QUESTION : Major issues of convergence and confrontation between India and Sri Lanka? Examine.
Topic- REPEAL AND REFORM
- Sri Lanka’s New Constitution
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (elected in 2019), while addressing the inaugural session of the Parliament, said that Sri Lanka will draft a new Constitution and abolish the 19th Amendment that curtailed the powers of the President and strengthened the role of Parliament.
19th AMENDMENT (SRI LANKA) :
- Sri Lankan government has granted approval to abolish the 19th amendment to the constitution and replace it with the 20th amendment.
- It sought not only to clip the President’s executive powers, but also to strengthen independence of key pillars such as the judiciary, public service and elections.
- It prevented dual citizens from contesting elections. At the time, two of the Rajapaksa family members including the current president were dual citizens of the USA and Sri Lanka.
- Its abolishment will strengthen Rajapaksa’s grip on power because the country will return to its previous constitutional status, in which the President could appoint officials for the police, judiciary and public service and dissolve Parliament anytime after one year.
NEW CONSTITUTION :
- The President said that the new Constitution would prioritise the concept of “one country, one law for all the people.”
- Sri Lanka’s constitution has been changed 19 times from 1978, creating a lot of uncertainties and confusion.
- Changes will be made to ensure the stability of Parliament and people’s direct representation, while retaining the salutary aspects of the proportional representation system.
- Rights activists see the planned changes to the Constitution as an attempt to further empower the SLPP and the Rajpaksha brothers’ mainly Buddhist – Sinhalese speaking electorate.
INDIA-SRI LANKA RELATIONS :
- Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has signed an agreement for extending a USD 400 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka to boost the foreign reserves and ensure financial stability of the country, which is badly hit by Covid-19 pandemic.
- Earlier, India assisted Sri Lanka by sending four consignments of essential medicines and equipment in the month of April and May 2020 to fight the pandemic.
DIPLOMATIC COOPERATION :
- A notable diplomatic event in the recent past was our Indian Prime Minister’s address to the Sri Lankan parliament in 2015
- India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was established in 1992. The commission facilitates discussions relating to bilateral affairs of both the countries.
- India and Sri Lanka signed a civilian nuclear energy deal in 2015. The agreement aims at cooperation to explore nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
FISHERMEN ISSUE :
- The constant and frequent issue of fisherman and recently Indian fishermen were picked up by the Sri Lankan Navy. The fishermen dispute is inevitable between neighbours. Indian Fishermen entering Sri Lankan water is not with any particular intention. What is important is that the two governments and the fishermen associations of both the sides must take care of these incidents and can be contained.
- Both countries have signed an MOU to equip the fishermen and give them nets and necessary things to help them carry out their trade better and more peacefully.
ECONOMIC COOPERATION :
- India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2010. India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner.
- India is the source of one of the largest foreign direct investments in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is also a potential source of foreign investment in India.
DEFENCE AND SECURITY COOPERATION :
- Colombo and New Delhi have long history of security cooperation. In recent years, the two sides have steadily increased their military-to-military relationship.
- India and Sri Lanka conducts joint Military (‘Mitra Shakti’) and Naval exercise (SLINEX).
- India also provides defence training to Sri Lankan forces.
- A trilateral maritime security cooperation agreement was signed by India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to improve surveillance, anti-piracy operations and reducing maritime pollution in Indian Ocean Region.
- In April 2019, India and Sri Lanka also concluded agreement on countering Drug and Human trafficking.
- In the aftermath of the horrific Easter bombings, Sri Lankan Prime Minister thanked the Indian government for all the “help” given.
DEVELOPMENTAL ASSISTANCE :
- The war between Sri Lankan Government and LTTE came to an end in 2009. The armed conflict led to many casualties and internal displacement
- As an immediate response India provided all war relief measures including food, medicine etc.
- As a long term measure, India announced reconstruction of 50000 houses to provide shelter to Internally Displaced People
CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL COOPERATION :
- India and Sri Lanka signed a cultural cooperation agreement back in 1977
- India Sri Lanka foundation was setup in 1998. It aims at technical, scientific, cultural and educational cooperation by engaging civil society organizations of both the countries
- India cultural centre in Colombo promotes Indian culture by providing courses in Indian music, dance, yoga etc.
- India provides scholarships to qualified Sri Lankan students in Undergraduate and research studies
- Sri Lanka is also a partner in Nalanda university project of India
- India and Sri Lanka commemorated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhathva Jayanthi) through joint activities.
DEVELOPMENTS IN SRI LANKA :
- Sri Lanka has progressed in the Health sector. When they became independent, they were supposed to be one of the worst affected regions affected by malaria. Now they are declared malaria free. This is a lesson to be learnt for India.
- Social development indicators are quite high in literacy, health indicators, etc. They have made considerable progress.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RELATIONS :
- India shares a common cultural and security space with the countries in the South Asian region especially Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers.
- India needs the support of Sri Lanka to emerge as a Blue water navy in the Indian Ocean and also in pursuing the permanent membership in United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
- China’s string of pearl’s strategy is aimed at encircling India to establish dominance in the Indian Ocean.
- The Rajapaksa brothers have not paid that much attention to India’s entreaties after the civil war ended to devolve more powers to Tamil areas.
- Sri Lanka’s new ruling clan is sharply aware of India’s troubles with China on the LAC and in the region. The Rajapaksas will continue using China as a counter-weight to India.
WAY FORWARD :
- For Sri Lanka, the Constitution-making process of the new Government shall strengthen Sri Lanka’s democracy and provide an inclusive platform for the country to achieve prosperity for all.
- For India, it should push for the reconciliation efforts for the Tamils in Sri Lanka while remaining sensitive to Sri Lanka’s security concerns.
- As both countries have a democratic setup there is scope for broadening and deepening the ties.
- Both countries should try to work out a permanent solution to the issue of fishermen through bilateral engagements.
- Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) must be signed to improve the economic cooperation between both countries .
- India needs to focus more on its traditional and cultural ties to improve relations with Sri Lanka.
- Starting of ferry services between India and Sri Lanka can improve people to people linkages.
- Mutual recognition of each other’s concerns and interests can improve the relationship between both countries.