Carnegie India, in partnership with the Centre for Indo-Lanka Initiatives of the Pathfinder Foundation, held a conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka on enhancing connectivity between India and Sri Lanka.

Discussion Highlights

  • Promote Religious Tourism: Participants noted that there is great potential for increasing the number of tourists traveling to Sri Lanka for religious purposes. They highlighted the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority’s success in promoting the Ramayana trail in India, and suggested undertaking similar efforts to promote other Murugan and Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. Participants agreed that promoting religious sites venerated by both Buddhists and Hindus in both countries would deepen awareness of their common heritage.
  • Increasing Connectivity: Participants discussed the importance of air transport between India and Sri Lanka, given that industries ranging from tourism to agricultural to manufacturing exports rely heavily on it. They stated that reforms in visa and customs policies could increase passenger and freight movement between the two countries, and suggested implementing a visa-free access agreement.
  • Electrical Power: Participants also discussed the possibility of increasing power transmission between India and Sri Lanka as a means of deepening connectivity between the two countries. They noted that while India has power grid links with neighboring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, there is no such connectivity with Sri Lanka. Discussants suggested a high-voltage, direct current undersea transmission cable as a mutually beneficial solution.
  • Energy Security: While discussing the current energy security situation in the region, participants suggested that the Trincomalee oil tank farm in Sri Lanka could be converted into an oil storage hub for the Bay of Bengal region. Further, they proposed building a refinery to produce petrol, diesel kerosene, and facilities to handle by-products. Participants also highlighted that such industrial development in the Trincomalee area would increase demand for electricity generation.
  • Coastal Shipping and Ferry Services: Participants stressed that there is considerable potential for a robust coastal shipping service connecting minor and major ports in the region, especially those on the east coast of India and Bangladesh. A potential starting point, they suggested, could be to connect these ports to land-locked South Asian countries through effective road and rail connectivity. They also suggested that littoral states could amend their legal and regulatory frameworks to incentivize private sector investment in coastal shipping. Participants stated that there is currently a great demand for ferry services to carry passengers and cargo. They highlighted that though a memorandum of understanding was signed between India and Sri Lanka for a ferry service between Tuticorin and Colombo in 2011, the service was short lived. They agreed that restarting the ferry service could boost efforts to deepen connectivity in the region.

Participants

C. Raja Mohan is the director of Carnegie India. 

Darshana M. Baruah is a research analyst at Carnegie India.

Ambassador D.P. Srivastava is a distinguished fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation.

Nalin Mehta is a senior fellow at the India Development Foundation.

Bernard Goonetilleke is chairman of the Pathfinder Foundation.

Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage is director of the Centre for Indo-Lanka Initiatives. 

Professor Rohan Samarajiva is founder-chair of LIRNEasia. 

Dr. Suranga Silva is a senior lecturer of tourism development at the University of Colombo.

S. Kalaiselvam is the former director general of the Tourism Development Authority of Sri Lanka.

Captain Suren Ratwatte is chief executive officer of Sri Lankan Airlines.

Damitha Kumarasinghe is director general of Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka. 

Rohan Masakorala is the chief executive officer of Shippers’ Academy, Colombo.