A general view of a new state-run handicraft store in the capital Colombo. (Getty Images)

A Sri Lankan Minister on Monday (16) favoured more Indian involvement in the island nation’s economic sector, saying his country wants to be a stakeholder of India’s development.

Mano Ganesan, Sri Lankan minister of national integration, official languages, social progress and Hindu religious affairs, said India was already aiding economic activity there by way of transhipment through the Colombo port where nearly 5,000 workers were employed.

“Generally India is booming. It is a faster-developing country. Being a neighbouring country, it is our expectation that we become a stakeholder in India’s development,” he told reporters here.

Asked about India’s role in the economic sector of Sri Lanka, Ganesan said: “it should go up.”

Indo-Lanka politico-economic collaboration should increase as “now Sri Lanka to India is more important than Sri Lanka to China,” Ganesan said, even while describing reports of Chinese “take over” of the island nation as “exaggerated.”

“The Chinese have not taken over the island, it is very much an exaggeration,” he said.
“The Chinese would have taken over if (former president) Mahinda Rajapaksa had remained (in power post-2015 polls),” Ganesan alleged.

The Hambantota Port “had almost been sold” to the Chinese, he said in an apparent reference to the previous government.

“But we have redone the agreement,” he said about the strategically located port leased to China for a 99 year period.

On the coming presidential elections in Sri Lanka, Ganesan sounded confident about defeating opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate and Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya, though the ruling coalition was yet to name its nominee.

The ruling coalition headed by Maithiripala Sirisena which stormed to power in 2015 had brought growth and all all-round happiness in the country, especially ushering in “unprecedented” progress in minority areas, particularly the Tamil-speaking ones, he said.

The presence of the Sri Lankan army in such areas post the end of hostilities with the LTTE has reduced, he said.

The motive of the ruling coalition was to “stop an anti-minority government,” he said about the SLPP, adding the media, judiciary and police enjoyed freedom now.

To a question, he said tourism, the country’s key revenue grosser, has been looking up of late, months after the Easter Sunday bombings in April that left over 250 killed in that country.

 PTI