Sri Lanka is one of the neighboring countries of India. The two nations are embroiled in a relationship that can be said to be 2500 years old. India Sri Lanka has stepped up cooperation in developmental assistance projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) which has further strengthened the bonds of friendship between India Sri Lanka. This topic is important for IAS Exam GS-II (Indian Polity and International Relations) syllabus. This article will give you a brief introduction to India Sri Lanka relations, areas of conflict between the two nations and their commercial relations.
History of India and Sri Lanka Relations:
India has ancient relations with Sri Lanka since the reign of Emperor Ashoka. The ties between the two countries are built on heritage:
- Intellectual connection
- Cultural relations
- Religious affiliation
- Linguistic relationship
The relations between the two countries have matured and diversified with the passage of time, covering all areas of contemporary relevance. The shared cultural and social heritage of the two countries and the people who interact with their people provides the foundation for building a multidimensional partnership.
In recent years, the relationship has been marked by the following:
- Close contact at the highest political level
- Growing business and investment
- In the area of cooperation: development, education, culture, defense and broad understanding on key issues of international interest.
Conflict in India Sri Lanka relations
In spite of cordial relations in the past, contemporary relations have been plagued by several developments that have created cordial relations between the two countries. The main factors contributing to the strained relations between the two countries are:
- Fisherman issue
- India's intervention in the Sri Lankan Civil War
- Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement
India Sri Lanka issue - Fisherman issue
The arrest of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan authorities on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Palk Strait and on the Sri Lankan side of the Gulf of Mannar has long been a problem of the Sri Lankan Navy firing on Indian fishing vessels. The catch from the Sri Lankan side is better both in terms of quality (high value prawns) and quantity. The issue started with Indian fishermen using mechanized trawlers, which deprived Sri Lankan fishermen (including Tamils) and damaged their fishing boats. The Sri Lankan government wants India to ban the use of mechanized trawlers in the Palk Strait region, and talks are on on the subject. So far, no concrete agreement has been reached as India favors regulating these trawlers rather than banning them outright. India Sri Lanka issue - Indian intervention in Sri Lankan civil war In the 1970s–1980s, Sri Lanka was plunged into a civil war with the Tigers of Tamil Eelam, separatist rebel forces on one side, the Sri Lanka-government on the other. It was also believed that some elements of the Research and Analysis Wing, one of the many central and investigative agencies in India, and private politicians were funding these rebels. India faced growing resentment against its Tamil population in 1987. The influx of refugees from Sri Lanka made matters worse. Therefore, India decided to intervene directly in the Sri Lankan civil war. The Tamils in the Jaffna region were supplied with an economic blockade and military strikes, despite military attacks and an economic blockade by the Sri Lankan government, and after several rounds of negotiations, India and Sri Lanka adopted an agreement, in addition, India was to send a peacekeeping force, named the IPKF, to oversee disarmament and ensure stability in the region. According to Indian foreign policy experts, Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan Civil War was inevitable as the civil war jeopardized India's "unity, national interest and territorial integrity". This threat appeared in two ways: on the one hand, external powers could take advantage of the situation to establish their base in Sri Lanka and thus pose a threat to India, the LTTE (known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers). is a separatist organization formally based in northern Sri Lanka.) The dream of a sovereign Tamil Eelam included all Tamils. The regions, including mainland India, posed a threat to the territorial integrity of India. The result was that the LTTE now engaged itself in a military conflict with the Indian Army. More than 1,000 Indian soldiers were killed in the clash between the LTTE and the Indian Army. The Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement, which was unpopular among Sri Lankans, to give India a major impact, is now The IPKF became a source of nationalist anger and outrage as the IPKF was completely drawn into the conflict. The Sri Lankans opposed the presence of the IPKF, and the newly elected Sri Lankans President Ranasinghe Premadasa demanded its withdrawal, which was completed by March 1990. on May 21, 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination and the LTTE was found guilty. As a result, India declared the LTTE as a terrorist organization in 1992. Bilateral relations improved in the 1990s and India supported the peace process but resisted calls to rejoin. The conflict officially ended on 19 May 2009, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivering a victory flag to the Parliament of Sri Lanka saying that "Sri Lanka is free from terrorism". LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was eliminated a day earlier on 18 May 2009. 80,000–100,000 on both sides were killed in the conflict and about 800,000 were internally displaced. India-Sri Lanka commercial relations Sri Lanka has long been a priority for direct investment from India. Sri Lanka is one of India's largest trading partners in SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). Trade between the two countries increased rapidly after the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement came into force in March 2000. According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade stood at US$4.93 billion in 2018.
