• India
  • Jun 21
  • Kevin Savio Antony

Jaishankar holds talks with Sri Lanka’s top leadership

External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe held bilateral discussions, where joint energy projects, including a proposed petroleum pipeline linking the two countries, took centre stage.

Highlights of the talks:

• The two leaders focused on initiatives aimed at enhancing energy connectivity and developing the renewable energy sector.

• Significant attention was given to plans for a Liquified Natural Gas supply, a proposed petroleum pipeline linking the two countries, and advancing oil and gas exploration projects.

• It was announced that construction of the solar power plant in the eastern district of Trincomalee is set to commence next month.

• The discussions also covered projects supported by the Indian government to enhance Sri Lanka’s liquid milk industry and fertiliser production.

• Jaishankar and Wickremesinghe also discussed India’s support for developing Trincomalee and expanding the Kankesanthurai port in the north.

• The ongoing development of Jaffna Airport and Colombo Airport with Indian assistance was also a key topic, alongside the acceleration of Sri Lanka’s unique digital identity card project, marking a significant step towards the country’s digitisation efforts.

• A highlight of the engagement was the formal commissioning of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), comprising a main centre in Colombo and a sub-centre in Hambantota, the location of the Chinese-funded port.

India-Sri Lanka Relations

1) Ancient Roots and Cultural Kinship

• The story of India and Sri Lanka is a tapestry woven through millennia, marked by deep cultural, religious, and trade ties. 

• These bonds have transcended generations, with many Sri Lankans tracing their lineage back to India. 

• Buddhism, a pivotal religion in Sri Lanka, originated in India, further cementing their spiritual connection.

2) A Helping Hand in Times of Crisis

• In 2022, Sri Lanka faced an economic calamity, the worst since its independence in 1948, driven by a critical shortage of foreign exchange reserves. India stepped in with a lifeline, providing around $4 billion in aid, crucial for Sri Lanka’s survival during this unprecedented crisis.

3) Debt Restructuring and Financial Support

• India took a proactive role in assisting Sri Lanka with its debt restructuring. 

• Collaborating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors, India became the first country to issue a letter of support for financing and restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt, highlighting its commitment to its neighbor's financial stability.

4) A Vision of Connectivity

• India and Sri Lanka share a joint vision for comprehensive connectivity. 

• This includes fostering people to people connectivity, enhancing cooperation in renewable energy, improving logistics and port connectivity, and developing grid connectivity for electricity trade.

5) Maritime Neighbours

• As significant Indian Ocean countries, India and Sri Lanka’s relationship is crucial within the broader regional and maritime context. Their strategic cooperation ensures stability and security in the Indian Ocean Region.

6) Green Energy Collaborations

• Indian companies are at the forefront of developing renewable energy projects in Sri Lanka’s northeast, marking a new chapter in their energy collaboration. This move underscores their commitment to sustainable development and environmental stewardship.

7) Towards Economic Integration

• Explorations are underway for an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) between the two nations. 

• This agreement aims to integrate their economies more closely, fostering mutual development and prosperity.

8) Petroleum Pipeline Project

• A landmark agreement between India and Sri Lanka has set the stage for a multi-product petroleum pipeline from southern India to Sri Lanka. 

• This pipeline is envisioned to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of energy resources to Sri Lanka, recognising the critical role of energy in economic growth.

9) Fintech and Trade Innovations

• In a significant stride towards fintech connectivity, Sri Lanka has adopted India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI). 

• The use of the Indian rupee for trade settlement is another step forward, aiding Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and growth.

10) Thriving Economic Ties

• India stands as Sri Lanka’s third-largest export destination, with over 60 per cent of Sri Lanka’s exports benefiting from the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. 

• India has also been a major investor, contributing around $1.7 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from 2005 to 2019.

11) Strengthening Defence Cooperation

• The defence relationship between India and Sri Lanka is robust, featuring joint military exercises like Mitra Shakti and naval exercises such as SLINEX, enhancing their strategic and operational synergy.

12) Collaborative Groupings

• Sri Lanka’s participation in groupings like BIMSTEC and SAARC, where India plays a leading role, further strengthens their cooperative framework, addressing regional challenges and opportunities together.

13) Tourism: A Gateway to People-to-People Ties

• Tourism is a vibrant aspect of their relationship, with India being the largest source of tourists to Sri Lanka in 2022, with over 100,000 Indian tourists exploring Sri Lankan shores.

(The author is a trainer for Civil Services aspirants.)