[op-ed snap] Building holistic India-Sri Lanka ties


  1. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  2. His third visit to the capital since January 2015 is in keeping with the refreshed Indo-Lanka ties that followed the regime change in Colombo

Steps taken:

  1. Flagged off partnerships in a host of economic and development projects through a Memorandum of Understanding
  2. Two Prime Ministers have set the stage for long-term collaboration in spheres ranging from energy and infrastructure to special economic zones
  3. India’s Sri Lanka policy, following the defeat of strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, has been centred on economic cooperation and security concerns, and far less on political matters
  4. The line ministries executing specific projects are playing a prominent role in taking bilateral negotiations forward

With neighbouring countries:

  1. Preoccupied with an ever-growing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka, India has been channeling its energies towards countering it, especially focusing on Trincomalee
  2. India and Sri Lanka have agreed to jointly revive a World War II era oil storage facility in the strategically located eastern port town and build infrastructure around it

The expectations ahead:

  1. Enhanced economic and development ties are welcome and crucial for the neighboring countries
  2. They should not bypass robust engagement on traditional political concerns in the island nation, where scores of Tamils and Muslims in the north and east are yet to return to normal lives eight years after the civil war ended


  1. Hundreds of people have been protesting, voicing concern about the mysterious disappearance of their relatives and about their land still under military occupation
  2. Frequently faced with political pressures from their rival parties, President Maithripala Sirisena and Mr. Wickremesinghe are only inching ahead in their promise to deliver a new constitution devolving a greater measure of political rights to all its citizens

The road ahead:

  1. As a long-time negotiator in Sri Lanka’s political question, India must continue to closely engage on various fronts and build a holistic relationship
  2. India has pledged $2.6 billion in development assistance to Sri Lanka
  3. It should explore the potential for generating livelihoods in the war-battered northern economy where agriculture and fisheries, its key drivers, are facing a crisis
  4. Resolving the long-standing Palk Bay conflict between fishermen of both countries is central to this, and New Delhi must address the valid concern of Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen about incursions from Tamil Nadu into Sri Lankan waters
  5. Several factories in the north, destroyed or defunct during the war, await attention and investment


While New Delhi’s anxiety over Chinese presence might be justified, it should avoid using the China lens to view Sri Lanka, respecting the country’s autonomy to engage with any willing partner. The more India treats Sri Lanka as an equal partner, the stronger the relationship is likely to grow.

[op-ed snap] Three decades of mistrust


  1. Delhi and Colombo intensify their high-level political engagement
  2. However, new opportunities for elevating the partnership are coloured by enduring suspicions in Sri Lanka
  3. The country’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is travelling to India this week and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will head to Sri Lanka next month to join the special international celebrations of the Buddha Jayanti in Colombo

For India:

  1. For Modi, it will be the second visit to Sri Lanka in barely two years
  2. This reflects his determination to overcome the unfortunate legacy of three difficult decades that saw a cruel civil war, India’s failed intervention and the accumulated distrust of Delhi in Colombo
  3. Media reports from Sri Lanka suggest that Wickremesinghe is bringing proposals for the development of the Trincomalee area as a regional hydrocarbon hub in the Bay of Bengal and the eastern Indian Ocean
  4. These proposals include the construction of a new LNG terminal and the renewal of the Second World War-era oil tank farms in Trincomalee in partnership with India

Protests in Sri Lanka:

  1. There is resistance in Sri Lanka to economic cooperation with India
  2. Protesting the modernisation of the Trincomalee oil tank farms, the workers of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation have announced a strike
  3. Deep political reservations in Sri Lanka, held up the implementation of a 2003 agreement with India on the development of tank farms

Learning from neighbours:

  1. Twists and turns in this story are part of a familiar but unfortunate South Asian pattern — the politicisation of economic projects
  2. Our neighbours in East Asia, have learnt to separate political differences from mutually beneficial economic engagement
  3. China and Taiwan don’t even recognise each other’s political legitimacy, but that has not stopped them from productive commercial cooperation
  4. The idea of an all-encompassing Sino-Indian rivalry for regional influence has further created negativity in the region

China’s role:

  1. Since Sri Lanka has given port projects in Colombo and Hambantota to China, the story goes, it is now trying to compensate an unhappy India with infrastructure projects elsewhere in the emerald island
  2. China is a major economic partner for Colombo and other regional capitals can’t be a surprise, after all, China is now the world’s second largest economy
  3. Beijing has encouraged its companies to embark on a “go out” strategy and has infrastructure projects underway all across the world.

Question on India:

  1. How come Delhi, despite its size and proximity, has to “compete with Beijing” in the Subcontinent?
  2. India should have been the preferred economic partner to all of its neighbours, but it is not
  3. One part of the damning answer is that India had checked out of the business of regional integration after Independence
  4. Delhi deliberately chose to discard economic regionalism — in the name of self-reliance
  5. In the reform era that began at the turn of the 1990s, Delhi has surely tried to undo the damage
  6. But the effort was too weak to overcome the political burdens that weighed down India’s neighbourhood policy
  7. Unfortunately for India, it also coincided with China’s rise and the dramatic expansion of its regional commercial influence

“Neighbourhood First” policy:

  1. It is in essence about promoting regional economic integration
  2. Sustained diplomacy has begun to pay off with Bangladesh
  3. Delhi might need lots of patience, much hard work and a bit of luck to produce similar economic advances with Colombo


An important op-ed for Mains.

