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India Sri Lanka Relations

India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour that has ethnic links to its most significant minority. India has a huge influence in the island nation’s political, economic, social and cultural consciousness, and its world view.

Major Irritants 

  • Fishermen Issue – Both countries are separated by the International Maritime Boundary Line. Often, fishermen from both sides cross over to other side for fishing expeditions – results in arrests &, sometimes, shootings.
  • Sri Lanka accuses Indian fishermen of straying into its territorial waters, while the latter maintain they are only fishing in their traditional areas, especially around Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Colombo in 1974.

India Sri Lanka Relations

  • Katchatheevu Island – One of the major reasons complicating the issue is of Katchatheevu Island which India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 under a conditional accord.  In 2009, the Sri Lankan government declared Katchatheevu Island as sacred land owing to a Catholic shrine’s presence on the piece of land.
  • India stands for a “united Sri Lanka”, but wants an “early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment” that provides for devolution in the Tamil majority Northern and Eastern provinces.
  • Sri Lanka is part of China’s Maritime Silk Road. China is also modernizing Hambantota port in Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka has decided to clear the stalled $1.4 billion Colombo Port City, which had China as a partner

For Fisherman issue Indian Navy or Coast Guard should join the Sri Lankan Navy in jointly patrolling the international boundary to prevent trespassing.

Cooperation Fields 

  • India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner globally
  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement of 1998 was followed by efforts towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to liberalise trade in services and investment starting in the mid-2000s
  • India to assist Sri Lanka in the enhanced usage of Natural Gas
  • joint investments in the development of Port, Petroleum Refinery and other industries in Trincomalee.
  • India and Sri Lanka signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, the first such deal signed by Sri Lanka with any foreign country, reflecting the new Lankan government’s pro-India approach.
  • To encourage Indian companies to invest in a Container Terminal in Colombo Port, considering that majority of transhipment in Colombo Port is related to India
  • Sampoor project: 500-MW Sampoor thermal power project, a joint venture involving Sri Lanka and India, was granted environmental clearance.

 

While New Delhi’s anxiety over Chinese presence might be justified, it should avoid using China lens to view Sri Lanka, respecting the country’s autonomy to engage with any willing partner. The more India treats Sri Lanka as an equal partner, the stronger the relationship is likely to grow.

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