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India – Sri Lanka bilateral relations

India – Sri Lanka bilateral relations


India-Sri Lanka relations also referred to Indian-Sri Lankan relations or Indo-Sri Lanka relations, are the bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka. Only 4% of Sri Lankans have a negative view on India, the lowest of all the countries surveyed by the Ipsos GlobalScan. The two countries are also close on economic terms with India being the island’s largest trading partner and an agreement to establish a proto single market also under discussion at an advanced stage. There are deep racial and cultural links between the two countries.

India and Sri Lanka share a maritime border. India is the only neighbour of Sri Lanka, separated by the Palk Strait; both nations occupy a strategic position in South Asia and have sought to build a common security umbrella in the Indian Ocean. Both India and Sri Lanka are republics within the Commonwealth of Nations.

In recent years Sri Lanka has moved closer to China, especially in terms of naval agreements. India has however signed a nuclear energy deal to improve relations with Sri Lanka in 2015.

Development Cooperation

India is active in a number of areas of development activity in Sri Lanka. About one-sixth of the total development credit granted by India is made available to Sri Lanka.

In the recent past, three lines of credit were extended to Sri Lanka: US$100 million for capital goods, consumer durables, consultancy services and food items, US$31 million for the supply of 300,000 MT of wheat and US$150 million for purchase of petroleum products. All of the lines of credit have been fully used. Another line of credit of US$100 million is now being made available for rehabilitation of the Colombo-Matara railway.

A number of developmental projects are implemented under the aid to Sri Lanka funds. In 2006–07, the budget for the aid to Sri Lanka was Rs 28.2 Crs. A memorandum of understanding on Cooperation in Small Development Projects has been signed. Projects for providing fishing equipment to the fishermen in the East of Sri Lanka and solar energy aided computer education in 25 rural schools in Eastern Sri Lanka are under consideration.

India has supplied medical equipment to hospitals at Hambantota and Point Pedro, supplied 4 state-of-the- art ambulances to the Central Province, implemented a cataract eye surgery programme for 1500 people in the Central Province and implemented a project of renovation of OT at Dickoya hospital and supplying equipment to it.

The projects under consideration are the construction of a 150-bed hospital at Dickoya, upgrading of the hospital at Trincomalee and a US$7.5 million grant for setting up a cancer hospital in Colombo. India also contributes to the Ceylon Workers Education Trust that gives scholarships to the children of estate workers.

A training programme for 465 Sri Lankan Police officers has been commenced in Dec 2005. Another 400 Sri Lankan Police personnel are being trained for the course of Maintenance of Public Order.

Indian governments have also showed interest in collaborating with their Sri Lankan counterparts on building tourism between the two countries based on shared religious heritage.

The Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Chauhan in June 2013 stated that he was working with Sri Lankan authorities to build a temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Sita in Nuwara Eliya. In November 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that India will invest $400 million in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka amid improving ties after the talks with Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It was also stated that it will lend Sri Lanka $400 million for infrastructure projects, India-Sri Lanka border crossings.


Commercial ties

The two countries share near-identical racial and cultural ties. Sinhalese people who make up 75% of the total population descend from Northern Indian. Indo Aryan settlers also migrated to the Island from 543BCE to 243BCE. Tamil people (included Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Moors) who make up for 25% of the total population belong to the Dravidian group who migrated to the island from 300BC.

Shared Tourism

In the past, ferry services for tourists have been introduced and suspended repeatedly because of their low usage. The low usage of the old ferry services could be due to the high cost of the former services. As of now, the only way for tourists to access India from Sri Lanka is by air. In 2019 negotiations about ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and between Talaimannar and Rameshwaram began.

There is also a proposal to operate a cruise/ferry service between Colombo and Kochi in Kerala. The Indian and Sri Lankan governments are working close together to connect the two neighboring countries better. The Sri Lankan minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga indicates that a ferry service will help tourists from both sides to travel at a very low cost.

To know more about bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka, please download our booklet.

To know more about India – Sri Lanka, DTAA, please download our guide.

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