Srilanka is one of the founding member of SAARC which partipated significantly in cultural and political developments of region. It has deep link withTamilnadu from where many Tamils migrated as indentured labour during British rule. As of now Srilankan Tamils are around 10% of total population. India is connected to Srilanka through Palk strait which has much ecological significance.
India Srilanka political relationship are strengthened through Joint commission and high level exchange of visits. Important agreements signed by two sides are revised Double tax avoidance agreement, agreement on combating international terrorism and illicit drug trafficking. Former resident Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam visited srilanka to launch National plan on Trilingual Srilanka. Similarly common concerns, mutually beneficial projects are addressed and implemented through high level visits.
Globally India is Srilanka’s largest trading partner,at same time in the SAARC level. Srilanka is India’s second largest trading partner. India accounts for 20% of srilanka imports and third largest export destination for Srilankan products. India is among top 5 foreign investors in Srilanka. Since Indo-srilanka FTA in 2000,trade has been rapidly growing. Also India contributes 27%to Srilanka tourism.
However, we couldn’t leverage trade potential in this context it is to be noted that due in signing CEPA. Apart from this both countries share membership in other regional and multilateral trading arrangements viz Asia Pacific Trade Agreements(APTA), SAFTA,BIMSTEC, Global system of Trade preference(GSTP) and WTO which foster economic ties.
During Srilankan President visit to India two sides signed an agreement on a programme of cultural cooperation to nuture historical, cultural ties and promote contacts between people. Buddhism advented to Srilanka in 3rd century BCE from India. In 2012 both countries celebrated the 2600th year of attainment of enlightment by Lord Buddha ‘sambuddhatva Jayanti’.
Also launched Budhist pilgrimage circuit train Damba Diva Vandana runs between Chennai and Buddhist sites in Northern India. Cultural relationship is also endorsed through SAARC culture ministers meetings. The South Asian Bands Festival organised by Indian council for cultural relations and Ministry of External Affairs is one of the festivals to enhance cultural ties.
Cooperation on Development
Under ‘Aid to Srilanka’ number of developmental projects are implemented, few to be mentioned are small development projects like providing fishing equipment, Health projects like setting up cancer hospital in Colombo, education infrastructure, training programme for police personnel, rehabilitation of Colombo-Matara railway, NTPC to construct 500MW thermal power plant in Sampoor.
India vs China in Srilanka
China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy ie naval presence in Indian ocean region. In the pretense of human rights issues China opposes some countries interference in internal affairs of Srilanka. China loan to developmental projects like Hambantota Port, new National Theatre, Sri Lanka’s first four-lane expressway. China’s maritime silk road initiative to widen its presence in south asian shipping routes. Above said economic and political initiative are seen as threat to India’s maritime security.
Outcome of recent visit
Four bilateral pacts were signed agreement on visa,customs,youth development and building Rabindranath tagore memorial. India assured Srilanka to help it in constructing a petroleum hub in Trincomalee. Currency swap agreement between two coutries central bank to support stabilisation of Srilankan rupee . New line of credit to railway sector in Srilanka.
Challenges in relationship
• Mutually amicable solution to fisherman issue as early as possible
• India’s selective and conditional support to Srilanka in handling Tamilian crisis. Its emphasis on implementation of 13th amendment
• Sethusamudaram project
• Issues over Katchathivu island
• Pending of CEPA
Recent political improvements in Srilanka and India’s stand of withholding from voting againt Srilanka in UNHRC resolution is welcome relief in bilalateral relationship. Strategic location of Srilanka in Indian Ocean and its geopolitical potentialaties should be better reaped by India for regional development with collective interest.