“We are following the principle of asymmetry to which we are committed, so that there is special preferential treatment for Sri Lanka without India seeking any reciprocity. I made this abundantly clear. And it is now left to Sri Lankan and Indian businesses to take up this opportunity to take it forward from here,” India’s Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma was quoted as saying. Minister Sharma was speaking at the India-Sri Lanka CEOs Forum held recently to develop a roadmap to increased cooperation and mutually beneficial economic partnership between the two countries, and saw participation of top business leaders from India and Sri Lanka.
Sharama during his address also stated that India was very keen on entering Sri Lanka’s ports and airport infrastructure building projects.
Also present were Sri Lankan Ministers Rishad Bathiudeen (Industry and Commerce) and Dr. Sarath Amunugama (International Monetary Co-operation), as well as Ashok K. Kantha, High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka.
“We are also committed to building Sri Lanka’s infrastructure in terms of power projects, buildings and railway projects. Indian firms have the resources, tech and experience and we will be happy to work in other sectors, particularly ports,” Sharma noted.
“Our oil companies have their presence in every continent from Shakalin in Russia to Caribbean, Africa, Vietnam, South Americas, with tens of billions of US dollars in investment. Indian corporate entities in the last 10 years have made $120 billion investments outside India in every distant region in the world. We are also keen to expand in Sri Lanka’s hydrocarbon sector too and we have submitted proposals for exploration in Mannar and Cauvery Basins,” he added.
Touching upon the issues pertaining to free movement of people between the two countries for business purposes, Sharma noted that he will discuss them with India’s Foreign Ministry to remove at least some of the difficulties or to create a regime which facilitates the movement of people and working visas for those requiring them.
At the forum, industry leaders and CEOs of both countries were in broad agreement that IndoLanka trade could be doubled to $10 billion by 2105. Sri Lanka’s location astride an ancient trade route in the Indian Ocean makes it of strategic commercial and military interest to the United States, India and China. China has been competing for influence in Sri Lanka with India, traditionally the island’s most important ally.
China has lent Sri Lanka hundreds of millions of dollars to build ports, roads, railways, power plants and a new airport, fuelling speculation China wants military bases on the island, something denied by Sri Lanka.