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India-Sri Lanka relations

  • IASbaba
  • January 20, 2023
  • 0
International Relations
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Context:

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has said that India is committed to increase investment flows to Sri Lanka to hasten its economic recovery
  • India and Sri Lankan discussed cooperation in infrastructure, connectivity, energy, industry and health.
  • Dr. Jaishankar’s visit to the island nation comes at a crucial time as Sri Lanka has been making efforts to obtain an extended fund facility from International Monetary Fund.

Bilateral Relations:

  • India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and the relationship between the two countries is more than 2,500 years old built upon a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
  • In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at the highest political level such as Bilateral exchanges at various levels

Political relations:

  • Developmental assistance projects for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has helped further cement the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
  • During the course of the three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE(ended in 2009), India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against terrorist forces.
  • At the same time, it conveyed at the highest levels its deep concern at the plight of the mostly Tamil civilian population, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE.
  • The need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the ethnic issue has been reiterated by India at the highest levels. India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and which is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights
  • Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has said that India was the ‘only nation’ to help out his country through the continuing food, fuel, and pharma crisis.

Commercial relations:

  • India and Sri Lanka signed the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) in 1998 which came into force in 2000 –  provides duty-free access and duty preferences to goods.
  • A Joint Study Group (JSG) was set up in 2003 to make recommendations on how to take the two countries beyond trade and achieve greater economic integration through the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
  • Talks have resumed under a new framework called the ‘Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement’ (ETCA) – to boost cooperation in technical areas, scientific expertise and research amongst institutions, boost standards of goods and services able to compete on the global market and improve opportunities for manpower training and human resource development.

Trade

  • India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner with a share of 16 percent in Sri Lanka’s total trade with the world.
  • Bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka has increased by around 9 times between 2000-01 and 2018-19.
  • India has always had a trade surplus with Sri Lanka
  • In 2018-19, India’s top 3 exports to Sri Lanka included mineral fuels, ships and boats, and vehicles accounting for 43 percent of total exports to Sri Lanka.
  • India’s top 3 imports included ships and boats, residues and waste from the food industries, and coffee, tea, mate and spices accounting for 56 percent of total imports.
  • India’s exports to Sri Lanka are losing their competitiveness vis-a-vis China’s exports to Sri Lanka.

Development cooperation

  • India’s grants to Sri Lanka alone amounting to around USD 570 million, the overall commitment by GOI is to the tune of more than USD 3.5 billion.
  • A US$ 100 million LoC for undertaking solar projects in Sri Lanka has been signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and EXIM Bank on June 16, 2021.
  • The Indian Housing Project, with an initial commitment to build 50,000 houses in war affected areas and estate workers in the plantation areas, is Government of India (GoI)’s flagship grant project in Sri Lanka.
  • The country-wide 1990 Emergency Ambulance Service is another flagship project.
  • Some of other notable grant projects which have been completed are the 150-bed Dickoya hospital, livelihood assistance to nearly 70,000 people from fishing and farming community in Hambantota, supply of medical equipment to Vavuniya Hospital and 150 Boats and Fishing gear for Mullaithivu fishermen.
  • A modern 1500 – seat auditorium named after Rabindranath Tagore in Ruhuna University, Matara, is the largest in any University in Sri Lanka.
  • Under the LOC of USD 318 million, various projects for procurement of rolling stocks for Sri Lankan Railways, upgradation of railway tracks, setting up of railway workshop etc are at different stages of implementation.

Cultural Relations

  • The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the Government of India and the Government of Sri Lanka in 1977 forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries.
  • Buddhism is one of the strongest pillars connecting the two nations and civilizations from the time when the Great Indian Emperor Ashoka sent his children Arhat Mahinda and Theri Sangamitta to spread the teachings of Lord Buddha at the request of King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka.
  • the venerated relics of Lord Buddha from Kapilawasthu discovered in 1970 in India have been exhibited two times in Sri Lanka.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during the Virtual Bilateral Summit held between India and Sri Lanka on 26 September 2020, announced a USD 15 million grant assistance for protection and promotion of Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka
  • In July 2020, the Government of India declared the Kushinagar Airport in India, the place of Lord Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana, as an international airport, to allow Buddhist pilgrims from around the world to visit the revered site associated with Lord Buddha with ease – first inaugural flight from Sri Lanka
  • Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC) – the cultural arm of the High Commission of India, Colombo, has been playing a key role in strengthening these ties and promoting people-to-people contacts between India and Sri Lanka since its inception in 1998.
  • Tourism – India launched the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) scheme for Sri Lankan tourists in 2015.

Security

  • Military exercise called Mitra Shakthi and the Naval exercise called “Slinex.”
  • The defence teams from the two nations recently also met at the Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) meet in Kochi, India to further their defence ties.

Issues and concerns

  • Traditionally, India–Sri Lanka bilateral relations are centered on a few specific issues and concerns—security concerns (now includes security cooperation), ethnic issues, fishers dispute, and investment climate
  • Investment atmosphere – Costly investment agreements had been signed with India, under the Rajapaksa regime, amidst heavy criticism from the political opposition such as in power sector.
  • Chinese dominance – Sri Lanka’s balancing act with India, under the shadow of China’s BRI investments in the island to keep both India and China interested has affected Sri Lanka’s relations with India, given the latter’s antithetical relations with China.
  • Fisheries front –  on daily-basis Indian fishermen continued to be arrested and their boats and gears impounded on allegations of violating the IMBL and poaching in Sri Lankan waters.
  • Four Maritime Boundary Agreements have been signed by the two states between 1974-76 regarding the 12 nautical miles of international waters in the Palk Strait, the terms of the agreement are hardly followed diligently.
  • The Sri Lankan Navy continues to accuse India’s fishers of violating the decided lines and poaching in their territorial water.
  • There is another conflict wherein, Sri Lanka criticizes India’s bottom trawler usage in the Palk Strait, which has been a recurring issue for the countries.
  • India’s China concerns viz Sri Lanka continue to remain real though through the past years, there is nothing to suggest that Chinese commercial investments had led to any military/security tie-up that New Delhi should be worried about.
  • China-funded Colombo Port City project any time soon looks suspect at best.
  • Ethnic issues including the Tamil proposals and the Sinhala-Buddhist majority social reaction
  • Till date, the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, following the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, signed on 29 July 1987 has not been honoured.

Way forward

In light of various bilateral issues, the need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the current issues has been reiterated by India at the highest levels which is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.

Source Newsonair 

 

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