English Hindi



Prelims bits

Prelims Capsule

International Relations

Sri Lanka’s relations with India & China

Sri Lanka’s relations with India & China

Tag:GS2||International Relations||India & it’s Neighbors || Sri Lanka

Why in news?

  • Sri Lanka unveils South Asia’s tallest tower(lotus tower), funded by China.
  • 80% of the funding for Lotus Tower, parts of which is still under construction, came from China under the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI)

What is the lotus tower:

  • Sri Lanka and China signed the Lotus Tower agreement in 2012 under the Chinese government’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build the highest TV tower in South Asia.

Recent developments ties of Srilanka and china:

  • Defense Ties:
    • China has been the largest supplier of arms to Sri Lanka since the 1950s.
    • China grants of $100 million was given for the construction of army camps. China has also provided military training to Sri Lankan officers.
    • China has gifted a warship to Sri Lanka, in the latest sign of its deepening military cooperation.
    • Also, China’s rolling-stock manufacturer has announced that it would shortly deliver nine “new type” of diesel trains to Sri Lanka. The China-gifted frigate ‘P625’ arrived in Colombo
  • Hambantota Port: China, which has acquired Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port in 2017 as a debt swap, has been ramping up its ties with the island nation. Hambantota Port was a crucial investment as it increased Sri Lanka’s ability to accommodate greater volumes and diversify into other port-related services
  • Member of BRI: Srilanka is a member of BRI and there are three main ways in which Chinese investment has transformed Hambantota Port:
    • the introduction of a port-related industrial zone;
    • improvements to connectivity;
    • and the sharing of best practices.

India concern over Srilanka and China ties:

  • National security: The frequency of Chinese visits has become a concern, along with speculation that an aircraft maintenance facility could be built by the Chinese in the eastern port city of Trincomalee, which India considers a strategic location in terms of national security.
  • The volume of trade: Import from China accounts for 5% of total trade and import from india accounts for 19 %, according to the central bank of Srilanka.
  • Others: Even in terms of timely completion of projects, cost-effectiveness, and quality of infrastructure, the island nation favours Beijing over India.

India’s Srilanka bilateral ties:-

  • Neighbour first policy: India’s “neighborhood first” policy, adopted in 2014 which accords primacy to nations in India’s periphery, includes in its ambit the Bimstec.
  • Joint venture deal: SriLanka, Japan, and India signed an agreement to jointly develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port. The joint initiative is estimated to cost between $500 million and $700 million.
  • Kankesanthurai (KKS) Harbour: India has extended a fresh financial assistance of USD 45.27 million for upgrading Kankesanthurai (KKS) Harbour in northern SriLanka into a commercial port and strengthening the country’s efforts to become a regional maritime hub.
  • Palaly airport: AAI to prepare project report for Sri Lanka’s Palaly airport.
  • ETCA: India and Sri Lanka are expected to finalize the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) agreement by this year’s end with some headway being made during negotiations.
  • Social Sector Project:
    • The Indian Housing Project is a housing reconstruction project funded by the Government of India and implemented through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL)
  • Rail agreement: SriLanka has signed an agreement with India to upgrade tracks in a key railway segment connecting the north and south at a cost of $ 91.26 million.

 Need of Srilanka:

  • Political settlement:
    • The need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the ethnic issue has been reiterated by India at the highest levels. India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and which is consistent with democracy, pluralism, and respect for human rights.
    • India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against terrorist forces. At the same time, it conveyed its deep concern at the plight of the mostly Tamil civilian population, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the
  • Economic development: After the entry into force of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in March 2000. The bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to US $ 4.38 billion. Exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2016 were US$ 3.83 billion, while exports from Sri Lanka to India were US$ 551 million.

 Issues between Srilanka and india:

  • Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war:
    • In the 1970s–1980s, private entities, and elements in the Research and Analysis Wing and 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.
  • Alleged RAW interference: In 2015 the Sri Lankan Government expelled the country’s RAW agent played in the role of uniting the opposition for the 2015 presidential election. In October 2018, President Sirisena alleged that Indian RAW was plotting his assassination
  • 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. 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.

 Way forward:

  • Coordinate with new leadership: While India’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.
  • Holistic development of youth:
    • Streamline the scholarship schemes by taking steps to remove irritants such as selection processes, time-delays between the declaration of results of the qualifying examinations and the deadline for submission of application forms, hostel facilities.
    • University Grants Commissions of the two countries to discuss areas of enhanced cooperation.
  • Development issues: While recognizing many areas of strategic convergence, efforts must be made to address divergences through free and frank engagements at policy level


India must list its strengths and weaknesses when it is participating in the third country on developments. Apart from that IndiaI must establish the neighborhood constituencies and should have a dialogue with the concerned political, economic, social and cultural actors.