Narendra Modi and Mahinda Rajapaksa Photograph:( ANI )
Sri Lanka wants to expand its market share in India, which includes setting up business councils in Mumbai and Chennai
The Sri Lankan high commission in India has come out with a 27 page "integrated country strategy" or a road map that aims to strengthen ties with India on several areas like trade, defense, connectivity, and people to people with a mandate of two years.
The document highlighted that "being both essentially multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural countries, Sri Lanka and India have much in common. The sharing of their similar experiences is an ongoing process."
The document has been prepared by Sri Lanka's High Commissioner-designate Milinda Moragoda, Chargé d’ Affaires Niluka Kadurugamuwa, with Sri Lanka's diplomatic missions--in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai working together. The roadmap has been envisaged for the next two years.
When it comes to trading, one of the main aims of Sri Lanka is to increase exports from the country and expand Sri Lanka’s market share in India, which includes setting up business councils in Mumbai and Chennai, recognition of Sri Lankan food testing laboratories by India.
The document previewed with WION contains two parts. Part I, which is the strategic framework, outlines seven Goals, and several objectives under each Goal. In Part II, the Goals and Objectives are further described and justified, and key tasks to achieve their implementation have also been proposed.
When it comes to defence and Indian ocean security, facilitate Sri Lanka’s participation in four bilateral and multilateral military exercises per year, visits of top Sri Lankan defence leadership like Secretary Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army, Commander of the Navy, Commander of the Air Force and Director General Coast Guard one per year and "full utilization of the relevant berths offered by the Ministry of Defence of India to Sri Lanka".
Aim also is to establish the Office of the Defence Advisor, in the High Commission of Sri Lanka in New Delhi. India in 2019 announced a $50 million special Line of Credit for counter-terrorism activities which is still to be utilized by Sri Lanka, the document pointed out.
On the connectivity front, the document aims to facilitate an increase in air, sea, electrical grid and digital connectivity between Sri Lanka and India. Sri Lankan missions have been asked, under the document to identify new air destinations for Sri Lankan airlines flights, Operationalize already identified destinations such as Ahmedabad and pursue the resumption/ establishment of passenger ferry services between Sri Lanka and India.
Interestingly, a special focus is on religious exchanges, with the promotion of Buddhist and Hindu exchanges. One of the key tasks for implementation is the ceremonial handing over of the sacred stone from the Sita Amman temple in Sri Lanka to the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The document says, "Buddhism has been the lynchpin of the age-old relations between the two countries. Therefore, promoting Buddhist ties with India is of paramount importance."
The emphasis in the document is on religious tourism with "Buddhist circuit, the Ramayana, the Murugan and the Shiva Shakthi trails as well as the Vailankanni trail" that could be "utilised to foster exchanges at the level of religious leaders and scholars". Key tasks listed in the cornerstone documents include visits by Sri Lankan President, PM, Foreign minister to India and vice versa as well. Exchanges also at the level of speakers. The country also aims to establish Consulate General in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, expected to be functional from 2022 which coincides with the centenary of the first visit of Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore to Sri Lanka.