Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

May, 01, 2019

[op-ed snap] Wrong step

CONTEXT

President Maithripala Sirisena has taken the extraordinary step of effectively banning the niqab, a face covering worn by some Muslim women, under the country’s Emergency regulations, promulgated after the Easter Sunday bombings claimed by ISIS. It makes Sri Lanka the only country outside Europe to take such a decision.

Problems With the directive

It is unfortunate that President Sirisena took such an extreme step without wider consultation, as it goes against the fundamental freedoms set out in the Sri Lankan constitution.

1.Violating Freedom -Even accepting that the Emergency gives the government vast powers to suspend some freedoms, this is an unwarranted and extreme measure.

2.Not commonly used -The niqab is an import from the Middle East.It is not a common sight in Sri Lanka. Few women wear it.

3. Demand for Ban on other garments –There is now the danger that the ban on the niqab will be read up in its implementation to include the more commonly worn hijab and burqa, especially as there have been demands earlier by Buddhist extremists that these garments should be banned.

It could also open up demands for banning other visible identity markers, such as caps and bears worn by men.

4. Steps were already taken by civil society – Significantly, even before the President took the step, Muslim civil society organisations and the clergy had already urgently appealed to their “sisters” to stop wearing the full face veil or desist from being seen in public spaces wearing it.

5. Fear of repercussion – It is clear the community, which is more integrated into the Sri Lankan polity and economy than the Tamils, are fearful of the repercussions of the attack, and wants to play down identity markers.

6. No consultation with women – It is unclear if the women in the community were consulted. They are being asked to shoulder the burden of holding up the community’s credentials.

Ineffective Directive

  • It cannot be stressed enough that the problem that has erupted in Sri Lanka has not been caused by women’s apparel.
  • Banning the niqab may make the government look as if it is taking action, but it is hardly the way to meet the challenge posed by radicalism of the ISIS kind. From 2015 at least, Sri Lanka has been aware that some of its young citizens have been attracted to ISIS and were travelling to Syria for battle innoculation. There is no evidence to show that it acted seriously on this information.
  • True, Sri Lanka was still in the first flush of the post-Rajapakse years, and the government was more focussed on dismantling some of the authoritarian structures from his time.
  • Still, it is beyond comprehension that the government did not have an accurate handle on the radicalisation of even the handful of ISIS recruits.
Apr, 23, 2019

[op-ed snap] Terror next door

CONTEXT

The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka could widen ethnic faultlines, threaten to disrupt a decade of calm.

Background

  • Sri Lanka’s decade of peace after the LTTE’s military defeat in May 2009 has been shattered with a diabolical plan to drag the country back into its darkest days.
  • The death toll is nearly 300 from the chain of eight bombings on Easter Sunday targeting churches and hotels across the island nation, worse than anything it has experienced at the hands of the LTTE in the three decades of civil war.
  • The scale and the ferocity of the attack has no precedent in Sri Lanka’s troubled history, one from which it believed it had finally emerged.
  • In the last decade, a generation of Sri Lankans has come of age for whom conflict was history, who have no experience of curfews and emergency regulations or the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
  • Now all this is threatening to engulf Sri Lanka again.

Fault in action on intelligence

  • it is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s acknowledgment that the country’s security apparatus had “prior information” on the attacks that causes more anguish.
  • The differences between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe appear to have played a good part in the security warning not being taken seriously.
  • The PM has alleged that he was not kept in the loop about the intelligence warnings.
  • If so, the inability of the country’s top functionaries to get along has had deadly consequences. It casts their leadership abilities in extremely poor light. However, the administration has done well to prevent any backlash on the Muslim community.

Reasons for attack

1.Rise of extremism and fundamentalism –

Given that investigators believe this was the handiwork of radicalised local Muslims, there have been straws in the wind of such radicalisation for years, as a reaction to attacks by the LTTE on Muslims through the 1990s, and after the war, to the rise of Buddhist fundamentalism that began targeting Muslims.

2.Spread of Wahabism

Sri Lanka, where nearly 10 per cent of the 22 million population is Muslim, has also not been insulated from the global spread of Wahabism.

3. Politicisation

Mainstream Muslim parties, major players in Sri Lanka’s robust democratic political space, had managed to keep the radicals at bay all these years despite the failure of the political class to repair the ethnic faultlines.

4.Local Grievances

The targeting of Christians, who are an even smaller minority in Sri Lanka than Muslims, and in a manner similar to anti-Christian incidents in other parts of the world, also points to more than a local grievance.

Conclusion

But it seems too early to say if the Easter bloodbath was the handiwork of ISIS, which would be searching for new spaces to compensate for its total loss of territory. Solving these puzzles will help Sri Lanka, also the rest of South Asia, to craft responses that ensure there will be no repetition of this nightmare.

