India Sri Lanka Relationship
India talks about focusing on its neighborhood first policy and for that India is majorly focusing on its maritime neighbor Srilanka. The relationship between the two countries is more than 2,500 years old and both sides have built upon a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. from Ramayana to advent of Buddhism in srilanka, we shared significant historical events together. Earlier srilanka was known as ceylon.
India and Sri Lanka Relationship
In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at the highest political level, growing trade and investment, cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence, as well as a broad understanding on major issues of international interest.
Bilateral exchanges at various levels over the past year and significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has helped further cement the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
Sri Lanka is a member of regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC in which India plays a leading role.
Relationship factors between the two countries –
1. Decades long civil war in Srilanka
The Tamils who were transported by the British as indentured labourers, settled in the northern part of Ceylon. Sinhalese government discriminated against Tamils and since then it has become unresolved issue which also played an important role in effecting the relationship between the two nations and the way India responded to this issue, it directly impacted its relation with srilanka.
Indo-Sri Lankan Accord (1987) was signed between India and Sri Lanka with the aim of improving the relations between the two country and in that accorded devolution of power to some provinces of sri lanka was suggested.
During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against terrorist forces. At the same time, it conveyed at the highest levels its deep concern at the plight of the mostly Tamil civilian population.
India also deployed Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka intended to maintain peace in the region. After years of constant military engagement, the IPKF was withdrawn as it failed to defeat LTTE.
Finally, in 2009, civil war ended when Sri Lankan government seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels. India at that point of agreed to reconstruct the war-torn areas and started many rehabilitation programs and provided humanitarian assistance in various ways.
So this Intervention of India in Civil war of Srilanka was also become the reason to impact their relation.
India always try to maintain its diplomatic relation when it comes to voting in UNHRC in relation to human rights violation in Srilanka. Of late in 2021, India abstained from voting considering the current geopolitical relation with the country.
2. Fishing in Palk bay
Since india is a maritime neighbour to srilanka, so these two countries also remain in conflict to use water for fishing as palk bay strait is used by the fishermen from both the sides and for that various steps have been taken from both the sides to normalise the situation but it’s still one of the major reason that works as hindrance in maintaining the good relations.
To deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner, India and Sri Lanka have set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries as the mechanism to help find a permanent solution and both the countries try their best to maintain peace and reach a consensus on the issue.
Education is also important area of maintaining Bilateral relations between the two countries as not only India offers scholarship annually to deserving Sri Lankan students and also they get the opportunity to compete in various entrance exams like NEET, JEE, etc.
Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka. As we know Srilanka is largely dependent on tourism for its economy and India is the largest source of market for Sri Lankan tourism.
Economic ties between the two nations also include a flourishing development partnership that encompasses areas such as infrastructure, connectivity, transportation, housing, health, livelihood and rehabilitation, education, and industrial development.
Sri Lanka is India’s second largest trading partner in SAARC and India is it’s largest trading partner globally. India and Sri Lanka signed FTA in 2000, which facilitated increased trade relations between the two countries.
6. Security Cooperation and Countering Terrorism
Sri Lanka, with its geo-strategic location as well as its long time experience in maritime safety and security issues, has a lot to offer to Indian Ocean Rim Association – IORA. India and Sri Lanka conducts joint Military and Naval exercise, Mitra Shakti and SLINEX.
A trilateral maritime security cooperation agreement was signed by India, SriLanka and the Maldives to improve surveillance, anti-piracy operations and reducing maritime pollution in Indian Ocean Region. India and Sri Lanka also worked together on countering Drug and Human trafficking as it is one of the major issues which both the country face.
7. Information Sharing
The most significant aspect is that of civilian nuclear co-operation, which envisages an “exchange of knowledge and expertise, sharing of resources, capacity building and training of personnel of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
8. Involvement of China
China’s widening footprint is also a problematic thing for Indian and that’s why India is working on strategic counter policies to reduce its dominance in the Indian Ocean region.
China has extended billions of dollars of loans to the Sri Lankan government for new infrastructure projects.
From supplying arms to Srilanka to handling over the strategic port of Hambantota on 99 year lease, china has been successful in establishing its presence.
It has also invested sufficiently in building Colombo international container terminal by China Harbor Corporation.
9. Unprecedented Economic Crisis of Srilanka (Most Recent – Started Majorly in April 2022)
The Sri Lankan economy has been facing one of its worst ever economic crisis and India is emerging as its reliable ally by offering all sort of help unlike china which is itself one of the reason to put the country in this situation by its debt trap policy.
Sri Lanka and India have signed a $1 billion credit line for importing essentials, including food and medicine, and the Rajapaksa government has sought at least another $1 billion from New Delhi. India is helping Srilanka in the best way possible emphasising the objectives of SAGAR (security and growth in all region) doctrine and its neighbourhood first policy.
Considering all the above mentioned points it is important for the two countries to establish the safety and security in the Indian Ocean region and for that constant efforts are required to establish better relations and to deal with all the issues impacting the relations between the countries.