Prabakaran kept India out of Sri Lanka – why are we not doing the same?


– by Shenali Waduge –

India admits that initial training for Tamil militant groups including LTTE was given by India and that training continued from post 1983 to 1987 which is why the Indian Government took pains to remove details of India’s training from the Jain Commission report. Be that as it may, Prabakaran never trusted India and ensured India was always kept in its place though India was able to fool successive Sri Lankan Governments and probably continues to do so. Ironically, if ever patriotic Sri Lankan needs to be thankful at all to Prabakaran – that is for keeping India away from Sri Lanka and given the current scenario of things – that gratitude is deserving.

The proof is in the statistics itself. Throughout the conflict there was hardly 10 Indian companies operating in Sri Lanka. Today, in just over 3 years the number of Indian companies have jumped to over 100 and probably the number of illegally operating Indians number far more.

India’s direct investment to Sri Lanka in 2011 was worth US$150million.

In 2011, the Indian exports to Sri Lanka stood at 4.33 billion USD compared to 2.47 billion USD in corresponding period in 2010, registering a growth of 75.33%. The Sri Lanka exports to India stood at USD 528.82 million compared to USD 471.23 million in corresponding period in 2010, registering a growth of about 14.62%. Is this something for Sri Lanka to be proud of?

Bilateral agreements between India and Sri Lanka include Free Trade Agreement signed in 2000, a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement. Bilateral agreements/MoUs on Air Services, Small Development Projects, Cooperation in Small Scale Industries and Cooperation Doing Business in Sri Lanka in Tourism and an Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology,  Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is under negotiation

More than 125,000 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2010, making up nearly 20% of the total tourist inflow into Sri Lanka. A similar trend continued in 2011, with tourist arrival from India amounting to 171,374, out of a total of 855,975 tourists arrivals in Sri Lanka, contributing about 20.02% of all tourist arrivals. Sri Lanka’s tourists to India number just over 200,000 – now they too are being harassed and India says its “isolated” incidents!

India has been given stakes in oil distribution, oil exploration, telecommunication, banks, tourism, hotels, vehicle and machinery, utilities, renewable energy, plantations, fertilizers, agro-processing, food processing, pharmaceuticals, education and knowledge, IT, bio-tech and despite the many warnings real estate culminating in a $460m Tower in the heart of Colombo spelling further dangers to Sri Lanka’s security.

Main Indian investments are:

  • Lanka IOC – a public liability company listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange with a profit of SLRs.51billion – LIOC holds 1/3 shared in Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Ltd as well. LIOC’s investment was USD95million.
  • Bharti Airtel Lanka – a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel commencing operations in 2009. Airtel has 1million Sri Lankan customers. Airtel investment was US$200million.
  • Piramal Glass Ceylon – named so in 2008 after Ceylon Glass Company was acquired by Gujarat Glass Company a member of Piramal Enterprises. Its investment is US$55million.
  • Taj Hotels – has been in Sri Lanka for over a quarter of a century and is represented by Taj Samudra, Vivanta, Bentota Beach, Gateway Hotel-Airport Garden
  • UltraTech Cement – has a plant capacity of 0.6MTPA with initial investment of USD11million. Current turnover is USD59million and expected to reach USD110million by 2013/14.
  • JV Gokal Ceylon – exports Black, Green and Flavored tea bags under brand Super Tea and other private labels around 31 countries.
  • Tata Communications Lanka – has an External Gateway Operator Licence – niche in catering to global telecommunications needs of customers
  • Banks from India – State Bank of India, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank,
  • Asian Paints – acquired Delmege Forsyth and Co (Paints) in 1999 and renamed Asian Paints in September 2000.
  • CEAT-Kelani Associated Holdings – joint venture of CEAT India, Associated Motor Ways PLC and Kelani Tyres PLC – the largest tyre manufacturer in Sri Lanka.
  • MphasiS Sri Lanka – started operations in 2010 and provides Applications, BPO, ITO services
  • L&T Infrastructure Development Projects – is a Special Purpose vehicle formed in 2006 to implement a Joint Venture agreement with National Housing Board of Sri Lanka to develop the Iconic Diamond Tower Project, a mixed development urban infrastructure project, situated on Darley Road.
  • Lanka Ashok Leyland – a Joint venture between
  • Lanka Leyland Ltd (a wholly owned company of Government of Sri Lanka) and Ashok Leyland Ltd India, to carry out the business of importation of Ashok
  • Tata Housing – a project of $400million to be complete in 8-10years
  • Welcome Hotels Lanka – WLPL has acquired land at Galle Face in Colombo on a 99-year lease from the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka with an intention to set up a mixed use project, including luxury hotel – nature of project yet undecided.
  • Dabur Lanka – new plant will be set up at Gampaha over 50 acres with capacity to produce 2.8 lakh cases of fruit-based beverages per month and will be exportoriented
  • Indocean Developers – has acquired two-acres of land opposite the Beira Lake for an upmarket USD400m condominium development
  • Shree Renuka Sugars – Sri Lanka‘s Ports Authority have approved about $200 million project by Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd, to set up sugar refinery project in Hambantota Port

Other areas that certainly are of concern is the manner in which MOUs are being signed totally ignoring the political dynamics that prevail and the history of Indian interventions that should cause concern for caution at all times in signing anything with India.

