UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | India-Sri Lanka | 16 June 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the window of economic opportunities for India and way ahead for Sri Lanka from the crisis.

Syllabus: GS-II International Relations, India and its neighbourhood

India-Sri Lanka:

  • Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, touched upon a less-emphasised yet significant aspect of India-Sri Lanka relations — the commonality between Sri Lanka and the southern parts of India.
  • Sub-regional integration 
    • South India-Sri Lanka sub-region as a single market that would provide more opportunities for the economic growth of both countries.
    • 5 Indian southern States, with a total population of 250 million, had a combined gross state domestic product of nearly $450 billion; with the addition of Sri Lanka’s $80 billion GDP, the sub-region would have a $500 billion economy, having an aggregate population of around 270 million – In 2016, the South Asian Diaspora Convention in Singapore
    • In the southeast Asian country, he had even referred to the tri-nation economic convergence, encompassing Singapore too.
  • The present economic crisis in Sri Lanka has pushed it closer to India for immediate relief.
    • India, as part of its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, has extended support to the people of Sri Lanka in the form of aid (close to $3.5 billion) to help secure Sri Lanka’s food, health and energy security by sup- plying it essential items such as food, medicines, fuel and kerosene.
    • Signing of an agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Export-Import Bank of India for a $55-million short term Line of Credit to facilitate the procurement of urea for paddy crop in the ongoing ‘Yala’ season.
    • On its part, Tamil Nadu decided to provide aid of ₹123 crore, comprising 40,000 tonnes of rice, 137 types of life-saving drugs and 500 tonnes of milk powder. 

Concerns:

  • Some sections of the Sinhalese still hold the view that “India has been a threat to us. It can be a threat to us in future too”.
    • This perception can be traced to history when Sri Lanka was invaded by rulers of south India who humbled the Sinhala kings. In the aftermath of the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom, the support provided by the Indian government to Tamil rebels only strengthened this perception.
  • Despite India’s open willingness to take part in the development of Sri Lanka after the civil war, the scale of its involvement has been modest
  • Rajapaksa regime unilaterally scrapped in February 2021 a tripartite agreement signed in 2019 with India and Japan for the development of Colombo’s East Container Terminal was a reflection of the historical baggage.
  • The Trincomalee oil tank farm and a couple of renewable projects, there were several proposals that envisaged India’s participation but did not see the light of day. 

Way Out:

  • Even now, there is enormous scope for collaboration between the two countries in the area of infrastructure development. The economic crisis has revived talk of linking Sri Lanka’s electricity grid with that of India.
  • India’s interests would also be served by developing the east coast of Sri Lanka, especially the Trincomalee-Batticaloa belt, whose potential for tourism, commerce, trade and industry is well known.
  • Facilitating greater people-to-people interaction, including pilgrimages by monks and other sections of Sri Lankan society to places of Buddhist importance not only in north India but also in the south (Andhra Pradesh). 



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