DAY #107 – Free GS Answer Writing Practice

1)Delays in the completion of infrastructure projects undertaken by India in its neighbourhood region have inflicted setbacks on India’s strategic goals. Comment.

Enhancing regional connectivity is today one of India’s top foreign policy priorities, whether with Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. Building infrastructure to facilitate trade and enhance connectivity with these countries is a key element of the Neighbourhood First and Act East policies pursued by Indian government, since 2014.

o Iran:
▪ Rail link from Chabahar to Zahedan:
➢ Chahbahar port is a seaport located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman.
➢ Chahbahar, which is located 72 kilometres west of Pakistan’s Gwadar port, holds immense strategic and economic significance for India.
➢ Recently, Iran has decided to proceed with the strategic raillink from Chabahar port to Zahedan on the Afghan border on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in beginning and funding the project.
➢ The development of the port, and the link overland through Iran to the Afghan border, was supposed to be India’s answer to Pakistan’s denial of the trading route through Wagah to Khyber Pass into Afghanistan and beyond, to Central Asia. ▪ India is also no longer a part of Iran’s Farzad B gas field.

▪ Strategic set back for India:
o Chahbahar port could act as a check for increasing Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea as China is heavily involved in the construction of the Gwadar, a deep sea port in the Balochistan area of Pakistan.
o The location of Chahbahar and Gwadar ports in close vicinity of each other underlines the intense competition between India and China in the region with Pakistan siding with the Chinese.
o Costs of imports of products like iron ore, oil, sugar, and rice to India could have been significantly lowered. A study commissioned by the Ministry of Commerce has found that cost of imports via Chahbahar port along with INSTC is 30% cheaper than those via Mediterranean-Suez route.

▪ Nepal,
The Pancheshwar Dam project
➢ This project for instance, has been hanging fire since 1991. Prime Minister of India promised to speed it up when he visited Kathmandu in August 2014, but little progress was made.
➢ Instead, India is firefighting to salvage a longstanding relationship with Nepal over claims of territory.
▪ A still to be completed trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand has been overshadowed by a Chinese-built highway that has boosted China-Myanmar border trade.
▪ Sri Lanka: India’s better record in Sri Lanka is not without missed opportunities that were once again snapped up by China. Delhi has no choice but to find a more efficient way of getting around these difficulties.

o Set back on India’s strategic goals:

▪ Threat of China’s BRI: ➢ India’s new approach to actively invest in infrastructure projects in the neighbourhood gained importance with China’s new Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), announced in 2014, which focused on infrastructure investments worldwide, including in India’s immediate neighbourhood. ➢ India decided not to sign on to the BRI, but barring Bhutan all of its other neighbours did. This naturally increased the pressure on India to perform better and offer alternatives.

▪ India’s Financial assistance: The importance of infrastructure in India’s strategy is reflected in the financial effort. Between 2014 to 2018, India’s assistance to six neighbouring countries amounted to over Rs 21,100 crore. Approximately half of this amount was dedicated towards infrastructure projects.

▪ Leeway to China: However delays in implementation of these infrastructure projects by India has granted China the leeway to enter the infrastructural void space in those countries.
For example:
➢ China- Iran: China has pledged to invest $120 billion into Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, thus giving it inroads into major sectors in Iran including banking, telecommunications, ports and railways. Iran is already a signatory of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and this is in line with China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”
➢ China –Nepal: China and Nepal have accelerated cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and have strengthened interconnection through trade, transportation, and telecommunications.
➢ China- Bangladesh: Since 2016, billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese financial assistance has flown into Bangladesh. In return, Bangladesh became one of the first South Asian nations to officially endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
➢ China- Sri Lanka: Among the completed BRI projects in Sri Lanka are the Norocholai Power Station, the Colombo Airport Expressway, the Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), and the Moragahakanda Project. Meanwhile, the other two mega projects — Colombo Port City project and the Hambantota Port and Industrial Park project are currently under construction.

▪ Way forward:
➢ It will be important to operationalise the Chabahar port quickly and smoothen the route to Afghanistan.
➢ Keeping timelines and delivery of India’s commitments will be key to ensuring its strategic interests
➢ As an emerging power, India cannot remain confined to South Asia and must take measures for a peaceful extended neighbourhood (Iran-Afghanistan).
• Conclusion: With China rounding up India’s neighbours with its ‘debt trap policy’ and increasing its presence in regions surrounding India, it has become imperative for India to step up and accelerate the implementation of its international projects.

2)India and Sri Lanka share close ties, but distrust and differences remain. Discuss

The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. The India-Sri Lanka relationship, de jure, is between equals as sovereign nations. However, the relationship is asymmetric in terms of geographic size, population, military and economic power, on the one hand, and also social indicators and geographical location, on the other. The relationship is also steeped in myth and legend, and influenced by religious, cultural and social affinities.

