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Q8. "China's hegemony in Sri Lanka poses a security threat to India." In this light, consider the necessity to restructure India's relationship with Sri Lanka. (250 words)

Paper & Topic: GS II à India & its Neighbourhood – Relations

 

  • Model Answer:

 

  • Introduction:

 

  • Traditionally, the relationship between India and Sri Lanka is one of equals as independent nations.
  • It is rich in myth and folklore, and religious, cultural, and social connections have affected it.
  • This is an ideal time for Sri Lanka and India to strengthen the foundations of their relationship by combining contemporary tools with age-old wisdom and experience.
  • However, China's proximity to Sri Lanka is cause for alarm.

 

  • Body:

 

  • Relationships between India and Sri Lanka:

 

  • The India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect in March 2000.
  • According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade totaled $4.38 billion in 2016.
  • Development loans and lines of credit: Sri Lanka receives about a sixth of India's development loans.
  • India's private sector invests heavily in Sri Lanka, as well as Sri Lanka's private sector invests heavily in India. Petroleum, IT, Financial Services, Real Estate, Telecom, Hospitals, Tourism, Banking, Food Processing, and other fields of collaboration between the two countries.
  • For Sri Lankan tourists visiting India, Indian railways are giving a unique package.
  • For Sri Lanka, India has implemented an e-visa system.
  • India is Sri Lanka's fourth-largest investor.
  • We have invested roughly $1 billion in Sri Lanka since 2003.

 

 

 

  • China's Predominance in Sri Lanka à A Security Concern for India:

 

  • The Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill was passed by the Sri Lankan Parliament on May 19, 2021.
  • With little oversight from the Sri Lankan government, China will obtain an additional 269 hectares of reclaimed seafront off the Colombo port in the country's south-west after the Bill becomes an Act.
  • Colombo assumes importance for India because it trans-ships nearly 70% of all container cargo for and from India, mostly at Chinese-operated terminals.
  • Chinese initiatives in Sri Lanka have risen tremendously, owing to the country's importance in the Major Sea Lines of Communication.
  • This not only has security issues, but also results in transit delays and financial loss for India.
  • China's debt trap diplomacy was exposed with the 99-year takeover of Hambantota port.
  • This is bad news for India's maritime security and the Indian Ocean region's Chinese encirclement.
  • The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will almost certainly have a presence in these waters as a result of the leasing of Hambantota and the Port City project, which could include bases for warships/submarines as well as a staging post for longer naval deployments in the Indian Ocean.
  • The Chinese navy will be able to easily monitor Indian naval activity in the Indian Ocean.
  • It will undoubtedly limit the Indian Navy's deployment options and negate the country's geographic advantage in these regions.
  • The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is considerably different from that between China and Sri Lanka.
  • Due to the presence of Tamils on both sides of the Palk Straits, India has an ethnically ambiguous maritime border with Sri Lanka and is thus involved in the island nation's domestic affairs.

 

  • India's engagement has to be reimagined:

 

  • To prevent China from making further advances into Sri Lanka, India will need to continue working on the Kankesanturai port in Jaffna and the oil tank farm project in Trincomalee.
  • Sri Lanka's socioeconomic progress has remained linked to India.
  • However, there are numerous solutions for dealing with imbalances and asymmetries.
  • For example, Sri Lanka might encourage Indian businesses to make Colombo another business hub for them, as the country's logistical capabilities and rest and recreation facilities continue to improve.
  • Fast-tracking the integration of the two economies, but with specific and unequal treatment for Sri Lanka due to economic inequalities.
  • Strong collaborations across the economic and social spectrum can encourage people-to-people bonhomie.
  • There is enormous opportunity to amplify or create complementarity, employing locational and human resource potential, for capturing benefits in modern value chains.
  • Legislative engagement is also critical for developing multiparty support.
  • With many countries retreating into cocoons as a result of the pandemic, this is a good time for both countries to focus on alliance renewal and revitalization.

 

  • Conclusion:

 

  • Now, India must adjust to the fact that its main foe is essentially in its backyard and adjust its preparedness and response accordingly.
  • Furthermore, an unified Sino-Pakistan axis, with China being based in Gwadar, will pose a significant challenge for India.
  • The governing Rajapaksa dynasty now has a fantastic personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • The presence of China on the island nation is a source of concern for India, since Beijing is known to use subversion, espionage, and sabotage to advance its national goals and objectives.
  • As a result, as part of its 'Island Diplomacy,' India's foreign policy toward Sri Lanka will have to develop in response to new realities and dangers.

 

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