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India to Fund Port Development in Sri Lanka

GS-2 Mains : IR 

Revision Notes 

Question : Discuss the significance of India’s funding of the renovation of Kankesanthurai Port in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. Highlight the broader implications of this project on India-Sri Lanka relations.

Project

  • Renovation of Kankesanthurai Port in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province
  • Funded by India at a cost of USD 61.5 million
  • Location:
    • 104 kilometers (56 nautical miles) from Karaikal Port in Pondicherry, India
    • 111 kilometers (60 nautical miles) from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, India to Kankesanthurai port near Jaffna, Sri Lanka (travel time: 3.5 hours)

Background

  • Project delayed due to high estimated costs
  • India and Sri Lanka discussed Public Private Partnership (PPP) model for completion
  • Indian government decided to grant the entire project cost due to its importance

India’s Assistance to Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka’s economic crisis led them to seek immediate relief from India
  • As part of ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India provided Sri Lanka with:
    • ~USD 3.5 billion in aid for food, health, and energy security
    • Consignment of diesel to ease fuel shortage
    • Additional USD 500 million credit line for fuel imports

India-Sri Lanka Relations

  • Strong economic, cultural, and security ties

Trade Relations

  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) signed in 2000 boosted trade
  • India is one of Sri Lanka’s largest trading partners (SAARC)
  • India is a major source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for Sri Lanka

Cultural Relations

  • Cultural Cooperation Agreement (1977) facilitates cultural exchange programs

Tourism

  • India is the largest source of tourists for Sri Lanka

Maritime Security and Defence Cooperation

  • Colombo Security Conclave (2011) promotes maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region
  • Joint military exercises: ‘Mitra Shakti,’ ‘Dosti,’ and ‘SLINEX’

Connectivity Projects

  • Vision document to enhance maritime, energy, and people-to-people connectivity
  • Cooperation in developing ports and logistics infrastructure at Colombo, Trincomalee, and Kankesanthurai
  • Plans for a land bridge to connect India to Sri Lankan ports (Trincomalee & Colombo)

Multilateral Cooperation

  • Collaboration in regional organizations (SAARC, BIMSTEC) for cultural and commercial ties

Areas of Concern in India-Sri Lanka Relations

  • The Fishermen Issue
    • Sri Lankan proximity to Indian waters leads to fishing disputes
    • Joint Working Group on Fisheries (JWG) established in 2016 to find solutions
  • Indian Ocean Geopolitics
    • Indian Ocean (IOR) is strategically important for major powers due to trade routes
    • Sri Lanka is concerned about US-China-India competition in the IOR
  • Rise of China
    • China’s growing investment in IOR ports worries India
    • Lack of transparency and potential military use of Chinese ports are security concerns for India
    • Sri Lanka assures India there is no foul play
  • Sri Lankan Perception of India
    • Some Sri Lankans fear Indian dominance over their territory

Way Ahead

  • Both countries recognize the importance of good relations
  • Sri Lanka’s economic crisis led India to provide aid, while China did not
  • India’s challenge is balancing its interests with Sri Lanka’s
  • Both countries seem to be managing strategic pressures despite differing foreign policies

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