Close ties of India-Sri Lanka:

o Diplomatic Cooperation:
➢ Diplomatic relations between India and Sri Lanka are marked by visits of high level Government functionaries. Eg. Recent visit by SriLankan Prime Minister Mahenda Rajapaksha
➢ A notable diplomatic event in the recent past was our Indian Prime Minister’s address to the Sri Lankan parliament in 2015 .
➢ India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was established in 1992. The commission facilitates discussions relating to bilateral affairs of both the countries
➢ India and Sri Lanka signed a civilian nuclear energy deal in 2015. The agreement aims at cooperation to explore nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

o Economic Cooperation:
➢ India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2010.
➢ India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner
➢ India is the source of one of the largest foreign direct investments in Sri Lanka.
➢ Sri Lanka is also a potential source of foreign investment in India Defence and
➢ Tourism is one of the important areas of cooperation. Sri Lankan tourists are one of the top ten visitors to India
➢ Air connectivity to Sri Lanka’s north and east is already being improved — there is a flight from India to Jaffna, and another one being proposed for Batticaloa.

o Security Cooperation:
➢ In recent years, the two sides have steadily increased their military-to-military relationship.
➢ India and Sri Lanka conducts joint Military (‘Mitra Shakti’) and Naval exercise (SLINEX).
➢ India also provides defence training to Sri Lankan forces.
➢ A trilateral maritime security cooperation agreement was signed by India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to improve surveillance, anti-piracy operations and reducing maritime pollution in Indian Ocean Region.
➢ In April 2019, India and Sri Lanka also concluded agreement on countering Drug and human trafficking.
➢ Both countries have discussed intelligence sharing, training and the utilisation of a special $50- million Line of Credit extended by India after last year’s Easter Sunday bombings.

o Development Assistance:
➢ After the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009, as an immediate response India provided all war relief measures including food, medicine etc.
➢ As a long term measure, India announced reconstruction of 50000 houses to provide shelter to Internally Displaced People (IDP).
➢ India is one of the largest provider of development credit to Sri Lanka. The credit is mostly provided for the Sri Lanka’s infrastructure development
➢ India has provided medical equipment and ambulances to hospitals in Sri Lanka.

o Cultural and Educational Cooperation:
➢ India and Sri Lanka signed a cultural cooperation agreement in 1977
➢ India cultural centre in Colombo promotes Indian culture by providing courses in Indian music, dance, yoga etc.
➢ India provides scholarships to qualified Sri Lankan students in Undergraduate and research studies.
➢ Sri Lanka is also a partner in Nalanda university project of India
➢ India and Sri Lanka commemorated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhathva Jayanthi) through joint activities.

Issues and Conflicts- Reasons for distrust and differences

o China factor:
➢ In recent years, China has extended billions of dollars of loans to the Sri Lankan government for new infrastructure projects, which is not good for India’s strategic depth in Indian Ocean Region.
➢ Sri Lanka also handed over the strategic port of Hambantota, which is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to China on a 99-year lease.
➢ China has also supplied arms as well as provide huge loans to Sri Lanka for its development.

o Fishermen Issue:
Fishing disputes have been a constant area of concern between the two South Asian neighbors for a long time. Sri Lanka has long expressed concerns about illegal fishing by Indian fishermen within its territorial waters across the Palk Strait. The country regularly arrests Indian fishermen for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates Indian and Sri Lankan waters. India also detains Sri Lankan fishermen for the illegal fishing.

o Katchatheevu Island
➢ It is an uninhabited island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 based on a conditional agreement called “Kachchativu island pact”.
➢ Later on, Sri Lanka declared Katchatheevu, a sacred land given the presence of a Catholic shrine
➢ The central government recognizes Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the island as per the 1974 accord. But Tamil Nadu claimed that Katchatheevu falls under the Indian territory and Tamil fishermen have traditionally believed that it belongs to them and therefore want to preserve the right to fish there.

o However, the relation between Sri Lanka and India are improving.
➢ In order to allay Indian concerns that the Hambantota port will not be used for military purposes, the Sri Lankan government has sought to limit China’s role to running commercial operations at the port while it retains oversight of security operations.

o Measures needed to strengthen the bilateral ties:
➢ Both countries should try to work out a permanent solution to the issue of fishermen through bilateral engagements.
➢ Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) must be signed to improve the economic cooperation between both countries.
➢ India needs to focus more on its traditional and cultural ties to improve relations with Sri Lanka.
➢ Starting of ferry services between India and Sri Lanka can improve people to people linkages.
➢ Mutual recognition of each other’s concerns and interests can improve the relationship between both countries.

• Conclusion:
Despite some of the pending issues, the relations between the two neighbors in IOR look to be going forward. Trade between the two has grown rapidly after the entry into force of FTA in 2000. India is planning to develop regions beyond the drefence assistance provided
to Sri Lanka which are welcome steps. It may be hoped that the ethnic and fishermen issues may also get resolved in near future with better relations being on track. Hardships of COVID-19 present an opportune time for Sri Lanka and India to nourish the roots of the relationship using modern toolkits, but leveraging age-old wisdom and experience.

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