Sri Lanka is one of the nearest countries to the Indian subcontinent. India and Sri Lanka shares the roots of their relationship starting from 4th century BC. According to some ancient Sri Lankan chronicles, their ancestors are believed to be from India. It is also evident from those chronicles that Buddhism in Sri Lanka was introduced by Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka. As time passes by, the relationship grew stronger in many dimensions. India and Sri Lanka cooperate with each other in every aspect whether it is in the fields of economy, defence, education, healthcare, culture, art etc.
Sri Lanka has are unbreakable bond with India. Since past, both countries are sharing cultural, economic and social ties with each other. Despite this relation, India helps in the growth of Sri Lanka in every possible manner. India’s role in the development of this island country is significant.
INDIA AND SRI LANKA: AMICABLE TIES:
- Buddhism is a major connecting link between these two countries.
- The Sri Lankan ethnic minority group called “Tamils” are said to have an Indian origin.
- Now a days, people belonging to Sindhis, Marmons, Gujaratis, Parsis, Keralites etc are settled in Sri Lanka to do various business.
- India and Sri Lanka both signed a cultural cooperation agreement in 1977.
- Approximately there are 10,000 Indian Origin Tamil (IOT) residing in Sri Lanka with most of them are well settled.They have their own groups and organizations to conduct cultural events and festivals.
- The Indian Cultural Centre situated in Colombo promotes the unique features of India like Hindi language, Yoga, music, dance etc.
- India-Sri Lanka signed a Free Trade Agreement on 1998 enabling bilateral trade between the two countries without duty.
- Sri Lanka is India’s second largest trading partner in SAARC.
- India is among the top four investors in Sri Lanka under the FDI policy.
- Under the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), India will invest $2 billion in Sri Lanka within the next 2-3 years.
- India provides scholarships for higher education in UG and research studies for qualified Sri Lankan students.
- Sri Lanka is a partner in the Nalanda University project of India.
- Sri Lanka became the first country to connect through India’s National Knowledge Network (NKN) through Gigabyte optical care network for universities and academies.
- “Mithra Shakthi” is one of the largest military exercises conducted by India and Sri Lanka annually.
- “SLINEX” is the naval joint exercise between India and Sri Lanka.
- India-Sri Lanka-Maldives signed a trilateral maritime security cooperation agreement to improve its control over territorial waters and better anti-piracy measures.
- India is the largest training provider to the young soldiers of Sri Lanka.
- India and Sri Lanka signed agreements of cooperation in the field of information technology and electronics. The main aim behind this is to promote cooperation in the areas of e-governance, cybersecurity,start-ups etc.
Housing and development cooperation:
- India has always been a support to Sri Lanka in its development. After the 2009 Sri Lankan government-LTTE civil war, India helped Sri Lanka to build 50,000 houses across the country.
INDIA-SRI LANKA- AREAS OF CONFLICT:
- Fisherman issue:
Disputes regarding fishing are common between these two countries for years. The International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) separates the two countries. Hence fisherman going for trawling may cross the boundary and end up in arrests and sometimes shootout for illegal fishing.This happens mainly because the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of these two countries overlap with each other. Fishing is allowed inside EEZ only.
- Kachatheevu island issue:
Kachatheevu is an uninhabited island located between international boundaries of two countries. This island was ceded to Sri Lanka as a part of 1974 accord signed at Colombo in Sri Lanka. In 2009, Sri Lanka declared the island as a sacred piece of land due to the presence of a Catholic shrine. The dispute comes when the Tamil fishermen from India argue that the island belongs to the Indian Territory and they have the right to go fishing near the island premises.
- China’s string of pearls:
China is planning to make a sea route around the Indian subcontinent by constructing, renovating and maintaining other countries ports. This move is famously known as the “String of Pearls” starting from the South China Sea to end up in Gwadar Port in Pakistan. Sri Lanka is one of the countries which fall under this Chinese “Silk route.” Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port is developed with China’s financial support with a huge rate of interest in return. Although there is no official confirmation about this route, it is still India’s concern to defend its boundaries.
- Recently, India signed a pact to control the Mattala Rajapakse International airport situated at Hambantota in Sri Lanka. This airport is known as the “World’s emptiest airport” due to the lack of flights. With India’s entry, it is expected to gain a major stake in the operation of this airport.
- India also agreed signed a deal to construct 1,200 houses in Hambantota port city and other places across the country.
- India also provided aid for India-assisted emergency ambulance service in Sri Lanka.
- India signed a Line of Credit worth $318 million to Sri Lanka for developing its railway sector in 2017.
- India and Sri Lanka have also signed an agreement in 2017 to construct 3000 rainwater harvesting system in Sri Lanka.
India will be a good ally to Sri Lanka forever. If the problems of fishermen are settled, most of the conflict will be over. Also, if the Sri Lankan government provide adequate devolution of powers to the ethnic minorities, the country will be in peace. It is to be noted that if the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which was interrupted for many years is signed, both countries can improve their economic cooperation. Indian PM Narendra Modi in his last visit to Sri Lanka stated that “This is the sign of a strong relationship” while addressing the gathering.