India-Sri Lanka Ties: Addressing the Tamil Question for a Complete Vision

India-Sri Lanka Ties: Addressing the Tamil Question for a Complete Vision


India’s ties with Sri Lanka, specifically focusing on their recent joint statement on economic cooperation titled “Promoting Connectivity, Catalyzing Prosperity: India-Sri Lanka Economic Partnership Vision.” This joint statement was released after talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe in Delhi.


GS-02 (India and its Neighborhood) (Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests)


  • India-Sri Lanka Relations
  • Tamil National Alliance
  • Sri Lankan Tamils
  • Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987
  • Buddhism
  • Indian Ocean.

Mains Question:

  • Examine the recent joint statement on economic cooperation between India and Sri Lanka, and critically analyze the implications of not addressing the Tamil question in their bilateral negotiations. (150 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • The Forward-Looking Vision for India-Sri Lanka Relations
  • The Missing Link: Unaddressed Commitments
  • Tensions Over Unspoken Issues

The Forward-Looking Vision for India-Sri Lanka Relations


  • In a bid to foster stronger economic ties, India and Sri Lanka recently unveiled a joint statement titled “Promoting Connectivity, Catalysing Prosperity: India-Sri Lanka Economic Partnership Vision.”
  • The vision encompasses five key areas: maritime, air, energy, trade, and people-to-people initiatives.
  • Aiming for enhanced connectivity, both nations plan to invest in maritime and air infrastructure, facilitating the development of ports, airports, and the resumption of ferry services. Flight networks will be expanded to foster better connectivity between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern Provinces.
  • A significant stride towards energy cooperation includes the establishment of renewable energy wind and solar plants in Sri Lanka. Moreover, a memorandum of understanding was signed to operationalize UPI digital payments and designate the Indian Rupee as the currency for trade.
  • Furthermore, both nations seek to bolster tourism, cultural and religious travel, and educational collaborations.

The Missing Link: Unaddressed Commitments

  • Despite the comprehensive vision statement, a notable omission became evident: the failure to acknowledge previous commitments made by Sri Lanka regarding the 13A constitutional amendment.
  • This amendment pertains to the devolution of powers to the North and Eastern provinces, crucial to addressing long-standing issues. Another unresolved matter pertains to the plight of Indian fishers who have faced arrests while fishing in Sri Lankan waters. Surprisingly, no mention of these critical issues was found in the documents released during President Wickremesinghe’s visit to India. It was left to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise his voice in favor of devolution and Provincial Council elections during his speech, emphasizing the need for a dignified and respectful life for the Sri Lankan Tamil community.

Tensions Over Unspoken Issues

  • Back in Colombo, the ruling SLPP, which supports President Wickremesinghe’s government, asserted that they lack the “electoral mandate” to discuss these matters. This stance has historically been a source of tension between India and Sri Lanka.
  • The joint statement and President Wickremesinghe’s remarks in Delhi both sidestepped these crucial concerns, conveying a tacit message: India’s historical concerns over the Tamil issue may no longer be welcomed in bilateral negotiations.
  • Despite the deep familial bonds between India and Sri Lanka, historical issues have strained ties in the past, and any future vision that neglects an amicable resolution of these matters will remain incomplete.

Way Forward:

To ensure a comprehensive and harmonious vision for India-Sri Lanka relations, it is imperative that both nations openly address the Tamil question and fulfill prior commitments related to the 13A constitutional amendment. The conduct of Provincial Council elections should be prioritized to promote democratic governance and inclusivity. Recognizing the historical sensitivities, both sides must engage in sincere dialogue and foster a conducive environment for resolving outstanding issues.


India and Sri Lanka’s bilateral relations are anchored in a shared history and cultural ties. While the recent joint statement outlines a promising vision for economic cooperation, it falls short in acknowledging and addressing the Tamil question, which remains a significant aspect of their relationship. Ignoring these historical concerns risks perpetuating tensions and hindering progress. For a truly complete and forward-looking vision, both nations must prioritize the resolution of these issues, promoting mutual understanding, respect, and prosperity for all stakeholders involved. Only through genuine cooperation and collaboration can India and Sri Lanka embark on a path of strengthened bilateral ties and a prosperous future together.