An egotistical Rajapaksa, an influx of foreign cash, and a massive pile of debt led to Sri Lanka handing over Hambantota port to China in December 2017

In a second diplomatic victory to India, Sri Lanka has cancelled the decision to award a $300m housing deal to China in favour of a joint venture with an Indian company. Earlier, Indian experts claimed a major diplomatic victory over China in the Maldives when autocratic President Yameen was removed from power in what Beijing believed was a Indian-led initiative.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will meet Indian PM Narendra Modi for talks on Saturday in India’s capital, New Delhi. India and Sri Lanka share long-standing ties, mainly because of cultural and ethnic links between Tamils, most of whom live in southern India and Sri Lanka’s north and east.

In April, state-run China Railway Beijing Engineering Group Co Ltd won a tender worth more than $300m to build 40,000 houses in Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka, mainly dominated by the Tamilian community. The project was stalled after residents demanded brick houses, saying they favoured their traditional type of dwelling instead of the concrete structures.

Sri Lankan Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the cabinet had approved a new proposal for 28,000 houses worth 35.8bn rupees to be built by an Indian company in collaboration with two Sri Lankan firms. The planned homes are part of a total requirement of 65,000, he added.

“The rest of the houses, which needs to be constructed will be given to organisations which are ready to build them at lower prices,” Senaratne told reporters in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.

Critics have said a big Chinese port project and related infrastructure in Sri Lanka’s south have been dragging the country neck-deep into debt. China has massively invested in Sri Lanka building ports, power plants and highways, what Delhi views as an attempt to influence India’s backyard.