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A sleepy rural backwater of 15,000 people, Hambantota, the main town in the southern Sri Lankan district of the same name, does not look like an international trading hub. Fishing boats trawl the compact harbour, with fishermen selling their hauls at a market on the shore, while shoppers amble between two small grocery stores in the town centre. The tallest building is the three-storey bus station overlooking the harbour. Little English is spoken, and apart from fishing, salt mining is the main industry.

But Hambantota is about to benefit from two…



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