India To Push For ECTA, But At Sri Lanka’s Pace

by Easwaran Rutnam

  • Bilateral trade and investment links between Sri Lanka and India are robust
  • India has committed over US$ 2.6 billion in development assistance to Sri Lanka, with over US$ 435 million as outright grants

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh, President Maithripala Sirisena

India is to push for the signing of the controversial Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ECTA) with Sri Lanka, but at Sri Lanka’s pace.

The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu, speaking at a reception held on Thursday night to mark the 68th Republic Day of India, said that bilateral trade and investment links between Sri Lanka and India are robust, and the India – Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement has played an important role in this.

“Nearly 60% of Sri Lankan exports now take advantage of the concessions, under this Agreement. Investments, from both sides, are increasing. I also look forward to the implementation of numerous projects, by Indian companies in Sri Lanka this year, particularly in the energy and infrastructure sectors. Negotiations are underway, to conclude an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ECTA) to take the FTA to the next level. I want to emphasise, that we will move at a pace, that Sri Lanka is comfortable with,” he said.

The Ambassador also said that India is happy that Indo-Lanka development partnership projects are progressing well, particularly the flagship Indian Housing Project, under which more than 45,000 houses, have been constructed on grant basis.

“We are now focusing on Central and Uva Provinces, where an innovative community-driven approach is being adopted. Overall, India has committed over US$ 2.6 billion in development assistance to Sri Lanka, with over US$ 435 million as outright grants. Numerous Indian-assisted projects are underway in various sectors, including the emergency ambulance service in the Southern and Western Provinces. The high level attention in India to such projects was manifested, in President Sirisena jointly inaugurating, with Prime Minister Modi, the renovated Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna last year. I would like to stress, that India will continue to extend, whatever assistance we can, to support Sri Lanka’s development efforts,” he said.

 

High level of exchanges

The High Commissioner also noted that cultural and people to people relations remain strong. He said the defence partnership is also strong, characterised by regular high level exchanges of visits, joint training and exercises, as well as ship visits.

“We were privileged to welcome President Sirisena and other dignitaries onboard our aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, last year at Colombo port, on its maiden overseas port call. Both India and Sri Lanka also share similar perspectives against terrorists,” he said.

He says India has an abiding interest, in the security of Sri Lanka, and remains committed to Sri Lanka’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We have always supported efforts, to preserve Sri Lanka’s character as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society in which all citizens can live in equality, safety and harmony, and prosper and fulfill their aspirations. India will continue to remain engaged with Sri Lanka, and offer our support in a spirit of partnership and cooperation. We hope that ongoing efforts for constitutional reform and reconciliation are successful,” he said. The High Commissioner also congratulated the national unity government of Sri Lanka, on completing two years in office.

 

Visits from both sides

He said the two years have been marked by, high level engagement, between the two countries, adding that President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe chose India, as the destination of their first overseas visits, after assuming office, while Prime Minister Modi undertook a historic visit to Sri Lanka, in March 2015, the first stand-alone bilateral visit, to Sri Lanka by an Indian Prime Minister since 1987.

“We were honoured that President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe have made a number of official visits to India last year. In addition, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, and numerous other dignitaries, also visited India. From our side too, there have been a number of visits, including by External Affairs Minister last February for the Joint Commission Meeting, Commerce and Industry Minister in September 2016 and by Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare earlier this month. Further visits from both sides at various levels are expected in the months to come,” he said. The envoy noted that under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, the Indian economy is witnessing resurgence, in economic growth despite a global economic slowdown. He says India is today, the fastest growing major economy, of the world, and is being seen as an engine of global growth.

“Over the last two and a half years, Foreign Direct Investment in flows, have touched US$ 130 billion, while India’s ranking on parameters, such as global competitiveness, global innovation and ease of doing business have moved up.  Numerous legislative and regulatory reform measures are being implemented, including an historic Goods and Services Tax that will truly make India, a common market. The demonetisation initiative will yield numerous long-term benefits. Reform of regulatory measures, have been initiated, and special initiatives have been launched, such as Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities, Skill India, Housing for All and Start Up India. These have set India, on the path to being an efficient economy, focused on industry, innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.

The Ambassador also said that India has made enormous strides in various fields, particularly in high technology and innovation.

The Indian Space Research Organisation, having successfully reached Mars and also launched 20 satellites on a single rocket, and is now targeting to launch of more than 100 satellites at one go, a feat not achieved by any country so far.  We are also developing, a reusable space shuttle. We are part of   global efforts in fundamental research, through projects, like study of gravitational waves, and development of a 30 metre telescope.  Our renewable energy expansion programme, is the largest in the world. The world’s largest solar power plant was recently unveiled in India. India’s internet base is now the second largest in the world,” he said.

He said India is using biometric technology, to better target government assistance, to the needy, with more than a billion Aadhaar cards issued.

1 Comment for “India To Push For ECTA, But At Sri Lanka’s Pace”

  1. Malin

    Indian ambassador alleged to have said quote He says India has an abiding interest, in the security of Sri Lanka, and remains committed to Sri Lanka’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrityUnquote
    Has he forgotten dumping Parippu (Dhal) ,forcing a half baked constitution on us, training LTTE terrorist during on Indian soil, refusing to constructively SL to fight the LTTE terrorist instead harbouring them and now talking helping to retain SLs unity and integrity & sovereignty. Oh my foot!

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