Apart from regular trade and industry, one area that businessmen from both nations can actively take part covers the gem and jewellery trade. Sri Lanka is known for its gems while India is already an established leader in manufacture and export of gold jewellery
In his first overseas visit, after becoming President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have reaffirmed their mutual trust and respect and by extending support for each other. In this short visit, and in their presence, both the nations witnessed the signing of three agreements: one on agricultural cooperation, memorandum of understanding on Nalanda University and on cultural cooperation.
And the icing of the cake has come in the form of Indo-Sri Lankan Civil Nuclear Co-operation Agreement, the first nuclear partnership for Sri Lanka with any country, and has brought both the countries closer together, as never before! This Nuclear agreement, at the moment, covers the cooperation in transfer of exchange of knowledge, expertise, training in peaceful uses of nuclear energy including use of radio-isotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety, security, disposal of radioactive waste, nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation and environmental protection.
This has strengthened the mutual trust and respect for each other, and both leaders have agreed to expand the defence and strategic cooperation to include Maldives, so as to bring about a "trilateral format" effect. Prime Minister Modi is planning a reciprocal visit, sometimes in March, which is likely to include Maldives, but the dates have not yet been announced.
Apart from close trade relations that have increased in the recent years, India has also begun its involvement in the reconstruction activities envisaged in northern Sri Lanka. The project, involving the construction of some 50,000 houses for Tamils, who got displaced during the unfortunate civil war that lasted over 30 years, and this will naturally include all other related infrastructural activities in the region.
President Sirisena, accompanied by his wife, will also plan to stop over at Tirupathi to visit the Balaji temple before returning back to Colombo. He is also scheduled to visit China to meet President Xi Jinping, but the dates have not been announced.
There are couple of issues that would need the attention of both the leaders. The first major issue relates to the 100,000 odd Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who are presently in India, and mostly in Tamil Nadu. They have to be repatriated back to Sri Lanka to start their lives afresh and actively get involved in the reconstruction activity in the north. The second covers the frequent conflict of interests, by fishermen, on both sides. Fortunately, both the leaders have felt that this problem needs to be solved by a constructive and humanitarian approach by mutual consent of the fishermen themselves, as it involves their day to day livelihood.
Apart from regular trade and industry, one area that businessmen from both nations can actively take part covers the Gem and Jewellery trade. Sri Lanka is known for its gems; India is already an established leader in manufacture and export of gold jewellery.
A workable combination of both would bring wonders to the hard working people involved in this trade. Another area that may be interest to both is the ship building and repair industry where the opportunities are large.
Both nations offer good opportunities for tourism industry involving historical sites, religious centres for pilgrimage and proximity to each other.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)