AFPA

SSB Interview Lecturette Topic – India Sri Lanka relations

 

Introduction:

Sri Lanka is just 30 nautical miles away from the territorial boundary of India and is India’s closest maritime neighbor.

The ties between the two countries date back to 2500 years ago.

Both the nations share a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.

The relationship between the two countries is marked by growing trade and investment and cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, education, culture and defence.

The ethnic ties have bound the two countries for more than two millennia.

More than 60 million of the world’s 77 million Tamils live in India while about 4 million live in Sri Lanka.

The Palk Strait separates the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka, the main Tamil area of the Indian Ocean Island.

 

Background:

Sinhalese and Tamils are the two major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.

An internal conflict between these two groups continued since independence.

Tamils faced alienation and discrimination in various fields.

The provisions in the 1972 Constitution favoured Sinhalese language and Buddhist religion along with their educational policies.

This made Tamils perceive themselves as a marginal community.

In response to this discrimination Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was formed in 1976 to fight for Tamil rights and Civil war started in 1983.

The bilateral ties between India and Sri Lanka deteriorated because of Tamil militant separatism in Sri Lanka.

The 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord proposed a political solution to this conflict by establishing provincial council system and devolution of power to nine provinces also known as the 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution.

Under Operation Pawan India deployed Indian Peace Keeping Forces in Sri Lanka but withdrew after two years.

The war between Sri Lankan government and LTTE ended in 2009 but it led to many casualties and internal displacement.

India provided war relief measures including food, medicines, etc.

India has engaged in reconstruction of 50000 houses for internally displaced people.

 

Fishermen issue:

Fishermen crossing sides in high seas is a common issue between the two countries.

There are sovereignty issues over Katchatheevu islands as well.

An MoU has been signed between the two countries to equip the fishermen with nets and necessary items like compass so that they don’t get strayed away.

Sri Lanka has also banned use of fishing trawlers to for the better yield of the fishes.

 

Diplomatic Cooperation:

India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was established in 1992 facilitating discussions relating to bilateral affairs.

Indian Prime Minister addressed Sri Lankan Parliament in 2015 and signed a civilian nuclear energy deal with the country.

It aims to explore nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Economic Cooperation:

India is one of the largest providers of development credit to Sri Lanka mostly for its infrastructural development.

A Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2010.

India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner and largest source of foreign direct investment in the country.

 

Defence and Security Cooperation:

The two countries have increased military-to-military relationship in recent years.

They conduct a joint military (Mitra Shakti) and Naval exercise (SLINEX).

India provides defence training to Sri Lankan forces.

In 2019, an agreement was concluded to counter drug and human trafficking.

Trilateral maritime security cooperation with Maldives is to improve surveillance, anti-piracy operations and reducing maritime pollution in IOR.

 

Cultural Cooperation:

Cultural cooperation agreement was signed in 1977.

India provides scholarship to Sri Lankan students and Sri Lanka is a partner in Nalanda university project.

Buddhist link is exploited by the two countries through various joint programs.

India has also launched e-Tourist Visa scheme for Sri Lankan tourists.

 

Challenges:

China’s growing footprint in Sri Lanka has posed a challenge for India.

Sri Lanka is a part of China’s String of Pearls policy and Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s investment in Hambantota port and its strategy of turning the island nation into its debtor is aimed at encircling India.

Sri Lankan tilt towards China is a matter of concern for India.

 

Conclusion:

India is trying to shed its big brother attitude to enhance ties with Sri Lanka.

Maintenance of peace in Sri Lanka and development of infrastructure will benefit both the countries.

The two countries should recognize the legitimacy of each other’s concerns and work to make the relationship more fruitful and mutually beneficial.