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China firms up defence ties with Sri Lanka

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BEIJING (PTI): China has said it is ready to boost "pragmatic cooperation" with Sri Lankan military, days after Chinese President Xi Jinping described the country as an "all weather friend".

Sri Lanka's secretary of defence and urban development, Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday met Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission and discussed steps to improve the military ties.

Hailing the friendship between China and Sri Lanka, Xu said leaders of two countries attached great importance to military-to-military ties and the Chinese military was willing to strengthen "pragmatic cooperation in various fields with the Sri Lankan military," state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Xi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to strengthen the two countries' strategic cooperative partnership during the Chinese President's state visit to Colombo last week.

Gotabaya said Sri Lanka would continue to enhance cooperation with China to advance military-to-military ties.

During his Colombo visit, Xi elevated Lanka-China ties terming the island nation as an "all weather friend", a term Beijing exclusively used for Pakistan for many decades to characterise close relations between the two countries.

China regards Sri Lanka as an all-weather friend and partner, Xi had said during his meeting with Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa and which observers say is a significant elevation for Sri Lanka in China's diplomatic and strategic considerations.

Sri Lanka under Rajapakse has emerged as a close ally of China amid concerns in India over Beijing's growing influence in its backyard in the Indian Ocean.

Besides heavy investments in infrastructure as well as aid, Sri Lanka looks to emerge as a key country to implement Xi's Maritime Silk Road (MSR) plan.

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