Sri Lanka Hopes India Will Buy Into Airport Without Planes. China Refused

Sri Lanka has already sold China a port that gets almost no ships. The island nation now wants India to take control of an airport with no scheduled flights.
The nation first tried to offer China the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in the southern district of Hambantota, but is now in talks with India, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Sri Lanka’s parliament on Thursday. The move follows the $1.1 billion sale of the loss-making port in Hambantota to state-owned China Merchants Group.
The efforts are part of Sri Lanka’s attempt to salvage loss-making projects built under a previous administration criticized for its close ties with China. Hambantota’s port was a “white elephant” that accumulated nearly $300 million in losses since 2011, Wickremesinghe told parliament. But the port’s sale to China was a “great victory” for Sri Lanka, he said, and getting Indian involved in the airport could help revive that asset too, he added.
“Just like the port without ships, there is also an airport without planes in Mattala,” Wickremesinghe told lawmakers. “We spoke first to the Chinese about the Mattala airport, but we did not get a favorable response. So we are in discussions with India. In the future, I believe Mattala will also be an airport free of debt that will attract flights.”
India and Sri Lanka held talks this week to discuss a joint venture agreement for the airport with Indian officials, the country’s deputy transport minister Ashok Abeysinghe told parliament this week, according to Sri Lanka’s EconomyNext news service.