The Sri Lanka government has proposed to transfer 70 percent ownership of the loss-making Mattala International Airport to India. The airport is less than 30 kilometres away from Hambantota Port, in which China holds a 70 percent stake

New Delhi: Amid stiff resistance from opposition parties, the government of Sri Lanka has clarified that India will not be allowed to use Mattala International Airport for military purposes even if ownership of the airport is transferred to the Airports Authority of India.

Sri Lanka's minister of civil aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva, has informed Parliament that a joint venture would be formed to operate the debt-ridden airport where 70 percent of its shares would be bought by India while the other 30 percent by the Sri Lankan government.

"We have set pre-conditions before transferring the airport. This is only a business venture. We will not allow anyone to use it for any military activities. Its air navigation system is operated by Sri Lankan authorities and security also provided by the Air Force and local partners," Nimal Siripala de Silva, Sri Lanka's minister of civil aviation, said.

Silva said that discussions are underway on the nitty-gritty of the proposal and that a technical evaluation committee and a negotiating committee on matters regarding national security and the job security of employees of the airport would recommend the future course of actions.

Earlier, Sri Lanka's opposition leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, made strong allegations that the Sirisena government was compromising the sovereignty of the country and national security despite knowing that airports play an important part in domestic and international wars.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government has indicated that the agreement with India, if and when it happens, would be presented in Parliament for final ratification. "If the airport is to be transferred to India completely, Civil Aviation Act should be amended in Parliament. Anyone can object to it and defeat it in Parliament," Silva said.

The Mattala International Airport is famously known as the world's emptiest airport as it was closed earlier this year as the Sri Lankan government could afford the operational cost of LKR 250 million (roughly $1.56 million) per month.