Date – During a private lunch meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, India emphasized its support for the island nation during the 2022 economic crisis. While acknowledging India’s assistance in that difficult period, PM Modi also urged Sri Lanka to consider India’s national security interests before collaborating with other powers. In response, President Wickremesinghe agreed to be sensitive to India’s strategic and security concerns.
The meeting between the two leaders, which extended over an hour, raised the issue of China’s increasing engagement with Colombo under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With Sri Lanka currently burdened by significant Chinese debt, India sought reassurance that its long-standing ties with the island nation would be respected, particularly when it comes to strategic cooperation.
During the discussions, President Wickremesinghe proposed the idea of a 27-kilometer land bridge between India and Sri Lanka, connecting Rameswaram to Talai Mannar. PM Modi promptly endorsed the suggestion, considering the shallow depths of the Palk Straits in the region, making it conducive for constructing a bridge.
In addition to the land bridge proposal, both countries explored opportunities for cooperation in various sectors, such as digital, oil, power, road, and potentially railroad connectivity in the future. There were discussions on developing ports and logistics infrastructure in Colombo, Trincomalee, and Kankesanthurai, with an emphasis on maritime connectivity. The two nations also agreed to cooperate in air connectivity, energy, power connectivity, and renewable energy projects.
Experts based in Colombo and New Delhi recognize the importance of cautious planning to implement these long-term visions on the ground, given China’s substantial influence in Sri Lankan affairs. Beijing is likely to safeguard its interests in the region and resist India’s attempts to regain its historical leverage with Sri Lanka.
As both countries aim to foster a stronger partnership and address regional concerns, India’s commitment to supporting Sri Lanka in times of economic hardship reinforces the significance of their bilateral relationship. However, navigating the complexities of geopolitical dynamics will require careful diplomacy and cooperation.
Sources By Agencies