Mar, 20, 2019

[pib] Exercise Mitra Shakti-VI

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ex Mitra Shakti

Mains level:  India-Sri Lanka Strategic relationship


News

Exercise MITRA SHAKTI

  • It is conducted annually as part of military diplomacy and interaction between armies of India & Sri Lanka.
  • The joint exercise for the year 2018-19 will be conducted in Sri Lanka.
  • Troops from 1st Battalion the BIHAR Regiment of the Indian Army and Gemunu Watch Battalion of Sri Lankan Army would be jointly undertaking the exercise.
  • The aim of the exercise is to build and promote close relations between armies of both the countries and to enhance ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command.
  • The exercise will involve tactical level operations in an international Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorist environment under United Nations.
Jul, 07, 2018

India to control Mattala Airport in Hambantota

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India- Sri Lanka relations


News

A Sri Lanka-India JV

  1. India has agreed to form a joint venture with Sri Lanka to operate the country’s loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota.
  2. The $210 million facility, 241km south-east of Colombo, is dubbed the “world’s emptiest airport” due to a lack of flights.
  3. The joint venture would see India gain a major stake of the airport.

Only India offered to help

  1. Mattala airport, named after former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, was one of the major infrastructure projects of Rajapaksa’s nearly a decade-long rule.
  2. The project was funded through high interest Chinese commercial loans. The airport was officially opened in March 2013.
  3. The only international flight operating from there was halted in May due to recurrent losses and flight safety issues.
  4. The government in 2017 invited investors to turn the airport into a profit-sharing joint venture. However no proposals were received to operate, manage and maintain it.

Hambantota Seaport kneel to China to recover losses

  1. The seaport built in Hambantota, another Rajapaksa pet project, has been leased to China to set off Chinese loans as equity.
  2. The Hambantota port was a major Chinese-assisted infrastructure project in the home district of Rajapaksa, whose nearly a decade-long rule was ended by President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015.
  3. However, the regime change is not attributed to disfavor India, unlike that has been the case with the Maldives.
May, 05, 2018

India, Sri Lanka to firm up plan to combat drug crimes; bilateral meet in Delhi

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Effectiveness of control delivery operations.


News

Decision on drug related crimes

  1. India and Sri Lanka have decided to enhance mutual cooperation to combat drug crimes
  2. A two-day bilateral meeting of anti-narcotics agencies of the two countries is going on
  3. Sri Lankan officers have arrived to hold talks with their Indian counterparts, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)
  4. This is the 3rd bilateral meeting between the two countries as part of 2013 India-Sri Lanka agreement on cooperation to combat terrorism and illicit drug trafficking

Control delivery operations

  1. The two agencies will explore the feasibility to have controlled delivery operations, the status of arrested persons and sharing of best practices
  2. These operations means “letting drug couriers carry out their operation under surveillance to catch them red-handed”
  3. Controlled delivery operations will help the two countries in cracking down on criminal syndicates in a big way as it is a time-tested method to get success in drug crimes
Nov, 25, 2017

India, Sri Lanka to expedite projects

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Complement this newscard with our previous newscards on the Indo-Sri Lanka relationship. Read the Attached story for it.


News

Top agenda of discussion

  1. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and President Ram Nath Kovind
  2. Expediting decisions on joint projects and “solving the problems that have emerged” was at the top of the agenda(in the meeting)

Infrastructure profects

  1. Among the projects discussed in particular were the plans for India to develop (1) the Trincomalee harbour, including the Oil Tank farms project, as well as the Indian bid to lease and manage (2) the Mattala airport in Hambantota

Case of pending projects

  1. The emphasis on speeding up joint ventures comes after months where there has been no movement on many of the pending decisions on joint ventures
Nov, 14, 2017

Where clashes of geopolitics, politics and economic interests intersect

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hambantota, Indian Ocean Region

Mains level: Competition between India and China Indian ocean region and China building String of pearls around India


News

Unique battleground

  1. Home to about six lakh people and investments worth billions of dollars, the district of Hambantota, along Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast, is currently witness to at least three clashes
  2. It has recently become a new theatre for India-China geopolitical conflict

Geopolitics

  1. At the geopolitical level, China and India have competing interests
  2. Hambantota’s image makeover with ‘mega development’ foretells Sri Lanka’s pivotal role in the Indian Ocean Region
  3. This is after Colombo sold majority of its stake in the Hambantota port to China
  4. India has offered to run the nearby Mattala airport

US-Japan with India

  1. Also watching from India’s side are countries such as the U.S. and Japan
  2. They share India’s concern over the heightened presence of China, which pumped in billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in post-war Sri Lanka
  3. China sees the port town as a valuable transshipment hub in its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative

How is ‘development’ affecting this small town?

  1. The ‘development’ is threatening to shake its ecosystem
  2. People are in perpetual fear, worrying when their land might be gazetted for development activity
  3. With forest cover diminishing in the wake of development, there is an increase in incidence of human-elephant conflict
  4. This often leads to destruction of agricultural fields, damage to houses, and, at times, grave injury or death to humans encountering the tusker

Prospects for India

  1. India could invest in the local agriculture and information technology sectors and boost them
  2. India can also set up an automobile assembly facility, considering that car manufacturers in India transship their vehicles through the port
Nov, 07, 2016

[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
Oct, 07, 2016

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
Oct, 07, 2016

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
Oct, 07, 2016

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
Jul, 08, 2016

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
May, 21, 2016

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
Feb, 15, 2016

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
Feb, 08, 2016

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
Feb, 06, 2016

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
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