[Answered] “Despite of deep ties, India and Sri Lanka have seen some unpleasantness in bilateral relations in contemporary times.”. Discuss.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Relations with Sri-lanka and various issues.
Conclusion. Way forward.

The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old.

Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. The relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, education, culture and defence. But there are times when relations between two countries hit a blow.

Relations with Sri-Lanka:

  1. Cultural Relations: The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) who have settled down in Sri Lanka and are engaged in various business ventures. The Cultural Cooperation Agreement has been signed between both the countries. The Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo actively promotes awareness of Indian culture by offering classes in Indian music, dance, Hindi, and Yoga. Every year, cultural troops from both countries exchange visits. Buddhism is a connecting link between India and Sri Lanka on religious lines.
  2. Education: Education is another important area of cooperation between India and Sri Lanka. India offers scholarship slots annually to deserving Sri Lankan students.
  3. Tourism: Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka. India is the largest source of market for Sri Lankan tourism.
  4. Trade Relations: Sri Lanka is India’s second largest trading partner in SAARC. India and Sri Lanka signed FTA in 1998, which facilitated increased trade relations between the two countries.
  5. Defence and Security Cooperation: Sri Lanka 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.

Issues and Conflicts In India-Srilanka relations:

  1. Strategic Issues: In the period of low profile relationship between the two nations, SL apparently started favouring China over India. The presence of China in Sri Lanka increased significantly in the recent years. As part of Maritime Silk Route (MSR) policy, China built two ports, one in Colombo and another in Hambantota. China has also collaborated in satellite launching activities with Supreme SAT (Pvt.), Sri Lanka’s only satellite operator.
  2. Fisherman Problem: Fishing disputes have been a constant area of concern between the two South Asian neighbours for a long time. Sri Lanka has long expressed concerns about illegal fishing by Indian fishermen within its territorial waters across the Palk Strait. The country regularly arrests Indian fishermen for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates Indian and Sri Lankan waters. India also detains Sri Lankan fishermen for the illegal fishing.
  3. Katchatheevu Island: It is an uninhabited island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 based on a conditional agreement called “Katchatheevu island pact”. The central government recognises Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the island as per the 1974 accord. But Tamil Nadu claimed that Katchatheevu falls under the Indian territory and Tamil fishermen have traditionally believed that it belongs to them and therefore want to preserve the right to fish there.

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. 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 .

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