Sri Lanka, India to jointly develop Trincomalee oil tank farm

  1. News: India and Sri Lanka have in principle agreed to jointly operate the world war-era oil storage facility in Trincomalee, the strategically advantaged port town located on the island’s east coast
  2. Significance of Trincomalee: During his visit to Sri Lanka in March 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the project to develop the upper tank farm in Trincomalee would help the coastal town become a regional petroleum hub
  3. Home to 3.7 lakh Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala people Trincomalee, in Sri Lanka’s post-war years, has emerged a favoured destination for surfers from around the world, gradually transforming with plush resorts and restaurants dotting its coast
  4. At the same time, with its fine natural harbour and crucial location, Trincomalee remains in spotlight as a potential transit point for international trade routes, particularly drawing India which has known strategic interests there
  5. Background: India has been engaging with Sri Lanka since 2003, almost 15 years after the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord granted first preference to India in the running of the oil storage facility
  6. As per the 2003 agreement signed by the neighbours, India was to upgrade and commission the 99 tanks in the farm – each with a capacity of 12,250 kilolitres – on a 35-year lease
  7. However, the project did not take off fully as planned, as the two sides could not come to an understanding on operational aspects
  8. Following Mr. Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka two years ago, the two countries renewed discussions and are hoping to firm up the deal before the Indian Prime Minister’s scheduled second official visit to the island in early May


The background part is just for your info, not really needed for exam. Note the significance of Trincomalee for pre and mains both.

Put an end to bottom trawling in Sri Lanka: Opposition Leader

  1. Source: R. Sampanthan, Leader of the Opposition in Sri Lankan Parliament
  2. The governments should ensure an end to bottom trawling while leaving the issues of daily importance to the fishermen
  3. The fishermen issue between India and Sri Lanka has a better chance of resolution if left to the fisherfolk on both sides
  4. There is no space for violence in dealing with the fishermen’s issue between the two countries
  5. Trawling Bill: Will be introduced in Sri Lankan Parliament
  6. It aims to ban the bottom trawlers from the waters around Sri Lanka
  7. Various provinces of the country have given their consent to the Bill
  8. Sri Lanka also has hundreds of bottom trawlers, especially in the Northern Province, that will be banned once Bill is passed
  9. The issue is at the centre of political controversy in Sri Lanka as it is believed that banning the practice will increase pressure on India to do the same


A link in the fishermen issue. Can be a part of mains answer.

[op-ed snap] Dire straits


  1. There is no certainty about the circumstances that led to the killing of a Tamil Nadu fisherman somewhere between the Indian and Sri Lankan coast
  2. There is no telling who pulled the trigger — whether it was the Sri Lankan Navy or some armed group
  3. It is also not clear where the shooting took place, whether in Sri Lankan waters or elsewhere

Why this tragedy?

  1. This was a tragedy waiting to happen, the direct fallout of the long-standing dispute between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen over fishing rights in the Palk Bay
  2. The Sri Lankan Navy denies it had a hand in the killing

What this tragedy means?

  1. Shooting exposes the lack of progress in implementation of the agreement between the two countries on preventing loss of life
  2. They are managing the fishing dispute through official channels

Joint Working Group:

  1. In 2016 the two countries agreed on establishing a Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries to help resolve the dispute
  2. Components of the mechanism:
  • A hotline between the Coast Guards of India and Sri Lanka
  • Convening of the JWG once in three months
  • Meetings of the fisheries ministers every half-year

Changing times:

  1. Instances of Indian fishermen crossing into Sri Lankan waters have always been commonplace, the consequences for such transgressions in recent years have been limited to seizure of boats and prolonged detention
  2. Unlike during the period of Sri Lanka’s war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, when its Navy indiscriminately shot at boats and trawlers fearing smuggling of contraband by the Tamil rebels
  3. The last few years have seen few instances of firing at fishermen

The road ahead:

  1. After he returned to power in 2015, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Indian fishermen who crossed the maritime boundary to fish in another country’s territorial waters would be fired upon
  2. Without arriving at a settlement on sustainable exploitation of the marine resources that would end the use of bottom trawlers from Tamil Nadu, India and Sri Lanka will not be able to ensure incident-free fishing in the strait
  3. Indian fishermen, who invoke traditional rights to justify their incursions, want a three-year phase-out period before they end trawling
  4. But unless they take to deep-sea fishing, and inland alternatives, India’s fishermen will be locked in a conflict with their Sri Lankan counterparts as well as with a hostile Sri Lankan Navy


India, Sri Lanka in talks on port

  1. What? India and Sri Lanka are in talks to offer the port of Trincomalee to India
  2. Why Trincomalee? It is one of the best deep sea ports in the world
  3. Neutrality: Trincomalee has been on the table for sometime as Sri Lanka wants to maintain a neutral stand and provide equal access to its ports to both China and India


Map the location of this port as also the south east Asia in Indian Ocean region & South China Sea as these are favourite areas of UPSC for mapping question apart from West Asia and Europe.

