Will India wrap-up ETCA?
Posted on April 13th, 2016

Gagani Weerakoon Courtesy Ceylon Today

The Yahapalana Government lead by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, seems to have taken a complete U-turn in its foreign policy adopted over a year ago, with the latter taking up his maiden visit to China last week to negotiate inking several strategic economic agreements.
Upon reaching China, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe received a right royal welcome by Chinese counterparts on Wednesday after which the two countries signed few strategically important agreements.
Sri Lankan delegation that arrived in China was warmly welcomed at the Beijing International Airport by Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Kon Suang Yu of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lankan Ambassador in China Dr. Karunasena Kodithuwakku. Thereafter, they were carried in a special motorcade to the China World Hotel, where they stayed.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe during his tour conducted talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Chairman of the Chinese National People’s Congress Committee Yang Jan.
In what seemed to be an attempt to clear the air between the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke highly of the long-term friendship between the two countries, and their support to each other on issues of core interests and major concern.
Expressing China’s willingness to work with Sri Lanka to consolidate traditional friendship, expand reciprocal cooperation, and push forward strategic partnership of cooperation to a new high, Chinese President Xi urged the two countries to integrate development strategies, maintain high-level exchanges, strengthen strategic communication, handle bilateral relations from a long-term and strategic perspective, and map out top-level designs for bilateral ties and cooperation in various fields.
Wickremesinghe on the other hand appreciated the positive role played by China in promoting global economic stability and growth, and thanked China for its long-term assistance to Sri Lanka.
With regard to bilateral cooperation, China insisted that the two countries should take the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity to deepen cooperation in terms of trade, infrastructure, industrial parks, manufacturing, production capacity, technology and the ocean.
Prior to Prime Minister’s much talked-about visit to China the Cabinet approved several decisions relating to the visit when the Cabinet of Ministers met last week including:
Rehabilitation of roads under China Development Bank funded priority roads Project 3 – Phase II.
To sign a MoU as proposed at the 7th meeting of the China-Sri Lanka Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation.
An MoU was signed between the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade on comprehensive implementation of investment, economic and technological agreement.
The signing of the above MoU was to encourage Chinese investors to promote investments in Sri Lanka, through non-traditional financial methods, by directing the relationship between the two countries on a new path.
Another MoU was signed between the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the China Development Bank in view of maintaining financial stability of the country, enhancing liquidity of the market and promoting the development of agriculture and infrastructure in Sri Lanka.
However, it is expected President Sirisena will be invited to visit China in the next few weeks, as China is contemplating that two Heads of State should ink all these pivotal agreements in order to enact them.
India worried
Even though the practice is that the agenda of the tour and other diplomatic affairs are handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the President or Prime Minister is undertaking an official visit to a foreign land, all details were kept well-guarded from everyone else with the role of Ministry of Foreign Affairs limiting to protocol duties.
The complete tour was handled by a Hong Kong based private company of which involvement was justified by Deputy Minister of

