Indo-Sri Lankan relations

Indo-Sri Lankan relations

Bilateral relations between the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Republic of India have been generally friendly, but were controversially affected by the on-going Sri Lankan civil war and by the failure of Indian intervention during the Sri Lankan civil war. 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. [ India's Sri Lankan scars] ]

Development of bilateral relations

India and Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations when the latter gained its independence in 1948. Both nations proceeded to establish extensive cultural, commercial, strategic and defence ties to establish a common sphere of influence in the region, adopting non-alignment to control Western and Soviet influence. [ India - Sri Lanka] ] The close relationship between the then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and then-Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike led to the development of strong bilateral relations. [ India - Sri Lanka] ] In 1971, Indian armed forces helped squash a Communist rebellion against the Sri Lankan government. [ India's Sri Lankan scars] ]

Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war

In the 1980s, private entities and elements in the state government of Tamil Nadu were believed to be encouraging the funding and training for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist insurgent force. [ India - Sri Lanka] ] .In 1987, faced with growing anger amongst its own Tamils, and a flood of refugees, cite journal|title=Tamil Militant Groups|journal=Sri Lanka: A Country Study|date=1988|first= |last= |coauthors=Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada|volume= |issue= |pages= |id= |url=|format= |accessdate=2007-05-02] India intervened directly in the conflict for the first time after the Sri Lankan government attempted to regain control of the northern Jaffna region by means of an economic blockade and military assaults, India supplied food and medicine by air and sea. After subsequent negotiations, India and Sri Lanka entered into an agreement. The peace accord assigned a certain degree of regional autonomy in the Tamil areas with Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) controlling the regional council and called for the Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms. Further India was to send a peacekeeping force, named the IPKF to Sri Lanka to enforce the disarmament and to watch over the regional council. [The Peace Accord and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Hennayake S.K. Asian Survey, Vol. 29, No. 4. (April 1989), pp. 401-415.] cite journal
author=Stokke, K.
coauthors=Ryntveit, A.K.
title=The Struggle for Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka
journal=A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy
] [ India - Sri Lanka] ] [cite news|url=|title=INDIA AIRLIFTS AID TO TAMIL REBELS|work=STEVEN R. WEISMAN|publisher=New York Times|date=5 June 1987]

Even though the accord was signed between the governments of Sri Lanka and India, with the Tamil Tigers and other Tamil militant groups not having a role in the signing of the accordcite book
author=Hellmann-rajanayagam, D.
title=The Tamil Tigers: Armed Struggle for Identity
publisher=Franz Steiner Verlag
] , most Tamil militant groups accepted this agreement, ["O'Ballance", 91] the LTTE rejected the accord because they opposed the candidate, who belonged to another militant group named Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), for chief administrative officer of the merged Northern and Eastern provinces. Instead the LTTE named three other candidates for the position. The candidates proposed by the LTTE were rejected by India. ["O'Ballance", p.94] The LTTE subsequently refused to hand over their weapons to the IPKF.

The result was that the LTTE now found itself engaged in military conflict with the Indian Army, and launched their first attack on an Indian army rations truck on October 8, killing five Indian para-commandos who were on board by strapping burning tires around their necks. ["O'Ballance", p.100] The government of India then decided that the IPKF should disarm the LTTE by force, ["O'Ballance", p.100] and the Indian Army launched number of assaults on the LTTE, including a month-long campaign dubbed "Operation Pawan" to win control of the Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE. When the IPKF engaged the LTTE, the then president of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa, began supporting LTTE and funded LTTE with arms. During the warfare with the ltte IPKF was also alleged for human rights violation against the civilians. Notably, IPKF was alleged to have perpetrated Jaffna teaching hospital massacre which was the killing of over 70 civilians including patients, doctors and nurses.cite journal
author=Somasundaram, D.
title=Abandoning jaffna hospital: Ethical and moral dilemmas
journal=Medicine, Conflict and Survival
] The ruthlessness of this campaign, and the Indian army's subsequent anti-LTTE operations made it extremely unpopular amongst many Tamils in Sri Lanka. [cite web |url=|title=Statistics on civilians affected by war from 1974 - 2004|accessdate=2007-01-30 |format= |work=NESOHR ] cite web|url=|work=University Teachers for Human Rights|title=History of the Organisation] . The conflict between the LTTE and the Indian Army left over 1,000 Indian soldiers dead. [ India's Sri Lankan scars] ] [ India - Sri Lanka] ]

The Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, which had been unpopular amongst Sri Lankans for giving India a major influence, now became a source of nationalist anger and resentment as the IPKF was drawn fully into the conflict. Sri Lankans protested the presence of the IPKF, and the newly-elected Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa demanded its withdrawal, which was completed by March 1990. [ India - Sri Lanka] ] . on May 21, 1992, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and the LTTE was alleged to be the perpetrator. As a result India declared the LTTE to be a terrorist outfit in 1992. Bilateral relations improved in the 1990s and India supported the peace process but has resisted calls to get involved again. [ India rules out Sri Lanka help] ] India has also been wary of and criticised the extensive military involvement of Pakistan in the conflict, accusing the latter of supplying lethal weaponry and encouraging Sri Lanka to pursue military action rather than peaceful negotiations to end the civil war. [ The Pakistani muscle behind Colombo] ]

Commercial ties

India and Sri Lanka are member nations of several regional and multilateral organisations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme, South Asian Economic Union and BIMSTEC, working to enhance cultural and commercial ties. Since a bilateral free trade agreement was signed and came into effect in 2000, Indo-Sri Lankan trade rose 128% by 2004 and quadrupled by 2006, reaching USD 2.6 billion. [ FTA pushes up India, Lanka Trade by 128%] ] [ India, Sri Lanka aim to Broaden Free-Trade Agreement] ] Between 2000 and 2004, India's exports to Sri Lanka in the last four years increased by 113%, from USD 618 million to $1,319 million while Sri Lankan exports to India increased by 342%, from $44 million to USD $194 million. [ FTA pushes up India, Lanka Trade by 128%] ] Indian exports account for 14% of Sri Lanka’s global imports. India is also the fifth largest export destination for Sri Lankan goods, accounting for 3.6% of its exports. [ FTA pushes up India, Lanka Trade by 128%] ] Both nations are also signatories of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). Negotiations are also underway to expand the free trade agreement to forge stronger commercial relations and increase corporate investment and ventures in various industries. [ India, Sri Lanka aim to Broaden Free-Trade Agreement] ]

India's National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC) is also scheduled to build a 500 MW thermal power plant in Sampoor (Sampur). The NTPC claims that the this plan will take the Inod-Srilankan relationship to new level. [ India's Sri Lanka power project runs into Tamil storm] ]

Fishermen Issue

There have been several incidents of firing on Indian fishermen fishing in Palk Bay.Indian Government has always taken up the issue of safety of Indian fishermen on a priority basis with the Government of Sri Lanka. Presently there is no bona fide Indian fisherman in the Sri Lankan custody. A Joint Working Group (JWG) has been constituted to deal with the issues related to Indian fishermen straying in Sri Lankan territorial waters, work out modalities for prevention of use of force against them and the early release of confiscated boats and explore possibilities of working towards bilateral arrangements for licensed fishing. The JWG last met in Jan 2006.

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 GOI is made available to Sri Lanka.

Lines of credit: 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 supply of 300,000 MT of wheat and US$ 150 million for purchase of petroleum products. All of these lines of credit have been fully utilized. Another line of credit of US$ 100 million is now being made available for rehabilitation of the Colombo-Matara railway.

A number of development projects are implemented under ‘Aid to Sri Lanka’ funds. In 2006-07, the budget for ‘Aid to Sri Lanka’ was Rs 28.2 Crs.

Small Development Projects: A MoU on Cooperation in Small Development Projects has been signed. Projects for providing fishing equipments 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.

Health Projects: We have supplied medical equipments 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: Construction of a 150-bed hospital at Dickoya, upgradation of the hospital at Trincomalee and a US$ 7.5 million grant for setting up a Cancer Hospital in Colombo.

Education Projects: Upgradation of the educational infrastructure of the schools in the Central province including teachers’ training, setting up of 10 computer labs, setting up of 20 e-libraries (Nenasalas), Mahatma Gandhi scholarship scheme for +2 students and setting up of a vocational training centre in Puttalam. India also contributes to the Ceylon Workers Education Trust that gives scholarships to the children of estate workers.

Training: 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’.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.