The national security adviser-level trilateral between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives was held in Colombo last week, after a gap of six years, underlining the renewed urgency for cooperation in the region, particularly in the wake of China’s ambitious geopolitical tactics.
In the wake of the trilateral, it is important to examine ways to deepen co-operation between India and its Indian Ocean neighbours. One way to do this is strengthening India’s policy of development cooperation and economic diplomacy in the region vis-à-vis China’s engagement track.
India’s development cooperation has been a consolidated effort over several decades, across four key verticals. One, housing and rehabilitation projects and high impact community development projects have involved grassroots development and large-scale local participation.
Two, education-based tourism programmes and skill-building initiatives such as the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and the Technology Adoption Project were fully sponsored by the government of India, in coordination with over 68 premier institutions.
Three, infrastructure projects have followed the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) policy and aimed to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours. Some key Indian projects in Sri Lanka are the Kankesanthurai harbour in Northern Sri Lanka and the Indo-Japanese East Container Terminal (ECT) at Colombo Port. Similarly, for Maldives, India is assisting with the Greater Male Connectivity Project.
And, finally, India is also committed to improving energy infrastructure and helping cope with the climate crisis in the region, aided by its expertise in solar energy.