India keeps eye on protests in Sri Lanka against US base plan

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India keeps eye on protests in Sri Lanka against US base planNEW DELHI: India is keeping a close watch as protests grow in Sri Lanka over a proposed pact with the US, which could enable the setting up of an American military base in New Delhi's southern neighbourhood.

The Indian establishment is of the view that as a close neighbour, it would respect Colombo's decision, as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Wednesday announced that his country would not sign any pact that violated sovereignty. “Delhi will respect Colombo’s decision on the matter. We are keeping a close watch as this pertains to our neighbourhood that has strategic significance for India,” an informed source who did not wish to be named told ET. President Maithripala Sirisena, who is at loggerheads with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, also said over the weekend that he would not allow signing of any agreement which would not be in Sri Lanka's interests.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled the Lanka leg of his Asia trip following growing protest over the proposed military pact.

The Lankan government had come under fire from the country’s opposition over the Status of Forces (SOFA) Agreement, which would give the US forces unrestricted access to Sri Lankan facilities as well as diplomatic immunity. "We have not signed a new agreement, but we have been discussing a draft. We will not sign anything to harm our independence and sovereignty," Wickremesinghe told Parliament on Wednesday, in response to an opposition query.

He said the Lankan ports would not be allowed to be used by any foreign force. "There was an exchange of letters between the then President JR Jayewardene and former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi. It was stated that Trincomalee or any other ports in Sri Lanka will not be available for military use by any country," he said.