NEW DELHI: Foreign Secretary S. Jaishanker to visit Sri Lanka on Sunday to further economic cooperation and the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) that has been in discussion for nearly a decade might be on the agenda as well.
Confirming his visit, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the Foreign Secretary will be taking forward the issues discussed during Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s India visit.
“Foreign Secretary is going to Colombo over this weekend to discuss economic cooperation with Sri Lanka and to pursue the various initiatives and ideas that were discussed during the high-level visits that we recently had, one of President Sirisena and earlier of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. So that is the context in which Foreign Minister is proceeding to Sri Lanka,” Swarup said.
As Sri Lanka fought its ‘war to finish’ against the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Ealem (LTTE), it drifted apart from India that refused to supply its military hardware. This vacuum helped China to increase its presence in the island nation and thereby gain access to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by developing an airport and a port city.
However, the Narendra Modi government has tried to bridge the distance between India and its neighbouring countries through its neighbourhood policy. New Delhi would be pushing for ETCA, earlier known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that has been hanging fire for nearly 10 years owing to the reservation of the Sri Lankan business community. Sri Lankan businessmen feel that Indian service sector might swipe over the small market. India would want to allay the fears and finalise the draft of the agreement. India would want to participate in the economic development of post-conflict Sri Lanka.
The ETCA would be paving way for liberalising trade between the two countries, would allow Indian firms to set up manufacturing units that will also enable exports to third country. Indian IT Professional and ship building industry might also be moving to the country.