BEIJING (Diya TV) — Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has commenced a six-day official visit to Beijing, marking a crucial diplomatic engagement between the two nations. This visit is particularly notable as it represents the first high-level interaction between Sri Lanka and China since Colombo’s decision to restrict Chinese research vessels’ visits to the Hambantota port, reportedly influenced by India’s security concerns.

During his stay, Prime Minister Gunawardena is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, aiming to strengthen bilateral relations and explore avenues for enhanced cooperation. Gunawardena’s visit comes amidst a backdrop of global scrutiny over China’s extensive infrastructure investments in Sri Lanka, notably the controversial 99-year lease of the Hambantota port in a debt-for-equity swap.

Sri Lanka’s recent decision to allow foreign research vessels to dock at its ports for replenishments, despite a temporary ban, underscores the complexities of its geopolitical positioning and the delicate balance it seeks to maintain between regional powers. This move follows a series of financial challenges faced by Sri Lanka, including a default on over USD 51 billion in foreign loans in 2022, which prompted significant assistance from India.

India, one of Sri Lanka’s key creditors, has extended approximately $4 billion in aid to support the island nation’s economic recovery efforts. However, official data from Sri Lanka reveals that China remains its largest creditor, with a substantial 43% share, followed by Japan and India.

Meanwhile, the visit coincides with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reaching a staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka, allowing access to $337 million from a bailout package approved in 2023. This agreement reflects ongoing efforts to stabilize Sri Lanka’s economy and address its financial challenges.