In a recent exclusive interview with ABP Live, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India, Milinda Moragoda, sheds light on the strategic relationship between Sri Lanka and India. He emphasizes that due to its unique geographical location and proximity to the Indian mainland, Sri Lanka’s security interests are closely aligned with those of India. Moragoda also discusses the significance of this partnership within the broader context of the Indo-Pacific strategic framework in the Indian Ocean.
Strategic Partnership with India
Moragoda highlights that Sri Lanka recognizes India as its “security anchor” in the Indo-Pacific region. He underscores the historical, civilizational, genetic, and geographical linkages that make the relationship between the two countries special and distinct from other bilateral ties. He notes that while Sri Lanka expects to be the theater of strategic competition between India and China due to its location, its security interests are closely intertwined with India’s.
Complexities and Clear Communication
The High Commissioner stresses the importance of high-quality dialogue and communication between leaders in maintaining the security understanding between India and Sri Lanka. He emphasizes that swift and clear communication is essential in a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape, particularly for democracies like India and Sri Lanka. Moragoda acknowledges the interest shown by other countries like Japan and the United States in engaging with Colombo within the broader Indo-Pacific context.
China’s Presence and Sri Lanka’s Response
The interview addresses the issue of Chinese vessels in Sri Lankan waters, with Moragoda explaining that Sri Lanka has learned to live with India-China strategic concerns over the Indian Ocean. He refers to historical experiences of dealing with external powers and the country’s strategy to engage with various stakeholders while considering its own interests.
Economic Stability and India’s Role
Moragoda underscores India’s significant role in stabilizing Sri Lanka’s economy during the 2022 crisis. He mentions India’s timely financial assistance, dialogue with international financial institutions, and support for debt restructuring. The interview highlights India’s proactive approach in helping Sri Lanka navigate economic challenges and the imperative of sustainable economic growth.
Enhancing Economic Integration
Economic integration with India is presented as crucial for Sri Lanka’s economic stability and growth. Moragoda explains that Sri Lanka aims to broaden its income streams, attract foreign investment, and enter global supply chains. He points out that Indian investments, such as the Adani Group’s involvement in building the West Container Terminal and other ventures, have boosted investor confidence in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery and Challenges
The interview sheds light on Sri Lanka’s efforts to recover from its economic crisis, with the government focusing on expanding income sources beyond government salaries and pensions. Moragoda highlights the need for foreign investment and the role of economic integration to achieve sustainable growth.
The Tamil Issue and Governance
Moragoda addresses the complex issue of implementing the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution, which grants equal rights to the Tamil minority. He acknowledges the challenges of arriving at a consensus within a democracy and emphasizes the need for flexible solutions and balanced development for the East and North regions.
Political Landscape and the Rajapaksas
The High Commissioner acknowledges that despite the unpopularity of the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa government, the Rajapaksas will be allowed to contest the 2024 Presidential elections. He emphasizes that Sri Lanka is a democracy where the outcome is up to the people and underscores the need for clear dialogue and engagement between leaders.
The interview with High Commissioner Milinda Moragoda provides valuable insights into Sri Lanka’s security alignment with India, economic recovery efforts, and the complexities of governance. It highlights the historical, strategic, and cultural ties that shape the relationship between the two nations, while acknowledging the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
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