05/28/2024, 17.01
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Connecting India to Sri Lanka to boost regional development

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

Connectivity is the key word in relations between Delhi and Colombo, in different areas: maritime, air, energy, trade, economic and people-to-people. Projects examined include the so-called "Land Connectivity Corridor", a bridge over the sea – for road and rail – connecting Talaimannar to Rameswaram. India contributed to the island's economy at the worst of its crisis.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Connectivity is the key word for the future development of relations between Colombo and India, India’s High Commissioner Santos Jha indicated during a discussion with a select group of correspondents in the capital, Colombo, looking at the current state of bilateral relations.

The two countries are trying to boost their economic partnership through a potentially high-impact project, namely the India-Sri Lanka Land Connectivity Corridor.

Chief of Staff to the President and National Security Advisor Sagala Ratnayake visited India last March to discuss how to realise this project, which would see the construction of a 23-kilometre highway between India and Sri Lanka, linking Tamil Nadu and to the island nation.

The mega-structure would run from Talaimannar to Rameswaram over the Palk Strait, and would include a railway line and a vehicular road.

The new highway system would facilitate direct travel from Talaimannar to Trincomalee in eastern Sri Lanka and Colombo in the South. However, the first road to be constructed would run from Talaimannar to the Port of Trincomalee.

Efforts are also underway to foster Sri Lanka’s energy security, by bringing down energy costs, connecting Sri Lanka to emerging regional and global grids, with India as a major transit point.

This can help bring investments to build Sri Lanka’s vast clean energy potential and generate additional revenue. The goal is to promote Sri Lanka as a major energy exporter.

Power grid interconnection, a multi-product pipeline, and a virtual LNG pipeline connecting India and Sri Lanka are included as well as future projects between the two countries.

India has helped Sri Lanka complete over 60 major projects in 25 districts in all domains; meanwhile, the bilateral relationship is evolving as people needs and priorities change.

During the economic crisis, the worst experienced during the post-independence period, India provided approximately US$ 4 billion in food and financial assistance to Sri Lanka.

During his visit to India in July 2023, President Ranil Wickremesinghe met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders conducted productive talks to forge a closer bilateral economic partnership between the two countries while enhancing growth in the Indian Ocean Region.

The Vision Document adopted by the two leaders is a long-term roadmap to prosperity, with connectivity in five spheres as key enablers, namely maritime connectivity; air connectivity; energy and power connectivity; trade, economic and financial connectivity; and people-to-people connectivity.

Political analysts Ramesh Kahawita and Sonali Thrimawithana told Asia News that “President Ranil Wickremesinghe presented the Indo-Lanka land connectivity project,” while delivering “a speech at the seventh Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) in Perth, Australia, in February this year.”

The goal is to “establish Sri Lanka as a regional logistics hub facilitating trade with South India” because “existing facilities are not sufficient.”

“The president also highlighted the vital need for enhanced connectivity infrastructure to accommodate the projected eight-fold increase in the GDP of countries such as India by 2050.”

According to economic analysts Shirantha Gamage and Dilusha Hewapathirana, “the key objective of the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ECTA) is Sri Lanka’s access to vast Indian markets in merchandise goods and in services.”

This is essential to “promote Indian investments, as India is a rapidly growing engine for global growth and Sri Lanka must be ready to take advantage of this as the preferred partner and a close neighbour.”

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