For all the initial investments made the tax holidays given and other concessions granted EXACTLY what has Sri Lanka got back IN RETURN? If its long term advantages that are being promised – we would next like to know EXACTLY what those future benefits are?

S&T Co-operation – where India is taking great pains to tie Sri Lanka to not seeking its sovereignty in developing its own potential for future satellite and telecommunication with partners of its choice and not have to depend only on India.

MOU on Ferry Service – was signed in January 2011 for a Passenger Transportation by sea and ferry services between Colombo, Tuticorin, Talaimannar and Rameshwaram – exactly to whose benefit is this? In what ways are we likely to be securing Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity? Do we have the systems in place to know who is staying legally, illegally and in what ways we can legally deport them back to India without that too becoming a political drama staged in South India?

MOU on Agriculture – signed in 2012 between Indian High Commissioner and Secretary Ministry of Agriculture. The MOU is said to promote cooperation in the fields of science and technology, agricultural production, agro-processing, exchange of scientific materials, information and EMPHASIS ON PERSONNEL – we know how Indian labor was brought in as farmers and probably continue still despite public statements denying so.

MOU on Telecommunications – signed in 2012 is again something that warrants caution given that soon everything will end up being tapped by India…

Sri Lanka’s investments in India include only Lion Brewery, MAS Holdings, Brandix, John Keells Logistics, John Keells Foods India while  Ceylon Biscuits (whose project in Patiala is under subjudice)

The issues patriotic Sri Lankans have are simple:

  • Free flow of Indian labor (legal and illegal) challenges the employability of our own people and is denying them employment. This is a violation of the rights of the Sri Lankan populace.
  • Most of the Indians that come as professionals function as CEOs, Advisors – the remuneration given to them in terms of salary, rented housing and other perks could give more than a handful of jobs to Sri Lankans or help train a Sri Lankan senior officer to take that same role.
  • The number of prime property given to Indians will mean the building of condominiums that Sri Lankans cannot afford will invariably mean that Indians will soon enjoy residency status in greater Colombo areas and completely change the country’s demography in time to come. Colombo will become a weekend holiday-home for them.
  • The lack of political will and laws to curtail purchase of lands, property etc for foreigners and considerations given to marriage to foreigners vis a vis land ownership may end up with Indians marrying Sri Lankan women and indirectly owning lands – another long term tragedy awaits us. There is a new wife-for-weekends in Indian states where foreigners are “purchasing” local women for the weekend – are we proposing to prostitute our women to such levels too?
  • The current deals with India and the signing over of strategic focal points that should be kept within Sri Lanka’s hold would spell great calamities long term if an Indian Government more hostile towards Sri Lanka takes over – with Sampur likely to further raise electricity in the forth coming months allowing India to dictate how Sri Lanka gets its electricity means we can be put into darkness any time India desires.
  • The quality of the Indian investments – Indian pharmaceuticals and the subquality of the medicines have affected the health of Sri Lankan consumers – Sri Lanka’s Health Minister is still introducing the Bibile Formula!
  • The high quality of Ceylon Tea is being compromised by Indian tea being mixed and sold as Ceylon tea – soon we are likely to lose that market too!
  • Sri Lanka is allowing Indian investments around key ports that would loose the strategic interest of it

The Sri Lankan army lost limb and lives and fought for decades to rule out the terror of Prabakaran and the LTTE and to give to us at the sacrifice of the lives of our heroes a land without terror – it would be such a shame that we find that we have a land without terror but that land is leased and taken over by India that is running virtually every industry in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankans would soon find out they are foreigners in their own country.

A government that has been pressured beyond what it deserves by the international community has to take risks and balance policies but there are certain deals that cannot violate the constitution, that should when signing anything first consider the national security and territorial integrity, that must at all times not jeopardize the livelihood or freedoms of its citizens and compromise on the natural assets of the country to external sources whilst some areas should remain no-go areas for foreigners – these are the key areas that must remain on the minds of every public official and politician whenever signing deals with foreign investors and foreign governments. In the case of Prabakaran – it was NO to India all the way… in the case of Sri Lanka’s Government we now question whether they have seriously addressed these concerns and how they propose to assure the country and its people that their futures have not been jeopardized for unsuited risks that serve only a handful of people but not the country at large.

Moreover, whatever ties have developed between the Sri Lankan Government, officials and politicians and India, despite no ill-will for Indian people – Sri Lankans remain distrustful of the Indian Government and Indian investors in general – that has not changes pre-conflict or post-conflict either. We simply do not trust Indian Governments.