Posted on October 17th, 2016

Sarath Wijesnghe Former Ambassador to U A E and Israel

ECTA and International Relations

It is reported that the ETCA – (Indo Sri Lanka Economic and Technical Corporation Agreement) will be concluded by the beginning of next year despite many deliberations for and against. Hon  Nirmala Sitaramanthe  Indian Trade Minister is said to be exited, and working hard on   the final touches, which is the continuation of previous failed CEPA. This shows how important and impatient India is to conclude this as early as possible. Sri Lanka from the inception has been a reluctant player due to fear, enormity and imbalances of economic asymmetric conditions of India with previous bitter experiences with India, other member countries, and international organizations. Historically Sri Lanka was cheated by Portuguese, Dutch and British, traders powerful countries and powerful NGOs. Today diplomacy and international relations are based on economic interests where Ambassadors and representatives in the global family   are advised to give priority to economic trade and business interests over all other considerations.   Indian diplomacy and foreign relations maintain high standards and the Indian High Commissioner for Sri Lake is playing a vibrant and active role in promoting trade and the ETCA. High Commissioner H E Dixit who has performed extremely well rendering a  yeoman service to his motherland by forcing  1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord on Sri Lanka which will link Sri Lanka with the Indian foreign policy  as a part of greater India  forever. No attempts were made by Sri Lanka to seek help from the international community or ICJ on forced Indo Sri Lanka accord.

Diplomatic Manoeuvre or a Trade Affair

ETCA is a more diplomatic manoeuvring than a trade affair for India to have a stronger foothold with Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka is strengthening friendship with China initiated by previous government. There was a stormy period of   one year of uncertainty due to differences of policy before the matters were reactivated.   India is developing business ties with China for loans and grants for ailing Indian Economy whilst promising Sri Lanka on development projects including the development, trade and infrastructure. Close and historic ties with India and Sri Lanka have bonded with Buddhism, Culture, and Language, economic and commercial bonds as emerging world power.

India has invested in Sri Lanka on oil and look forward to investing on Trincomalee and Oil Tanks, and development projects, especially in the   North and East. It is in the public and international domain that, India with USA and the West manoeuvred the process of Regime Change” in Sri Lank and opposed Sri Lanka in the Human Rights front in the United Nations aligned with the   International community. India refused to cooperate with UN on Human Right allegations and made NGO’s out of bounds. India is a great patriotic Nation experienced veterans in international affairs.

State Party in the Global Village

State Parties must intermingle with the members of the world community to be successful in trade and commerce. Living in isolation in the present political and economic world order is not acceptable. To be successful in the world economic malaise state member should be alert and vigilant armed with an experienced team  With the mass and vast communication skills and advancements in trade and commerce with ferocious competitions, small and upcoming state parties sandwiched by world powers are vulnerable and subjected to pressure and danger. Countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong UAE Israel are different and exceptionally advanced in this area and other upcoming economies trading with the rest of the world successfully. Prime Minister appear to be confidently planning entering into agreements with Provincial Governments in India and many trading Nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand act, expecting ECTA  be a vehicle for export FTA products other countries via Sri Lanka. Why should other countries do business with India via Sri Lanka? There should be attractions and profitable for the world to do so. Are we fit and ready for the challenge? Is a million dollar question. Prime Minister is expecting the market in 1.2 billon from India against 20.3 million Sri Lanka exports to flow via ECTA. What have we got to export and are we ready for the challenge? What have we got to offer and export and there is a possibility of invasion of Indians for employment and business especially in the service sector currently there are 300000 illegal foreign workers in Sri Lanka day by day increasing apart from the Indian Tamil labour in the upcountry controlling the tea economy. This may be a dream or a fantasy of the Prime Minister as there is a long way and his gamble depends on the strategies and planes of other trading nations. On the other hand most of the Pitta” mega business is in the hands of   former Indian traders still controlling Sri Lankan entire Export Import trade and wholesale business. Other danger is the multinational companies such and Lever Brother, Singer with flourishing business in both countries will benefit from the changes.  Prime Minister will have to be mindful of these concerns and dangers which are irreparable once put to action by international agreements. Sri Lanka will be in the Laboratory Test” and gunny pigs with great risk of being a failure as all previous agreements namely, SFTA, APTA, ISLFTA, PSFTA, SATIS, GSP,and  SAPTA which are ineffective and dormant.

