You are here

Manish Singh asked: After India voted in favor of a UN resolution against Sri Lanka, how has it impacted or affected the ties between the two countries?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Gulbin Sultana replies: Since the end of Eelam War IV in May 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has passed three resolutions on Sri Lanka: (i) First was during the special session on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka held on May 26-27, 2009 (ii) the second resolution came during the 19th session of the UNHRC on March 22, 2012, and (iii) the third and most recent one was during the 22nd session of the UNHRC held on March 21, 2013. In 2009, India had voted in favour of Sri Lanka, but later it voted against Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. India’s vote in favour of the UN resolution in 2012 was a huge disappointment for Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh immediately wrote a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa conveying that though India voted in favour of the resolution, it worked behind the scenes to make it "non-intrusive". However, this did not seem to have convinced them much. The Sri Lankan media remained critical about India’s stand at the 19th session of the UNHRC. At the official level, though Sri Lanka declared that voting would not have any impact on India-Sri Lanka relations, their displeasure over India’s position was obvious. No high level political visits took place since the voting in March 2012 until President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited India in September 2012 to lay the foundation stone for the University of Buddhist and Indic studies in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

    As far as trade figures are concerned, Sri Lanka´s imports from India amounted US$ 3,483.74 million and exports to India amounted US$ 518.71 million, registering a decline of 19.51 per cent and 1.91 per cent respectively as compared to the corresponding period of 2011. India had a share of 19.52 per cent and 5.69 per cent respectively in the global imports and exports of Sri Lanka during 2012. The decline in exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2012 was largely due to steep increase in the excise duty imposed on the import of vehicles on two occasions during the year that seriously affected the competitive advantage enjoyed by the Indian auto companies. Sri Lanka has increased excise duty on utility vehicles to 173 per cent from the previous 100 per cent. Total duty on cars less than 1000cc increased from 120 per cent to 200 per cent, including a 47 per cent increase in excise. The excise on three-wheelers was raised from 45 per cent to 100 per cent, and on two-wheelers from 61 per cent to 100 per cent. Colombo has also imposed an absolute levy of Sri Lankan rupees 109,000 on commercial vehicles, besides a 12 per cent excise duty. Thought the new policy applies to all the countries and doesn’t single Indian firms out, yet it affects Indian automobile companies the most because they account for 95 per cent of the auto market in the island nation.

    Sri Lanka is the largest export market for Indian automobiles. In 2011-12, out of India’s $6 billion worth of auto exports, Sri Lanka accounted for $800 million. Despite this setback to Indian auto industries, India continues to be the largest trading partner of Sri Lanka. In 2012, 176,340 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka. Despite the travel ban issued in 2012 on Sri Lankans visiting Tamil Nadu, around two lakh visas were issued by the Indian High Commission in Colombo to facilitate travel between India and Sri Lanka. Both the countries held the first round of talks on comprehensive civil nuclear cooperation in New Delhi on October 11, 2012.

    Regular defence interaction continues between the two countries. The 21st International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) meeting was held onboard the Sri Lanka Naval Ship ‘Sagara’ at the Indo-Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary Line off Kankasanthurei on July 6, 2012. The Indian Naval Ship ‘Chetlat’ made a goodwill visit at the Port of Trincomalee on July 18, 2012. The coast guards of India and Sri Lanka held four-day meeting to discuss maritime issues during August 26-30, 2012. The Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa visited India on October 25, 2012 at the invitation of Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

    In short, it can be concluded that though Sri Lanka was disappointed with India voting in favour of the resolution at the UNHRC, at the official level it has not affected the Indo-Sri Lanka relations much. Reportedly, the Sri Lankan Cabinet has given its approval for the proposal made by its External Affairs Minister G .L. Pieris to expand its diplomatic and consular representations in India.