NEW DELHI: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday said that India and the Island nation will be signing an enhanced bilateral economic partnership agreement by the year end and said that closer economic ties will benefit the five southern states of India.
The enhanced economic ties agreement will be in addition to the existing Free trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I decided we must conclude it (the proposed technology and economic co-operation agreement) by the end of this year. This offers a strategic economic advantage to our country and the fastest-growing southern Indian States,” Wickremesinghe said while speaking at the India Economic Summit hosted by the World Economic Forum and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in the capital.
Wickremesinghe said that the pact will be make Sri Lanka and the five southern States, including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu grow together. The five states combined have a population of 272 million people and a combined gross domestic product of over $500 billion. “These five States, with Sri Lanka, have an economy, whose GDP is equivalent to that of Sweden,” Wickremesinghe said.
“We are cognizant that the economic asymmetry between us and India is going to increase in the future, when the latter emerges as a global player in an increasingly multi-polar world,” he said while making a suggestion for creating a larger special zone of economic cooperation around the Bay of Bengal taking on board Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in addition to BIMSTEC countries - Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
“Let’s have a whole area around the Bay of Bengal of vibrant economic cooperation and a vibrant one. That’s what we envisage and should work for. The growth is here,” he stated.