Posted on February 6th, 2017

Sarath Wijesinghe – former Ambassador to UAE and Israel


Indo Sri Lanka Economic and Technical Cooperation has become a limping horse with many more obstacles ahead. Both parties have failed to reach a consensus on traffic barriers, negative lists and several other matters on the proposals from either side. It is a tough deal for both sides struggling for a better deal carefully watched by both countries – mainly Sri Lankan side. Sri Lanka is a reluctant partner forced to renegotiate the current agreement in the light of the past unsuccessful agreements when the other party is willing and impatient to conclude due to other political and economic developments. After several rounds of talks it is again postponed further. Sri Lankan government is forced to go ahead with the proposals, when the professionals have reservations based on fears on opening up the employment and economic traffic to the ambitious regional and world leader aiming to be in the Security Council sooner or later. National minded civil society and professionals in Sri Lanka are demanding a national policy and a cautious approach” in view of previously failed FTA, SEPTA, and Indu Sri Lanka Accord concluded under emergency and curfew rule. Unpleasant memories of previous incidents with India are still haunting in the minds of the Sri Lankans aggravating the suspicions with current disputed on fishing issues with bottom crawling, destructions to the sea bead and fish and continuous disputes with the invasion of fisherman with the tacit blessings of the powerful South Indian State always hostile to Sri Lanka. The progress of the ECTA is at an increasingly slow pace due to opposition from within and outside on justifiable concerns based on previous experiences. But it appears that the Government is determined to push through for reasons known themselves on economic and political fronts.

Fears Based on previous Lessons

It is now revealed by ROW and CIA that J R Jayawardena was forced to sign the Indo Sri Lanka accord by India in 1987 under emgerancy rules while the country was in flames. Members of Parliament were brought to Parliament voting under army escort from hotels where they were sheltered. All previous FTAs with India are non-functional. Oil Tank agreement in Trincomalee” is in crisis with India not paying the agreement lease payments, yet not permitting Sri Lankan government servants to enter the premise’s and acting against the agreement entered into. India is eying for Colombo and Trincomalee harbours after China grabbed Magama” harbour for 100 years lease which amounts to outright sale with land extent of 15000 acres. Indo Sri Lanka dispute on force fishing and pooching takes place despite protests by SL government and Sri Lankan fisherman. Sri Lnkan economy is in a very bad shape and Sri Lanka depends on china for assistance in most sectors. Prime Minister declared his strategy to open up Sri Lanka for the world by setting up FTAs with many countries, regional and international organisations, expecting FDAs and investors to export the products via trade facilities of the agreements. Now half the period of the government is over and to

what extend these aspirations will materialises are doubtful. There is a fear that India may attempt to fish in troubled waters with her regional mentality” to keep Sri Lanka under control as an obedient friend.”


ECTA has a controversial history. It is a continuation of previous failed international agreements hurriedly entered into including FTA entered 1998, in India whilst President Chandrika Bandaraniake was on a visit to India on a different agenda. Sri Lanka has historical religious and cultural bonds with India amidst political and economic differences emerging from time to time. Due to geo- political situation the Giant regional neighbour, she wants to have a control over Sri Lanka politically and economically. All the achievements Sri Lanka gained with India was achieved with the goodwill and diplomatic skills of the leader of the country then, from the time of Great Asoka who sent the son and daughter as emissaries to propagate Buddhism that made a new culture for Sri Lanka which still in force. Now that Sri Lanka as a reluctant partner has given Magama” Harbour to China with 15000 acres of land for 198 years Sri Lankan government is, forced to give equal or more concessions to India actively involved on process of regime change with other local and international groups led by west NGOs and the diaspora.


It is reported that SL/India ETCA – (Indo Sri Lanka Economic and Technical Corporation Agreement) had rounds of talks in February 2017, despite many deliberations for and against. Hon Nirmala Sitaramanthe Indian Trade Minister was to have been exited, and worked 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 a matter of urgency. Sri Lanka from the inception have been a reluctant partner 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 other considerations. It appears Sri Lanka will push through the legislation following the inauguration of Hambantota” project with resistance from the opposition and the people of the area and the nationalist polite.

Diplomatic Manoeuvre or a Trade Affair

ETCA is more a forcible and forceful diplomatic manoeuvre 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 and unfriendly period of one year with China with uncertainty due to differences of policy before matters were activated after failing attempts for funding from the West. India has invested in Sri Lanka on oil and look forward to investing on Trincomalee” 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 at the UN by bringing a motion against Sri Lanka with the West.


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. The urgency to conclude the agreement is the matter the citizen cannot understand when there are many unresolved and contentious matters on economy an politics to resolve. Unfortunately the newly passed act has forbidden the public to access to the documents subject to


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 states that there are hardly any experts or lawyers in Sri Lanka to deal with international trade agrements 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

Way forward

Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong, though small nations have entered into number of trade agreements with countries regional and international organisation with great care and caution based on their experience and knowledge which is lacking in sri Lanka , unless the knowledge is bought over or tapped through the educated professionals worldwide. It is time to be cautious when we are in trouble. It is the duty of all the political and non-political groups and parties to work together for a solution on national matters including the preparation of International agreements taking these to as priorities.


  1. Charles Says:


    Danger to Sri Lanka comes primarily from the Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. For him dealing with foreign nations is like his famous election campaign in which he promised young girls gold chains and young men bracelets !!! The Prime Minister is without a foresight for the benefit of the country, but does everything around his own personal political interest.

    Sri Lanka is for him a playing field inherited from his family, where he can do what he wants the way he wants. We shold have ordinary bipartisan agreements with India, and nothing more. ETCA is too great an implication with India which we should avoid at all cost. Unfortunately the President Maithripala Sirisena is an uninformed ignorant man who gets to know everything when things have gone out of control like the Bond Scam.

    Between Prime Minister Ranil W and President M Sirisena there is no dialogue or discussions before the Prime Minister announces a plan of action. Ranil propbably takes Sirisena for an uninformed Godaya, who he can do without !!!

    Even though some media personnel and politicians readily accept that the former government of Mahinda Rajapakse made mistakes, they do not take into account the conditions under which Mahinda Rajapakse was working.

    With the Terrorists on one side and an unfriendly West being prodded by the Tamil Diaspora on the other side , Mahinda Rajapaksa was really walking on a tight rope and no one is ready to give him credit for that. He could not have made mistakes in his dealings with the West, India or with the terrorists. Therefore there was bound to be mistakes as he could not control everything. They put white wan culture, killing of journalists, corruption all on his head. But Mahinda Rajapakse was a genuine politicians whose primary interest was saving the country and people and developing Sri Lanka. That he did very well, even though those parties with self interest do not want to agree.

    India had never been a genuine friend to Sri Lanka, that was evident during the terrorism. Terrorism in Sri Lanka is not quite over yet therefore any close contacts and entering into agreements like ECTA with India is a danger to Sri Lanka.

  2. Christie Says:

    Under the British Indian Empire Indian Colonial Parasites came. Under the Indian Empire Indian parasites are coming.

    Genocide of the Sinhalese.

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