Sri Lanka has initiated a country strategy for India with an eye on integrating its ‘fragile’ economy with the Indian economy with focus on eight sectors to boost fortunes.
The Gotabaya Rajapaksa-led government has identified energy, refineries, electricity grid, ports, real estate, tourism and information and communications technology for attracting investments from India, the island nation’s envoy to India Milinda Moragoda said in an interview.
“India is the biggest economy in the region and Lanka wants to benefit from the Indian growth story,” he said. “Lanka can be a springboard for the Indian investors in the region. Our idea is to integrate our economy into the Indian economy for a win-win situation. ”
Trincomalee oil firm project is one of the concrete initiative that could lead to integration with the Indian energy sector, Moragoda said. Lanka also has a requirement for oil refineries and looks forward to Indian refiners’ participation in that sector. Cross-border electricity grid is another area where Lanka is seeking to integrate into the Indian grid, given its limited requirements compared to India. “Few of India’s other neighbours have benefitted from this model,” the envoy said.
Tourism sector is the lowest hanging fruit and Indian tourists are biggest in number and contributing to Lankan economy’s recovery after the pandemic, he said. ITC is setting up its biggest luxury hotel abroad in Colombo. “But it is not just the high-end tourism, Lanka has provision for every type of tourists. We are inviting Indian investments in the tourism sector like real estate and port sectors,” said Moragoda who in the past has served as Lanka’s tourism minister.
The information technology sector is yet another sector which provides opportunity for a win-win situation, he noted. The goal is to facilitate digital connectivity between Sri Lanka and India. It would also help increase sea and air connectivity between the neighbours. The strategy document calls for increasing Indian investments and facilitate ongoing large-scale economic development and investment-driven projects in Lanka. It also calls for increasing exports from Sri Lanka and expand Sri Lanka’s market share in India. Lankan textile sector is also keen on developing its partnership with Indian players.
Colombo also plans to expand collaboration in the fields of strategic cooperation, defence and Indian Ocean security between Sri Lanka and India, according to the country’s strategy document. This would include expanding bilateral joint military exercises, study tours, and increased high-level military exchanges. The goal is also to secure relevant training berths offered by India’s defence ministry and establish and maintain contacts with India’s paramilitary and police forces, with a view to securing additional training opportunities for Sri Lankan forces.