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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 06 May, 2021

  • 18 Min Read

India – Sri Lanka issues

India – Sri Lanka issues

  • The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu — one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India — allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance of the unresolved fisheries conflict in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives.
  • India has lodged a strong protest with the Sri Lankan authorities, who have set up a committee to find a permanent solution to the incursions by Indian fishermen.
  • It was less than a month ago that the two countries resumed discussions through their Joint Working Group on fisheries after a three-year gap. India sought the early release of fishermen arrested in Sri Lankan waters, as well as the boats in Sri Lankan custody.
  • Sri Lanka underscored the need to curb illegal fishing, which adversely affects the livelihood of its war-affected fishermen.
  • When the two sides decided to create a joint working group some years ago, they had agreed that there would be no violence or loss of life in the handling of the fishermen and that a hotline would be established between the respective Coast Guards. It is unfortunate that the hotline is yet to be operationalised, and deaths continue to occur.
  • The humanitarian approach that has been expected to be the cornerstone of the approach to this conflict has not always been discernible.
  • The plan to wean away Tamil Nadu fishermen from the tendency to exploit the remaining fishery resources on the Sri Lankan side by replacing their trawlers with deep sea fishing vessels has not really taken off.
  • Attempts to forge a negotiated settlement through direct talks involving fishermen from both sides have also reached a stalemate.
  • Sri Lanka favours joint patrolling by both countries, and a ban on unsustainable fishing practices by Tamil Nadu fishermen — such as bottom trawling — but the latter want a lengthy phase-out period.
  • Political leaders in Tamil Nadu rarely acknowledge that the State’s fishermen contribute immensely to the problem by crossing territorial waters.
  • Nor is there sufficient recognition that the incursion into Sri Lankan waters is driven by trawler owners who force their poor employees to do so, who then get killed or arrested, leading to the festering conflict.
  • So far there has not been enough political resolve to end this conflict.

What is the solution?

  • A comprehensive solution, one that would severely curtail unauthorised fishing and help in an orderly sharing of and sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides, is long overdue.

India – Sri Lanka relationship

Historical relations

  • The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. It started from the time of the Mauryan Empire when Ashoka sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka to propagate Buddhism. It continued in Chola Empire when Rajaraja Chola first time started to conquer Sri Lanka or Ceylon and Rajendra Chola (his son) conquered Ceylon.
  • Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
  • In recent years, significant progress in the implementation of developmental assistance projects has further cemented the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka is located in the geostrategic zone of the Indian zone where all the major powers are converging in the 21st century.
  • It is located at the centre of the geopolitics of the USA through its Pivot towards Asia policy, China through Belt and Road Initiative and Japan through Asia Africa Growth Corridor.
  • China is building state-of-the-art gigantic modern ports all along the Indian Ocean to the south of it, in Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh, Kyauk Peru (Myanmar) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka). China is using Sri Lanka as a tool to encircle India through the Maritime Silk Road Initiative and the erstwhile String of Pearl Strategy.
  • Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port is the 25th busiest container port in the world and the natural deep-water harbour at Trincomalee is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world.

Importance of Sri Lanka for India

  • Sri Lanka is the nearest maritime neighbour of India. Hence in the situation where all the major powers are trying to pluck the low-hanging fruits of the Indian Ocean, the dominance of India in the Indian Ocean region is a must.
  • Sri Lanka is a member of regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC in which India plays a leading role.
  • Sri Lanka is important to neutralize efforts of China and OBOR in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • It is also important for cooperation in Terrorism and in the sphere of maritime security and surveillance.
  • Recently, India helped Sri Lanka in providing various medicines for COVID-19 and we are also sending them COVID-19 vaccines as a Confidence Building measure and India’s principle of Vasudeva Kutumbakam.
  • Recently, India has invited leaders of BIMSTEC member countries to attend the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers. This is in line with the government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
  • Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading partners among the SAARC countries. India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.
  • India is a net exporter to Sri Lanka. India’s exports to Sri Lanka amounted to $5.3 billion in 2015-17 whereas its imports from the country were at $743 million.
  • Trade grew especially after India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement which came into force in March 2000. Sri Lanka was the 1st country to sign FTA with India (Prelims Pointer).

India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA)

  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) was signed in 1998 and entered into force in March 2000.
  • The basic premise in signing the ISFTA was asymmetries between the two economies, local socio-economic sensitivities, safeguard measures to protect domestic interests, and revenue implications so as not to impact high revenue generating tariff lines in the short term.
  • In order to receive ISFTA benefits, the merchandise exported between India and Sri Lanka should comply with the Rules of Origin criteria.
  • The agreement CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) which is yet to be signed between the countries, seeks to build on the momentum generated by the FTA and take the two economies beyond trade in goods towards greater integration and impart renewed impetus and synergy to bilateral economic interaction.
  • The investments are in diverse areas including petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunication, hospitality & tourism, banking and food processing (tea & fruit juices), metal industries, tires, cement, glass manufacturing, and infrastructure development (railway, power, water supply).

  • Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka and India is the largest source market for Sri Lankan tourism. In tourism, India is the largest contributor with every fifth tourist being from India.
  • The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the two Governments on 29 November 1977, forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries.
  • The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) comprise Sindhis, Borahs, Gujaratis, Memons, Parsis, Malayalis and Telugu-speaking persons who have settled down in Sri Lanka (most of them after partition) and are engaged in various business ventures.
  • India and Sri Lanka conduct joint Military ( 'Mitra Shakti') and Naval exercises (SLINEX). – (Prelims Pointers)
  • 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

China angle

  • China’s relationship with Sri Lanka has been a challenge for India for years. In recent years, China has extended billions of dollars of loans to the Sri Lankan government for new infrastructure projects, which is not good for India’s strategic depth in Indian Ocean Region.
  • Sri Lanka also handed over the strategic port of Hambantota, which is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to China on a 99-year lease.
  • China has also supplied arms as well as provide huge loans to Sri Lanka for its development.
  • China also invested sufficiently in the infrastructure of Sri Lanka, which included the building of the Colombo international container terminal by China Harbor Corporation.

Fishermen issue

  • 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.
  • Indian boats have been fishing in the troubled waters for centuries and had a free run of the Bay of Bengal, Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar until 1974 and 1976 when treaties were signed between the two countries to demarcate International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
  • However, the treaties failed to factor in the hardship of thousands of traditional fishermen who were forced to restrict themselves to a meagre area in their fishing forays.
  • The small islet of Katchatheevu, hitherto used by them for sorting their catch and drying their nets, fell on the other side of the IMBL.
  • Fishermen often risk their lives and cross the IMBL rather than return empty-handed, but the Sri Lankan Navy is on alert, and has either arrested or destroyed fishing nets and vessels of those who have crossed the line.
  • Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bona fide fishermen of either side crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line.
  • Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of the detention of fishermen in a humane manner.
  • India and Sri Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka as the mechanism to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue.

However, the relationship between Sri Lanka and India is improving.

  • In order to allay Indian concerns that the Hambantota port will not be used for military purposes, the Sri Lankan government has sought to limit China’s role in running commercial operations at the port while it retains oversight of security operations.
  • The two countries have signed civil nuclear cooperation agreement which is Sri Lanka’s first nuclear partnership with any country.
  • India is also investing in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure development in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
  • India is also planning to build Trincomalee Port to counterweight the Chinese developments at Hambantota Port.

Way Forward

  • 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.
  • A 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 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.

Source: TH

  • 25 January, 2021

  • 18 Min Read

India – Sri Lanka issues

India – Sri Lanka issues

  • The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu — one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India — allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance of the unresolved fisheries conflict in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives.
  • India has lodged a strong protest with the Sri Lankan authorities, who have set up a committee to find a permanent solution to the incursions by Indian fishermen.
  • It was less than a month ago that the two countries resumed discussions through their Joint Working Group on fisheries after a three-year gap. India sought the early release of fishermen arrested in Sri Lankan waters, as well as the boats in Sri Lankan custody.
  • Sri Lanka underscored the need to curb the illegal fishing, which adversely affects the livelihood of its war-affected fishermen.
  • When the two sides decided to create a joint working group some years ago, they had agreed that there would be no violence or loss of life in the handling of the fishermen and that a hotline would be established between the respective Coast Guards. It is unfortunate that the hotline is yet to be operationalised, and deaths continue to occur.
  • The humanitarian approach that has been expected to be the cornerstone of the approach to this conflict has not always been discernible.
  • The plan to wean away Tamil Nadu fishermen from the tendency to exploit the remaining fishery resources on the Sri Lankan side by replacing their trawlers with deep sea fishing vessels has not really taken off.
  • Attempts to forge a negotiated settlement through direct talks involving fishermen from both sides have also reached a stalemate.
  • Sri Lanka favours joint patrolling by both countries, and a ban on unsustainable fishing practices by Tamil Nadu fishermen — such as bottom trawling — but the latter want a lengthy phase-out period.
  • Political leaders in Tamil Nadu rarely acknowledge that the State’s fishermen contribute immensely to the problem by crossing territorial waters.
  • Nor is there sufficient recognition that the incursion into Sri Lankan waters is driven by trawler owners who force their poor employees to do so, who then get killed or arrested, leading to the festering conflict.
  • So far there has not been enough political resolve to end this conflict.

What is the solution?

  • A comprehensive solution, one that would severely curtail unauthorised fishing and help in an orderly sharing of and sustainable use of resources by fishermen from both sides, is long overdue.

