The Congress on Friday accused the Narendra Modi government of lobbying in favour of the Adani Group for projects in Sri Lanka and demanded to know if any other Indian firms were given the opportunity to consider investing in the important neighbouring country.
Posing a set of three questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the party’s ‘Hum Adani Ke Hain Kaun’ series, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh asked why the Adani Group “foisted” on Sri Lanka.
Giving details, he said the governments of India, Japan and Sri Lanka (then headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe) signed a memorandum on 28 May 2019 to develop the East Container Terminal in the Colombo South port.
A year later, on 9 June 2020, the Sri Lankan cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that India had “selected” Adani Ports as its foreign terminal operator, Ramesh said.
He added that following the unexpected cancellation of the deal, the Rajapaksa government instead offered Colombo’s West Container Terminal to India and Japan under a 35-year build, operate and transfer lease, which was finalised on 30 September 2021.
“A Sri Lankan cabinet spokesperson said that India had ‘nominated’ Adani Ports as the partner. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry described it as a government-to-government port project in a 5 March 2023 interview. On what basis did you ‘select’ and ‘nominate’ Adani Ports for this government-to-government deal?” Ramesh asked in his statement addressed to Modi.
“Did any other Indian firms have the opportunity to consider investing or did you simply reserve the deal for your close friends?” he demanded to know.
Separately, in a tweet Ramesh pointed out that the Congress has asked 78 questions of the PM so far over the Adani issue. The Prime Minister, however, has not yet answered a single question.
Ramesh said India’s investment in Colombo is partly driven by the need to counter China’s expansion in the immediate neighbourhood.
“However, as we pointed out on 3 March 2023, the Adani Group has disturbing connections with Chinese nationals such as the Adani family confidant Chang Chung-Ling (aka Lingo-Chang) who has been involved, among other things, in violating UN sanctions against China and Pakistan’s ally North Korea,” he said.
Are these connections not worthy of investigation by ordinarily hyperactive investigative agencies, the former Union minister asked.
He accused the prime minister of indulging in hectic lobbying for his cronies, including for a 500-megawatt wind power project in Sri Lanka’s Mannar district.
“The former head of the Ceylon Electricity Board, MMC Ferdinando, testified on 10 June 2022 before the Parliament of Sri Lanka that on 24 October 2021, ‘the President (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) summoned me after a meeting and said that India’s Prime Minister Modi is pressuring him to hand over the project to the Adani Group’,” the Congress leader said.
Although he retracted the comments under pressure, Ferdinando’s remarks had completely exposed the nexus of crony capitalism, he said.
“Are you under the impression that your main job is to secure contracts for your friend Gautam Adani, in India and outside, rather than work for the people of India?” Ramesh asked the prime minister and urged him to break his silence on the issue.