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The old port is cramped and stuffed full of containers. A Chinese ship has just delivered three giant Chinese cranes to a new container terminal built by a Chinese company and run by an entity controlled by another Chinese firm.
This development has split opinion in Sri Lanka and in nearby India, which uses Colombo as a transshipment hub. Tales of Chinese domination are "just scaremongering" says one captain. The port will push Colombo into the big league, says the boss of a repair yard. A few are nervous, though. The Chinese have a hidden agenda, says someone close to the ports authority.
For India's hawks, there is no ambiguity. The port is part of a Chinese plot. In the eyes of some Indians, Colombo is part of a "string of pearls""”an American-coined phrase that suggests the deliberate construction of a network of Chinese built, owned or influenced ports that could threaten India. These include a facility in Gwadar and a port in Karachi (both in Pakistan); a container facility in Chittagong (Bangladesh); and ports in Myanmar.
Is this string theory convincing?
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Keywords: international trade, ocean transportation, Chinese seaport operation, China-India trade tensions, Colombo port facility
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