India – Sri Lanka relationship

Historical relations

  • The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. It started from the time of Mauryan Empire when Ashoka sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka to propagate Buddhism. It continued in Chola Empire when Rajaraja Chola first time started to conquer Sri Lanka or Ceylon and Rajendra Chola (his son) conquered the Ceylon.
  • Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
  • In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects has further cemented the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

Geopolitical Significance of Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka is located in the geostrategic zone of the Indian zone where all the major powers are converging in the 21st century.
  • It is located at the centre of the geopolitics of the USA through its Pivot towards Asia policy, China through Belt and Road Initiative and Japan through Asia Africa Growth Corridor.
  • China is building state-of-the-art gigantic modern ports all along the Indian Ocean to the south of it, in Gwadar (Pakistan), Chittagong (Bangladesh, Kyauk Peru (Myanmar) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka). China is using Sri Lanka as a tool to encircle India through the Maritime Silk Road Initiative and the erstwhile String of Pearl Strategy.
  • Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port is the 25th busiest container port in the world and the natural deep water harbor at Trincomalee is the fifth largest natural harbour in the world.

Importance of Sri Lanka for India

  • Sri Lanka is the nearest maritime neighbour of India. Hence in the situation where all the major powers are trying to pluck the low-hanging fruits of the Indian Ocean, the dominance of India in the Indian Ocean region is a must.
  • Sri Lanka is a member of regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC in which India plays a leading role.
  • Sri Lanka is important to neutralising the efforts of China and OBOR in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • It is also important for cooperation in Terrorism and in the sphere of maritime security and surveillance.
  • Recently, India helped Sri Lanka in providing various medicines of COVID-19 and we are also sending them COVID-19 vaccines as a Confidence Building measure and India’s principle of Vasudeva Kutumbakam.
  • Recently, India has invited leaders of BIMSTEC member countries to attend the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers. This is in line with the government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First policy.
  • Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading partners among the SAARC countries. India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.
  • India is a net exporter to Sri Lanka. India’s exports to Sri Lanka amounted to $5.3 billion in 2015-17 whereas its imports from the country were at $743 million.
  • Trade grew especially after India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement which came into force in March 2000. Sri Lanka was the 1st country to sign FTA with India (Prelims Pointer).

India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA)

  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) was signed in 1998 and entered into force in March 2000.
  • The basic premise in signing the ISFTA was asymmetries between the two economies, local socio-economic sensitivities, safeguard measures to protect domestic interests, and revenue implications so as not to impact high revenue generating tariff lines in the short term.
  • In order to receive ISFTA benefits, the merchandise exported between India and Sri Lanka should comply with the Rules of Origin criteria.
  • The agreement CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) which is yet to be signed between the countries, seeks to build on the momentum generated by the FTA and take the two economies beyond trade in goods towards greater integration and impart renewed impetus and synergy to bilateral economic interaction.
  • The investments are in diverse areas including petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunication, hospitality & tourism, banking and food processing (tea & fruit juices), metal industries, tires, cement, glass manufacturing, and infrastructure development (railway, power, water supply).

  • Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka and India is the largest source market for Sri Lankan tourism. In tourism, India is the largest contributor with every fifth tourist being from India.
  • The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the two Governments on 29 November 1977, forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries.
  • The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) comprise Sindhis, Borahs, Gujaratis, Memons, Parsis, Malayalis and Telugu-speaking persons who have settled down in Sri Lanka (most of them after partition) and are engaged in various business ventures.
  • India and Sri Lanka conduct joint Military ( 'Mitra Shakti') and Naval exercises (SLINEX). – (Prelims Pointers)
  • 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

China angle

  • China’s relationship with Sri Lanka has been a challenge for India since years. In recent years, China has extended billions of dollars of loans to the Sri Lankan government for new infrastructure projects, which is not good for India’s strategic depth in Indian Ocean Region.
  • Sri Lanka also handed over the strategic port of Hambantota, which is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to China on a 99-year lease.
  • China has also supplied arms as well as provided huge loans to Sri Lanka for its development.
  • China also invested sufficiently in the infrastructure of Sri Lanka, which included the building of the Colombo international container terminal by China Harbor Corporation.

Fishermen issue

  • 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.
  • Indian boats have been fishing in the troubled waters for centuries and had a free run of the Bay of Bengal, Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar until 1974 and 1976 when treaties were signed between the two countries to demarcate International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
  • However, the treaties failed to factor in the hardship of thousands of traditional fishermen who were forced to restrict themselves to a meagre area in their fishing forays.
  • The small islet of Katchatheevu, hitherto used by them for sorting their catch and drying their nets, fell on the other side of the IMBL.
  • Fishermen often risk their lives and cross the IMBL rather than return empty-handed, but the Sri Lankan Navy is on alert, and have either arrested or destroyed fishing nets and vessels of those who have crossed the line.
  • Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bona fide fishermen of either side crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line.
  • Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner.
  • India and Sri Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka as the mechanism to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue.

However, the relation between Sri Lanka and India are improving.

  • In order to allay Indian concerns that the Hambantota port will not be used for military purposes, the Sri Lankan government has sought to limit China’s role to running commercial operations at the port while it retains oversight of security operations.
  • The two countries have signed civil nuclear cooperation agreement which is Sri Lanka’s first nuclear partnership with any country.
  • India is also investing into Sri Lanka’s infrastructure development in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
  • India is also planning to build Trincomalee Port to counterweight the Chinese developments at Hambantota Port.

Way Forward

  • 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.
  • A 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.

Source: TH


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