- Exports from India to Sri Lanka stood at US$4.16 billion in 2018, while exports from Sri Lanka to India stood at US$767 million. The main items of export from Sri Lanka to India are: base oil, poultry feed, areca nuts, (waste and scrap) paper or paperboard, paper, ignition wiring sets, copper wire, marble, travertine and alabaster.
- India is one of the largest investors in Sri Lanka with a cumulative investment of around USD 1.239 billion. Investments are in various sectors including petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunications, hospitality and tourism, banking and food processing (tea and fruit juice), copper and other metal industries), tyres, cement, glass manufacturing, and Infrastructure development (railways, electricity, water supply).
India Sri Lanka - Development Cooperation Sri Lanka is one of the recipients of development assistance from the Government of India. India's overall commitment is close to $3 billion, of which about US$560 million is purely in grants. The Indian Housing Project, with an initial commitment to construct 50,000 homes for the war as well as affecting estate workers in plantation areas, is the flagship project of the Government of India's developmental assistance to Sri Lanka. With a total commitment of over Indian Rupees (INR) 1372 crores, it is one of the largest projects undertaken by the Government of India abroad. As of now, all the committed 46,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been completed.
India - Sri Lanka (Security Cooperation)
- Sri Lankan military personnel are trained by India.
- The joint military training exercise between the Indian Army and the Sri Lanka Army was conducted at the Foreign Training Node (FTN) in Pune from December 1 to 14, 2019. This military training exercise between Indian Army and Sri Lankan Army is known as 'Mitra Shakti'. 'Mitra Shakti 2019' was the 7th edition of joint military training between Indian and Sri Lankan Army.
- The focus was to achieve the desired level of interoperability and cohesiveness of troops through mutual exchange of operational experience and best practices from both India and Sri Lanka.
- India has exported military hardware to Sri Lanka.
- The 7th bilateral maritime exercise between the Indian Navy and the Sri Lankan Navy was held from 7 September 2019 to 12 September 2019. It was a 6 day joint exercise held off the coast of Visakhapatnam. The Indian Navy was represented by INS Khukri and the Navy's offshore patrol vessel INS Sumedha. The Sri Lankan Navy was represented by advanced offshore patrol vessels SLNS Sindhural and SLNS Suranimala. It is a regularly conducted maritime exercise between the Indian Navy and the Sri Lankan Navy, known as 'SLINEX'.
India-Sri Lanka Relations - Some Issues
- Sri Lanka handed over the strategic Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year lease. Although the Chinese had taken control of the port by projecting an image of commercial operations, the security establishment in India was concerned about China using the Hambantota port for military operations. In addition, Chinese submarines have been spotted at Hambantota Port.
- The joint venture with India to run the Matala Rajapakse International Airport has not progressed in the desired direction. Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is not far from Hambantota port, which is operated by China.
- Indian public sector undertaking National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) was to undertake the Sanapur Thermal Power Station project located in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. The project was canceled due to environmental issues.
- In January 2021, India sent a batch of 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka. The Indian High Commissioner in Colombo has described the island nation of Sri Lanka as its "first priority" partner in the defense sector and reiterated its assurance of full cooperation in the field of defense and security. This statement comes at a time when the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) is celebrating its 70th anniversary on 2 March.
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