Trade Agreements

International Trade Agreements are an agreements resulting from cooperation between two or more countries and international organizations to reduce trade barriers, import quota and traffics and to improve trade with each other as a second stage of economic integration. To enjoy concessions we must improve export. We have few items for  export  and it is time for us to increase the export quotas before entering into trade agreements.Sri Lanka has exported goods worth 643.03 $ to India and in return India  has exported goods worth 4273.30 $ to Sri Lanka still increasing rapidly when Sri Lankan exports are lagging behind. India has a population of 1.2 billion struggling with poorest with only 50% toilet facilities.   Sri Lanka was protected due to isolation as an island with sea right round unlike other SAARC members experiencing bitter battles with the gint neither aiming to be regional policeman of the Indian Ocean and a world power aspiring to be a member of the Security Council. Sri Lanka was pressurised to enter into Indo- Sri Lanka Accord resulting the Provincial Councils which is a white elephants today and cause of many political ramifications and ethnic tensions, with demands from India for the full implementation of the 13th amendment they have forced upon on Sri Lanka. LTTE was groomed and given life in the Indian soil over 30 years   reversing the progress of Sri Lank backwards by few decades. There is unrest in illegal fishing and demands from Tamil Nadu is intensified demanding abdication of previous agreements concluded with  Sirimavo and Indra Gandi on many contentious issues settled amicably. Indo Sri Lanka is active with tensions on illegal fishing and threats for recalling Kaththive Island settled previously.

Free Trade Agreements

Sri Lanka has entered into only few FT Trade agreements of which all are badly drafted and practically failures and dormant. India is active and vibrant in this area with thousands of experts, professionals and lawyers worldwide. In anti-dumping and many issues with WTO Sri Lanka has not taken legal or procedural steps due to want of experts and lawyers. It is a sorry state that there are hardly any experts or lawyers in Sri Lanka to deal with FT and take the process forward. Before entering into complicated agreement we must be ready and armed with knowledge and ammunition to meet any eventuality/s to put the house in order. FT’s should not be done in a hurry. It has to go through the process of assessment, Decisions to launch negotiations, Legal Verifications, and Call for Submissions. In Sri Lanka, after few days of the Indian Ministers visit, a group of Sri Lankan delegation consisting retired government officers left to India for the final draft of this important instrument which has long-term effects and irreparable ramifications for the future of the Trade and Commerce in the Nation. The political culture and the situation on the region are not satisfactory and volatile and definitely not conducive for negotiations as India is now on agitated mood. Therefore it is nothing but fair to hold on proceeding with the ECTA- FT agreement until a thorough study is done keeping the house in order arming the Ministry and patiently await the uncertain Political situation in the region which is uncertain and volatile becomes normal and Sri Lanka is ready to meet the challenges international and locally.

Diplomatic and International Law Practice

Diplomatic and International Law practice  demands clarification whether the Sri Lankan Prime Minister can agree with the Prime Minister of India  to conclude such an important agreement without the approval and consent of the President, the legislature and the citizen when the matter is vehemently challenged and disputed in the country. There should be a government policy and State policy acceptable the polite professionals and the citizen. What is this indecent hurry is the matter the citizen cannot understand when there are many unresolved and urgent matters on economy and law and order issues.

