Sri Lanka opens new railway line built with China’s assistance

  1. Sri Lanka has opened a new railway line which was built with China’s assistance.It connects its coastal city of Matara and Beliatta in Hambantota.
  2. The 26.75-km long Matara-Beliatta railway line is the first to be constructed in Sri Lanka since it became independent in 1948.The new rail segment will be a boost to Sri Lanka’s regional transportation
  3. China has said that it has built the rail line under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.However,Sri Lanka has pointed out that construction of the rail track was launched in 1991,long before the BRI was launched by China in 2013.
  4. Sri Lanka was the major recipient of Chinese loans and investments in recent years totalling to over USD 8 billion.The heavy borrowing by Sri Lanka has raised concerns over its ability to pay back after Colombo handed over the Hambantota port to Beijing for a 99-year lease in 2017 as a debt swap.
  5. The acquisition of the port by China as a debt swap had drew criticism from the US and India which termed the BRI projects as a debt trap for smaller countries.
  6. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious programme to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks along six corridors with the aim of improving (a)regional integration, (b)increasing trade and (c)stimulating economic growth.