Sri Lankan PM’s Visit: Strategic & Economic
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and its neighborhood- relations
- India and its neighborhood- relations Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In news: Sri Lankan PM was on visit to India to review initiatives and mutual cooperation. Besides regional peace and terrorism, both countries were interested in wider cooperation.
India is trying to make a political investment as well as infrastructure investment in SL in relation to how china is engaged in SL. It is a significant move for India’s proposition to go for joint venture in Sri Lanka in Hambantota district to develop Mattala airport. The airport called as the “world’s emptiest airport” by Forbes, India had proposed to “operate, manage, maintain and develop” the airport with India holding 70 per cent of the equity for 40 years. India is supposed to invest $205 million, with Sri Lanka contributing $88 million. The Hambantota port is developed by china. Many SEZs are being developed and thus the international airport will further receive boost. Thus, the industrial relations have come a long way as far as developmental partnership is concerned.
Political relations between the two countries have been marked by high-level exchanges of visits at regular intervals. Moreover, India’s interest in Sri Lanka is not limited to economy or strategy and it should remain committed to in resolving the Tamil issue.
The bilateral relation
The India-SL relationship has got a certain distinguishing quality. Despite unsettling situations and responses in past on certain issues, the SL leadership has repeatedly said that as far as India and China are concerned, India is a brother and China is a friend. This says a lot about relationship between both countries.
The kind of understanding between India and SL is unique and distinctive. It is important how SL views where its interests lie and where they believe that the net result could work for benefit for SL and its people. It might encompass special technical capabilities, financial packages and how they are delivered, how the projects are implemented on ground and more distinctively it revolves around the culture of openness and ability to dialogue and the ability to not take undue advantage through kind of financing arrangement that could create an unsustainable debt.
India came with a neighbourhood first policy in 2014 and thus remarked that each neighbourhood is distinctive. However, Humbantota airport and port represent a challenge for India’s neighbourhood policy. It has two aspects-
- What India can bring to the table for SL will be important for building a progressive relationship. Till now, Sri Lanka is a positive example of beneficial of trade arrangements (FTA in 2000) between both countries.
- How India and china can work together in same geographic area, especially when China is increasingly showing its presence in Indian Ocean.
Importance of SL in India
SL equation goes long back after independence with china. SL was known for rice for rubber deal where SL was exporter of raw material and desperately needed rice. China has also invested in and built many infrastructures in SL. But when SL was threatened, they turned to India including during 1971 JVP armed insurrection. Also during the 2009 war, India provided significant intelligence which resulted in defeat of LTTE. Thus, this relationship can’t be equated with any other.
SL is strategic from India’s point of view of Indian Ocean strategy. Being a country in Indian Ocean, having large ethno cultural and religious linkages and sharing of vast military cooperation between two countries has helped maintain maritime proficiency of both countries. With china coming into Indian Ocean, it has acquired even more importance.
The geography of SL will be critical for India in maximizing its potential in extending global commons which is the cooperation in maritime domain, space and cyber. The global economic activity and global strategic considerations are moving in extended maritime continuum- the western pacific through Malacca to India and east Africa and Persian Gulf. Thus, SL is going to be important partner for India in next 2-3 decades, especially SAGAR is going to be important.
Taking relationship forward
- More Indian investments in SL, especially private sector investments.
- Solving the fishermen problem. Technology allows much greater level of surveillance on two sides. Mechanised trawling is damaging the ecosystem, thus, both countries have to develop modern surveillance techniques to restrict fishermen from crossing the maritime borders.
- Colombo port is receives the largest ship loads which Indian ports are not able to. Thus, India has to acknowledge Sri Lanka’s maritime infrastructure and make itself part of various global chains.
- Human security- southern Asia’s greatest challenge is level of human security- health, education, gender issues. SL can be a model as many of the UN indicators place them above other Asian countries. They can provide models to emulate and draw lessons.
- Also, SL has been able to bring municipal discipline in small towns and India can draw best practices from it. This can be at bilateral as well as regional SAARC level.
- Comprehensive technical and economic partnership, cooperation in medical services.
- Trade of 4.4 billion USD can be increased further with more investments and diverse options of connectivity- rail and road.
- Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord mooted a permanent solution to the decades-long-ethnic conflict. The accord paved way for the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution which is considered the first significant step towards devolution of powers between the Sinhalese and Tamils. With increased cooperation between both countries, this ethic crisis in Sri Lanka vouches for proper solution.
The relations may not have been comprehensive but it is moving gradually rather than reacting to particular incidences. Both countries are matured enough to look at each other and communicate directly and take cooperation further.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s infrastructure project in Sri Lanka is a counter to Chinese influence there. Discuss the importance and implications of the same.