[Editorial Analysis] A message to Colombo

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: India-Sri Lankas relations
Mains level: India and its neighbourhood relations

Context:

• Indian External Affairs Minister visited to Sri Lanka for three days. It is important for what was achieved in political and diplomatic messaging by both sides.

Issues:

• 13th Amendment: India reminded in Colombo that the 13th Amendment is essential to ethnic reconciliation but Sri Lanka is calling for its scrapping. The cancellation of elections to the provincial councils, apparently due to a spike in COVID- 19 cases, is being viewed as a first step towards this end.

• 2019 agreement: India’s other challenge in Sri Lanka at this point is to operationalise a 2019 agreement to develop along with Japan a container terminal at Colombo Port, where China has a controlling stake in the adjoining Colombo International Container Terminal.

• The India-Japan-Sri Lanka agreement had triggered a strike at the port which was resolved after assurance that it would not be handed over to foreign developers and not to let the port fall victim to geopolitical rivalries in the Indian Ocean.

Demands from Sri Lanka:

• It wants supplies of the anti-COVID vaccine. Its other request for a $1 bn currency swap has been pending since last year.

• India has already said it will prioritise vaccine supplies to its neighbours and should have no problem in accepting Sri Lanka’s request quickly on humanitarian grounds — it can only help Delhi’s image in that country. As for the currency swap, its use as a bargaining chip can last only as long as Colombo does not look elsewhere for help.

India-Sri Lankas relations:

• Recently, the free ambulance service, launched in 2016 by India, proves crucial in the Sri Lanka’s response to the COVID-19 virus.

• The 4th meeting under Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries was also held between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka to find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue.

Why Sri Lanka is important for India?

• Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to India.

• It has a list of highly strategic ports located among busiest sea lanes of communication.

• It is a member of regional groupings like SAARC and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) in which India plays a leading role.

• It is one of India’s largest trading partners among the SAARC countries. India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.

• According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade in 2018 amounted to US $ 4.93 billion. Exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2018 were US$ 4.16billion, while exports from Sri Lanka to India are US$ 767 million.

• Development Cooperation with India, Sri Lanka is among the major recipients of development assistance from the Government of India. India’s overall commitment stands close to US$ 3 billion, out of which around US$ 560 million are purely in grants

• Third and fourth International Day of Yoga (IDY) was celebrated at iconic Independence Square in Colombo.

• People to people contact, the first ever pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya for Sri Lankan Armed Forces personnel and their families was organised from 24-26 June 2018.

• The shallow waters of the Palk Bay and geographical contiguity between India and Sri Lanka impotent for security and regional stability.

Conclusion:

• The success of diplomacy lies in converting a crisis into an opportunity, they can create a win-win scenario for both on issue like the Palk Bay, Fisherman’s concerns, and 13th Amendment This amendment also made Sinhala and Tamil as the official languages of the country and English as the “link language”.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Indian Institute of Skills, consider the following statements:

1. The institute is a joint initiative between Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Government of India and Tata Indian Institute of Skills.

2. It is located in Nagpur.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

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