India – Sri Lanka Relations

India Sri Lanka Relations UPSC

India’s relations with her neighbours are an important part of the International Relations syllabus of the UPSC exam. In this article, you can read about the relations between India and her southern neighbour Sri Lanka for the IAS mains exam.

India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour. 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 intercourse. Relations between the two countries have also matured and diversified with the passage of time, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance. The shared cultural and civilizational heritage of the two countries and the extensive people to people interaction of their citizens provide the foundation to build a multi-faceted partnership. 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.

India Sri Lanka Relations Essay

Conflict Zones The main factors which have contributed to the strained relations between the two countries are –

Peace Process: India has deep interest in peace and stability in Sri. Peace in Sri Lanka can only contribute to the further deepening and expansion of Indo-Sri Lankan ties to mutual advantage. The Government of India is committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and to the restoration of a lasting peace through a peaceful, negotiated settlement that meets the just aspirations of all communities.

The Fishermen issue: Arrest of Indian fishermen on the Sri Lankan side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar by Sri Lankan authorities has been a long-standing problem. The catch on the Sri Lankan side is better both in terms of quality (high-value prawns) and quantity.

The Kachativu Issue: Kachativu, meaning of ‘barren island’ lies about 15 km from Rameswaram and 20 km north of Neduntivu off the Jaffna peninsula and is just 1.5 km from the International Boundary Line in Sri Lankan waters after the 1974 agreement. The windswept, desolate 112 hectares has very little plant or animal life. Its only man-made structure is a church, dedicated to St. Antony. The Island’s importance stems from the fact that the sea around it is rich in white and brown prawns and other varieties of fish. After a good catch, fishermen from Rameswaram used to rest and dry their nets there. While Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) claimed that Kachativu belonged to it because the Portuguese and later the British rulers of Sri Lanka exercised jurisdiction over it from Colombo, India argued the island formed part of the zamin of the Raja of Ramanathapuram. Though the dispute erupted now and then in the late 1960s, it figured for the first time at the highest level when Prime Minister, Kumaratunga’s visit to New Delhi on the last week of December, 1998. Negotiating teams had been at work on the pact since the middle of December, without clinching every detail of it. At one stage External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh urged the teams to go that extra mile to uphold the principle of free trade.

The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in May 2009. 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, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE. The conclusion of the armed conflict saw the emergence of a major humanitarian challenge, with nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians housed in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Government of India put in place a robust programme of assistance to help these IDPs return to normal life as quickly as possible. The last few years have also witnessed an increasing trend of Sri Lankan investments into India. Significant examples include Ceylon Biscuits (Munchee brand), Carsons Cumberbatch (Carlsberg), Brandix (about US$ 1 billion to set up a garment city in Vishakapatnam), MAS holdings, John Keels, Hayleys, and Aitken Spence (Hotels), apart from other investments in the freight servicing and logistics sector. The need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the ethnic issue has been reiterated by India at the highest levels. India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and which is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights. The Government of Sri Lanka has conveyed its assurance that political proposals building on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution will be discussed with the Tamil leadership of the country. The India-Sri Lanka Foundation, set up in December 1998 as an intergovernmental initiative, also promotes greater understanding between the peoples of the two countries, including through enhancement of scientific, technical, educational and cultural cooperation. The Foundation focuses especially on the promotion of civil society cooperation and enhancing contact between the younger generations of the two countries. With a view to this, the Foundation has supported a number of student exchange programmes and activities at the school and university levels. It has also promoted the pursuit of higher studies as well as research in both countries, besides supporting a variety of cultural performances and programmes. Given the proximity of the territorial waters of both countries, especially in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar, incidents of straying of fishermen are common. Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bonafide fishermen of either side crossing the IMBL. Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner. India and Sri Lanka also enjoy a growing defence relationship built on extensive training and Service-to-Service linkages. The commonality of concerns of both countries, including with respect to the safety and security of their sea lanes of communication, informs their bilateral exchanges in this field. Today, the India-Sri Lanka relationship is strong and poised for a quantum jump by building on the rich legacy of historical linkages and strong economic and development partnerships that have been forged in recent years.

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