” Is China Advancing its Steps in India-Sri Lanka Relationship ? ” – February 18, 2021.

India-Sri Lanka relationship is a well established relationship. Tamils and Tamil nadu politics are the two pillars governing this relationship. Elections to Tamil Nadu assembly are to be held soon.

China’s recent emergence as a force determining India-Sri Lanka relationship in this context has to be noted. How this will shape and which direction it will take under the circumstances remains a mystifying puzzle.

China has been offering financial support to Sri Lanka extensively. Most sea ports of Sri Lanka are upgraded with the help of either a Chinese Organisation fully or jointly.

The previous political leadership of Sri Lanka had set an agreement to upgrade the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Seaport jointly with India and Japan. But the present Government (2019) under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to pull out of that agreement independently without any consultations with either India or Japan.

In addition, it has recently given the responsibility of establishing electric facilities in Yazhppanam islands to China. That the islands are located just 50 km from Tamil nadu, Rameswaram, is significant. China executes this work jointly with Ceylon Electricity Board. Sri Lanka approved Sinosoar-Etechwin JV in China to install hybrid renewable energy systems in the following islands – Nainativu, Delft or Neduntivu, and Analaitivu. All these are connected to the Jaffna Peninsula by ferry service managed by Sri Lankan Navy.

Many in Tamil Nadu are concerned and cautioned against the safety of Indians. Many in India have also condemned this development. India has also registered its strong concern over the ₹ 87 crores project to be executed with China.

Austin Fernando, Sri Lankan former High Commissioner to India has voiced his support for Sri Lanka that this project backed by Asian Development Bank had the due procurement process including invitations for contracts from International Organisations fairly and genuinely. He also cited the participation of an Indian Organisation in this process (without citing its name) that could not succeed.

In the 1980s America attempted to establish a Tower in Trincomalee (city in Sri Lanka) which was strongly resisted by India. Sri Lanka was subjected to the stress and pressures of India that proved fruitful. But, India is not in a position to adopt a similar stance today.

The islands where the electric facilities are to be established are not in close proximity to the land of Sri Lanka. Uptil now, the islands used only diesel generators for their needs of electricity. Of these islands, Eluvaitivu is the smallest and Neduntivu is the largest. Neduntivu is also the island where Sri Lankan Naval Base is organised. It was also at the peak of LTTE agitation that Sri Lanka faced them from this island.

Indian External Affairs Minister, Sri Jayashankar, has clearly expressed the firm resolve to strengthen the India Sri Lankan relationship. He has also reiterated emphatically the two key aspects of : (a) Justice to the Tamils ; and (b) establishing their rights through implementation of 13th Amendment by the Sri Lankan Government. However, Sri Lanka’s efforts do not create any faith in true observance of these conditions.

However, within a month of his visit Sri Lanka offered India’s participation in the upgradation of the Western Container Terminal of Colombo Seaport even while pulling out of the Eastern Container Terminal.

Rajapaksa brothers have always held the belief grudging India’s responsibility in the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier. Hence their staunch opposition to involve India in the matter of Sri Lankan Tamils. This is also a reason why the clout of China is raising in Sri Lanka.

Lankan citizens seem to believe that India should not try to put their oars in the internal matters of Sri Lanka. That China is slowly becoming a force to reckon with in determining India-Sri Lanka relationship is seen clearly here. It presents a challenge to India.

” Dieu avec nous “

Thursday, February 18, 2021 – 3.17 p.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” India and Sri Lanka are both neighbours and Republics within the Commonwealth of Nations “.

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