Adani investment has come in, we are not panicking about projects: Ali Sabry

Ali Sabry

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry. (Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar)

Colombo sees the Adani projects in Sri Lanka as a “government to government kind of deal”, said Sri Lankan Foreign Minister MUM Ali Sabry, as it was the Indian government that had identified the Adani group for infrastructure projects including Northern Sri Lanka wind power project.

Stressing that his government is “very very confident” that Adani Ports, Airports and Energy companies have strong fundamentals despite the $140 billion drop in share values after the publication of a negative report by US short seller Hindenburg, Mr. Sabry said that the Adani group has already begun investing in its projects, which also include the $700 million Colombo West Container Port project.

“So, we are not panicking,” Mr. Sabry told The Hindu.

in an interview in New Delhi where he met with External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar and participated in the MEA’s Raisina Dialogue conference. Mr. Sabry said Sri Lanka is grateful for India’s assistance with the economic crisis, and hope for more Indian investment in the next phase of its economic recovery, once it is able to receive a $290 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund, scheduled to meet next month.

Q: Are India’s projects in Trincomalee, that have been pending since 2018 when the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had first signed an MoU, now been given an impetus?

 A: Yes, I think there has been impetus all around. We have seen that Indian tourists are coming investors are coming, some of the big Indian companies have already started their projects on renewable energy, wind power as well as the port development. With the Trinco projects, those are in the pipeline and we do know that this is the time we have to materialise this promise given a long, long period of time ago.

Q: One of those big Indian companies is the Adani group. Are you confident that the Adani companies involved in the Colombo port terminal project and Northern SL Wind power project can complete these projects, given the troubles they’ve been in over the past month?

A: We are very, very confident that they will do it and we also understand they do have footfalls in their airports and ports, both in India and outside, in railways, in renewable energy, and they are seen as a big company. This speculation on the stock market is not a new thing, this happens all over the world. So, we are not panicking at all. And we are very, very confident they will be able to complete the project. And this will become a precursor for much more investment to come from so many diverse investment institutions in India. So we are definitely not worried.

Q: One of the allegations was that it was the pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office in India that actually led to the wind power project being given to the Adani group. Do you think the Adani group comes with the confidence, the [backing] of the Prime Minister’s office and that’s why it gets these projects?

A: Not really. In our case, of course, we were keen on an Indian investor to come in, so who the Indian investor was for the Indian government and the authorities to decide and choose and send it to us. And then we will have our own feasibility and fact-finding, and if we are happy, we will take it. So that’s how it happens all over the world. So we are happy. And we have no complaint, so far, because they have been investing, they’re going on with the project. And they have been successful both in India and in the region. So why not? A big name like that comes in. And there are a lot of other countries and other companies could be envious of them. For us, there is absolutely nothing to worry [about], because it is a transparent process and a government-to-government kind of a project. And then of course G2G doesn’t mean that the government gets involved and is doing business, it means the government identifies the entities. So that is the process which had been followed in the Adani’s coming into Sri Lanka.

Q: So it’s seen as a government approved project. Even though they have lost $140 billion in market capitalisation, are you convinced these projects will be completed on time?

A: Yeah, no, the problem is that the stock market is a very vulnerable thing. Companies go up and down – Facebook has lost market capitalisation, [and] the big timers, particularly in the tech industry have lost. It goes up and down but doesn’t mean that the project is in trouble. They have the capital, they have the foundation, [and] these projects are ongoing. So people can have their own valuation, on speculation, on [the] growth potential and all those things…. Merely because [the] stock market goes down doesn’t mean that your project on the ground will get wiped out all of a sudden. That investment has come in. That’s what I heard from my investment ministers.

Q: Last year India protested quite vocally about the docking of a Chinese naval ship in Hambantota Port – has Sri Lanka given India assurances that this kind of controversy will not recur?

A: I think it’s a complex relationship. Sri Lanka has been a very close friend of India and doesn’t want to do anything which hurts the Indian legitimate sentiments on security concerns. But in the meantime, one also needs to understand that we need to work with everybody. Despite all the problems China is also India’s biggest [trading] partner. Similarly, we also want to work with Indians and the Chinese and the West and everybody. But in the meantime, [for] any legitimate security concerns of Indians, we will find a way to discuss with them collaborate with them, and identify them. And not to repeat anything that could be a concern. But in the meantime, we also want to ensure the freedom of movement in the Indian Ocean for everybody’s betterment.

(Source: The Hindu)