Sikkimization of Sri Lanka

In 1998 H. E. Chandirka Bandarneika was compelled to sign CEPA as   1987 Accord when country was in flames on emergency rule. Citizen has a genuine fear and rignt to know, when this important issue of information on trade agreements are conveniently excluded in the Public Information Act. The sudden joint declaration by the two Prime Ministers on the matter which required greater scrutiny, debate with the Polite, Governance and the citizen has aroused the suspicion and fear of the citizen. Therefore it appears that the agreement with ramifications which will run for ever will be concluded as agreed by the two leaders with or without the approval of the legislature the governance and the citizen. Therefore it is nothing but fair to hold signing the agreement until the tension is eased and Sri Lanka puts the house in order. If we are not vigilant and Careful there is a possibility of Sikkimiasation” of Sri Lanka in the near future, where the small Buddhist county bordering India is forcibly and tactfully annexed to India having brought the King as a Prisoner!.

Writer can be contacted on sarathdw28@gmail.com


  1. Dilrook Says:

    This is exactly what India plans for Sri Lanka. Glad many come to the realisation.

    [Quote] If we are not vigilant and Careful there is a possibility of “Sikkimiasation” of Sri Lanka in the near future, where the small Buddhist county bordering India is forcibly and tactfully annexed to India having brought the King as a Prisoner[Unquote].

    And turned Sikkim into a Hindu majority state. Today Buddhists have been reduced to just 26% and Sikkim now has a Hindu majority.

    Hindus have been most successful in wiping out Buddhism, more than Islamic and Christian invasions. Only 0.7% of Indians are Buddhists today. They too are marginalised and discriminated against by Hindus. Tamil Nadu has only 11,400 Buddhists out of a population of 73,000,000. Buddhists have been wiped our in all Hindu majority districts of Sri Lanka (except Nuwara Eliya). These bitter and controversial facts are undeniable. They point out to the inevitable wipe out of Buddhism from entire Sri Lanka unless Indian advances are stopped.

    The real target of ETCA is Buddhism, not so much the very small Sri Lankan economy.

  2. plumblossom Says:

    India has over 400 million poor people and over 40 million people in India are unemployed. If this ETCA is signed and the Hanuman bridge is built all these desperate people in India will come in droves to Sri Lanka since the socio-economic situation of Sri Lanka is a million times better than the socio economic situation of India. I would urge the uncaring and cruel Indian government to provide basic housing, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, education, food and clothing to these desperately poor 400 million Indians rather than spending US 5.2 billion dollars in building a Hanuman bridge to Sri Lanka. If Sri Lanka signs this ETCA with India it will be Sri Lanka’s end. Sri Lanka should not sign any such trade deals where people can come here to work freely, unless the country we are signing the ETCA with has a similar or a better socio-economic situation than Sri Lanka. I would urge the uncaring, corrupt and cruel India Government to immediately stop building space stations and nuclear weapons and use that money to provide basic housing, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, education, food and clothing to the 400 million desperately poor people of India which is a government’s basic responsibility. Sri Lanka should stop immediately the signing of ETCA with India and urge the Indian Government to carry out the above task rather than serving the rich people of India only which the uncaring and cruel Indian Government seems to be doing.

  3. RohanJay Says:

    At Plumbossom, I fully agree with you. ECTA is Sri Lanka’s Brexit. If they sign this Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence will be gone with a stroke of a pen. Why this ECTA, why not just maintain good trading relations with India like Sri Lanka always has done. After all Indian and Sri Lankan cultures are South Asian cultures and are very similar, sharing so many similar things. Sri Lanka should maintain its independence and territorial integrity within the South Asian region by NOT signing the ECTA.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Is the ECTA necessary ?

    Readers who think the ECTA is needed, please list these reasons.

    INDIA imposed under Duress the 13-A during the JRJ times and Lanka is stuck with it. The 13-A has brought Tamil Separatism, death and destruction, loss of revenue, reputation, and more negative events to Lanka.
    INDIA also trained the Tamil Terrorists the LTTE in Tamil Nadu.

    This was during the Cold War times.

    Now INDIA (not Sri Lanka) wants the :

    – ECTA
    – Sea tunnel to Tamil Nadu

    Yahap has added on :

    – 5,000 acre lots to be leased to foreigners
    – New Constitution (what might that bring ?). We are told of a United Sri Lanka, not UNITARY Sri Lanka.

    What blasphemy and betrayal of the People of Lanka !

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