Foreign Affairs
Dr. Harsha de Silva who told media that the firm was hired only to seek technical and political assistance in China.
He said this in response to MP Namal Rajapaksa who claimed that the Hong Kong based private consultant firm was hired to facilitate the Prime Minister’s visit to China, and to patch-up the relationship between the two sides.
However, with Prime Minister’s office taking measures not to leak the details of the tour, India, too, received detailed information on the tour, just about five days before the visit.
Though Sri Lanka’s diplomatic relations with China goes back to the 1950s, it grew into a worrisome affair for both United States of America and India after 2010 under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure with China taking a step further from being ‘just friends’.
By 2013, China was already showing its interest in building strategic relations with Sri Lanka, with the inauguration of USD 1.4-billion-Colombo Port City Project, an alarming affair for India.
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, as admitted later by then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, even once told him to halt the project on the grounds of India’s security, a statement which has not been disputed by the Indian government so far.
This column previously revealed that, in fact, India was willing to give the green light for the Colombo Port City Project under strict conditions in order to bar Sri Lankan Government from purchasing JF-17 fighter jets from Pakistan.
As expected, China too had not completely written-off its interest on the Indian Ocean, as the bi-lateral talks involved trade and security matters of the Indian Ocean region.
According to experts in foreign affairs, India is unlikely to let Sri Lankan Government’s new found love for China unnoticed or be taken lightly. It is expected India will send a strong message to the Sri Lankan Government in the coming weeks with Sri Lanka agreeing to give a lion’s share of the management of Chinese ventures including Hambantota Harbour and Mattala Airport to China in a bid to revive them as profit making establishments. This was in addition to the planned mega industrial zone to be established in Hambatota by giving lands to Chinese industrialists on a 99-year lease.
According to sources, New Delhi will announce its withdrawal from the planned Indo-Sri Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) as a warning.
Thus, the Sri Lankan Government, especially President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will have to think about strategies to prevent India from reciprocating in a strong manner.
USA to strengthen security ties
Though, still not finalized, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is expected to undertake an official tour to the USA, either to New York or Washington DC days after his China visit is over, in a bid to douse any doubts, if there would be any, and to balance relations with the West.
It is expected that the two countries will work-out a plan to establish security of Indian Ocean with both recently issuing statements in this regard.
Though many neighbouring countries, including India may find it difficult to believe the possibility, it is expected that US will station its Pacific Command in the Indian Ocean with the assistance of Sri Lanka. The first sign of this was US Navy’s Seventh Fleet Flagship, USS Blue Ridge, arriving in Colombo on 26 March for a five-day port call, with 900 sailors on board.
As Vijith Samarasinghe writing to World Socialist Website precisely points out, in a display of the Colombo government’s willingness to align itself with the US, President Maithripala Sirisena visited the warship as part of the official welcome. Later, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya boarded the Blue Ridge and participated in a reception with the naval officers and the US Ambassador to Colombo, Atul Keshap.
“A strong relationship between United States and Sri Lanka will help foster greater stability, security, prosperity, and a rules-based order for the Indo-Pacific region and around the world,” said US Ambassador Atul Keshap at the occasion while adding, “This US Navy-ship-visit demonstrates the US commitment to partners such as Sri Lanka.”
The USS Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 36 years. As the command and control flagship for the US 7th Fleet, under Commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the USS Blue Ridge is committed to strengthening and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific region, US Embassy announced at the time.
This is the very first visit by a United States ship in five years. We are thrilled to have them here and hope this will be the first of many to come, Ambassador Keshap said indicating the visit was far from being a symbolic gesture of goodwill between the two nations.
“So, if you will permit me, I would like to offer a toast on behalf of all the folks on the podium and all of you: I would like to propose a toast to the future of US and Sri Lanka friendship for the good of our two countries and for the entire world,” was his remarks that evening.
In November 2011, Hillary Clinton, the then Secretary of State, in her Foreign Policy article ‘America’s Pacific Century’ has defined the Asia-Pacific as “stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans – the Pacific and the Indian – that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy.
In his 17November, 2011 address to the Australian Parliament, President Obama said that the future being sought in the Asia-Pacific was “security, prosperity and dignity for all”.
On the other hand, the Strategic Guidance Document published by the US Department of Defence in 2012 stated that, “US economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean Region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities”.
It did not take long for Sri Lanka to respond when Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka Navy will have to play a huge role in protecting international sea routes which are necessary in international trade in creating a strong economy.
“Creating a strong economy in the country within next five years will involve international trade along the main sea routes. As such the Sri Lanka Navy will have to play a big role in protecting international (sea) trade routes throughout the Indian Ocean and beyond, without restricting it to the Sri Lanka Economic Zone only,” Prime Minister said addressing a Commissioning Parade held at the main parade ground of the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee on Sunday (03), where 44 Midshipmen belonging to the 29th (Technical) and 30th intakes of General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) passed out as Commissioned Officers of the Sri Lanka Navy.
Explaining how Sri Lanka had engaged in world trade via the Indian Ocean and action taken by the government to acquire new vessels realising the importance of safeguarding that sea area, he called upon the naval personnel to be ready to face such tasks with honed competencies.

One Response to “Will India wrap-up ETCA?”

  1. Kumari Says:

    India giving up ETCA is a blessing to our little island. This is worst than 13A. If Ranil signs this there is no hope for us. Still we can reverse the 13A with 2/3rds in parliament. But no chance with ETCA/CIPA.

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