Why is it in the news-

  • Recently, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage said India’s strategic security interests will be protected, amid China’s growing presence in the island nation.
  • It is further declared that Sri Lanka will adopt an “India first approach” as its new foreign policy plank and protect New Delhi’s strategic security interests against that of Beijing.
  • Admiral Colombage became the first-ever foreign secretary from a military background when he was appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to head the Foreign Ministry on August 14.

Significances of Srilanka-

  • Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers.
  • During the J.R Jayewardene (1978-1989) and Ranasinghe Premadasa (1989-1993) tenures, Sri Lanka was chosen to build the Voice of America transmitting station (suspected of being used for intelligence gathering purposes and electronic surveillance of the Indian Ocean).
  • 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 Phru (Myanmar) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka). Srilanka is a significant part of China’s string of pearls policy to surround India, during the needful hours.
  • Sri Lanka has a list of highly strategic ports located among busiest sea lanes of communication.
  • 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.

India-Srilanka Relations-

  • The political relations between India and Sri Lanka have been marked by high-level exchanges of visits at regular intervals.
  • In February 2015, Sri Lanka’s newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena undertook his first official visit to India, and Modi paid a return visit to Colombo in March 2015. He was the first Indian prime minister to do a stand-alone visit to Sri Lanka in 28 years.
  • 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.
  • Former Srilankan President Rajapaksa took Sri Lanka closer to China and sidelining Indian concerns including over the rehabilitation of Tamils displaced by the long-running Sri Lankan civil war.
  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA)-
  • The main framework for bilateral trade has been provided by the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) that 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.

Highlights of the recent major development in the bilateral relations-

  • It is stated by the new Foreign secretary of Srilanka that the Strategic Security Policies of Sri Lanka will have “India First” approach.
  • According to international political experts, this will change Srilanka’s Geo-political situations with China. As China is trying to exercise dominance over the island nation for its strategic location in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • It is further reported that, post this dialogue of development in relation with India nearly 18 newly appointed cabinet ministers attended a dinner hosted by Indian high commissioner Gopal Baglay in Colombo.
  • The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government of Srilanka, is also keen on strengthening ties with the five southern Indian states and may depute an experienced hand- Valsan, as the deputy high commissioner in Chennai.
  • This news and dialogues between the two countries shows the way towards a strong relationship between the two countries, which will be evidently very beneficial for India, looking at the China growing presence in the India ocean.

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