[op-ed snap] Humanitarian concerns for India-Sri Lanka fishing water

  1. Context: Agreement between India and Sri Lanka on establishing a Joint Working Group on fisheries- step forward in resolving dispute between fishermen of both countries
  2. Points of Agreement: A hotline between the Coast Guards of both countries, meeting of the JWG once in three months, meeting of the fisheries ministers every six months, no violence or loss of life of fishermen
  3. Prevailing issues: SL fishermen firm on immediate end to all incursion, against seized Indian boats being released without legal process
  4. TN fishermen ask for a three-year phase-out period for their trawlers, and they would fish for 85 days a year until then- rejected by SL
  5. SL holds that Indian vessels cause serious economic and ecological damage
  6. Steps to prevent boundary transgression: Provide livelihood alternative for TN fishermen
  7. Equip them for deep sea fishing option
  8. Show greater understanding of the plight of SL Tamil fishermen, who are economically weaker and yet to fully recover from a devastating war
  9. SL can look at a licensing system under which fishermen from both sides can fish on specified days using sustainable methods and permissible equipment

Sri Lanka’s ties with China and beyond

  1. Sri Lanka: Categorically denied there was any military engagement involved in its negotiations with China for its ‘One Road, One Belt’ initiative
  2. Negotiating an FTA with China under its OBOR initiative as it is necessary to make the Chinese investments in the country realise their full potential
  3. Jab at the developed world: The rules of globalization were written by the West and the Empire & we have only played by it
  4. At the end of the day, it’s not neoliberalism or free-market or anything else that worked
  5. Asia will bail the world out, if we are allowed to write the rules
  6. Otherwise we create our own system and deliver (on making our people happy) by building our own markets

Give boost to regional trade- Sri Lankan PM

  1. Sri Lanka has suggested the creation of a larger special zone of economic cooperation around the Bay of Bengal
  2. It would takes on board Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in addition to BIMSTEC countries
  3. Sri Lanka is negotiating FTA with Singapore, while India already has comprehensive economic partnership pact with the latter
  4. So there is scope for a trilateral arrangement to boost the three economies

India-Sri Lanka economic pact by 2016-end, says Ranil Wickremesinghe

  1. Prime Ministers of both India & Sri Lanka have decided to conclude an enhanced bilateral economic partnership and also the existing FTA by the end of this year
  2. Aim: To allow the free flow of services, investments and technology
  3. Closer economic ties can especially boost India’s five southern States

Sri Lanka to seal trade pact with India by mid-2017

  1. News: Sri Lanka and India have urged their officials to expedite negotiations on the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA)
  2. Though certain sections in Sri Lanka had reservations against the ETCA, the government had organised a campaign to counter the anti-ETCA drive
  3. Context: India has been negotiating with Sri Lanka on the ETCA, an extension over the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
  4. Though Sri Lanka depends upon Beijing for 20% of its imports, there is no bilateral FTA
  5. Trivia: India accounts for 23% of Sri Lanka’s total imports

India sends relief material to Sri Lanka

  1. India has dispatched military ships and an aircraft with rescue and relief material to Sri Lanka
  2. Reason: Torrential rains and landslides have resulted in several deaths and massive devastation over the last few days in Sri Lanka
  3. Ships: Two Navy ships — one Naval Offshore Patrol INS Sunayna and one survey ship INS Sutlej with relief material
  4. Relief material: Inflatable rafts, fresh water, medical supplies, clothing and other provisions necessary for disaster relief operations

Connecting Sri Lanka- bridge or undersea?

  1. Context: India is considering an ambitious bridge or undersea tunnel linking the Indian mainland with Sri Lanka
  2. Bridge between: Rameswaram and Sri Lanka
  3. Proposed by: Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), which will also finance the project
  4. Benefit: A boost to sub regional cooperation within SAARC

India assures Sri Lanka of support for reconciliation

  1. India has expressed support for Sri Lanka on its reconciliation and development policies
  2. The Sri Lankan has sought India’s assistance to improve the health and education of people living in estates, who were essentially of the recent Indian origin
  3. Background – LTTE armed conflict that led to turmoil in the Sri Lanka
  4. New Issues – The fishermen of the Northern Province of SL are facing problem due to bottom trawling
  5. New Developments – India’s offer to set up an IT park in Sri Lanka that could attract investments

India ready to address Sri Lanka’s concerns on economy pact

  1. India will address Sri Lanka’s concerns on the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement
  2. It will also address issues concerning regulations and procedures
  3. This comes in response to criticism from certain quarters that the proposed agreement would take away jobs of Sri Lankan professionals
  4. Earlier, Sri Lankan govt. too expressed its reservations about allowing Indian professionals in Sri Lanka under any new agreement

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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