains its priority

China on Wednesday praised India for making “great efforts” to help Colombo to tide over its worst financial crisis even as it refuted Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remarks that Beijing has shifted its strategic focus from South Asia including Pakistan to South East Asia, saying the region still remained its priority.

Sri Lanka has been grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has created political unrest with protesters demanding President Rajapaksa’s resignation. “We have also noted the Indian government has made great efforts in this aspect. We recognise that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here while replying to questions about whether China, which has made big investments in Sri Lanka, is hesitating to help it when the island nation is facing the worst economic crisis. “We also are willing to work with India and other members of the international community to help Sri Lanka and other countries with difficulties to help these developing countries to get through this situation,” he said. India has rushed about USD 3 billion in assistance in the form of line credit and other modes to help Sri Lanka which has virtually declared insolvency and defaulted on all foreign loans including that of China totalling to USD 51 billion.

China has announced assistance of 500 million RMB (about USD 73 million) for the supply of essential goods but remained silent about President Rajapaksa’s request to defer the loan repayment and as well as its earlier announcement to consider a USD 2.5 billion loan facility for Colombo.