AIR spotlight summary on “India – Sri Lanka Bilateral Relations”.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited India to discuss wide range of issues and to attend India Economic Summit. His visit assumes significance as India had pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit, scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November.
The issue on SAARC Summit
- India first decided that it will not attend the SAARC summit. That was immediately followed by Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. The statement made by Sri Lanka was significant. It said the conditions are not conducive to hold a successful summit.
- Bangladesh Prime minister said that the SARCC process is jeopardised and is not good for the region and smaller countries get adversely affected. There is much tension between Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Historical and Cultural Relations
- The ties between both the countries are very old. 70% of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhist and Emperor Ashoka’s son Mahinda who took Buddhism to Sri Lanka. For many matters in terms of Buddhism we find excellent records in Sri Lanka.
- Large number of tourists especially Buddhists visit
- Even during freedom struggle there was close cooperation between Sri Lankan leaders and Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.
- India has strong and well structured bilateral relation with Sri Lanka. We have FTA between both the countries which are doing very well. We should strengthen SARRC, but if there are difficulties we should follow bilateral route and pursue our goals.
- India has been a major giver of development loans and line of credit to Sri Lanka. Almost one-sixth of India’s development loans go to Sri Lanka.
- There is considerable private sector investment from India in Sri Lanka and from Sri Lanka into India. The areas both of cooperation between both the countries are petroleum, Information Technology, Financial Services, Real estate, telecom, hospitals, tourism, banking, food processing etc.
- Sri Lanka has invested in Vishakhapatnam in garments. So it is a two way relationship which is a sustainable one.
- Indian railways are offering special package for Sri Lankan tourists to come to India. India has introduced e-visa for Sri Lanka. Indians find Sri Lanka very attractive.
- Sri Lanka is the closest friend and neighbour. In 2014 our bilateral trade was $4.6 billion. India is the fourth biggest investor in Sri Lanka. Since 2003 we have invested about $1 billion in Sri Lanka.
- The President and Prime minister team of Sri Lanka is having good rapport with Indian leadership.
- The constant and frequent issue of fisherman and recently 5 Indian fishermen were picked up by the Sri Lankan Navy. The fishermen dispute is inevitable between neighbours. Indian Fishermen entering Sri Lankan water is not with any particular intention. What is important is that the two governments and the fishermen associations of both the sides must take care of these incidents and can be contained.
- Both countries have signed an MOU to equip the fishermen and give them nets and necessary things to help them carry out their trade better and more peacefully.
- Sri Lanka has taken the position that big fishing trawlers should not be used which is scientific and without which we may lose the fish yield.
Developments in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka has progressed in the Health sector. When they became independent, they were supposed to be one of the worst affected regions affected by malaria. Now they are declared malaria free. This is a lesson to be learnt for India.
- Social development indicators are quite high in literacy, health indicators, etc. They have made considerable progress.
Both countries are firm in maintaining their Democracy. There is scope for making the relationship richer, broadening and deepening it. Good efforts are being made by the governments, the ci