India to invest $2 billion in Sri Lanka
India's Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is in Sri Lanka with an Indian business delegation to expand trade ties between the two nations.
The minister told reporters after talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that India had not set a time frame for negotiating an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with Sri Lanka, although the Sri Lankan government wanted it by year end.
Sitharaman said that the ETCA will have to be negotiated in "great detail," addressing all issues of concern to all parties.
The ETCA agreement has been opposed by certain groups and political parties in Sri Lanka. Opponents have stated that the agreement will not benefit Sri Lanka.
However Sitharaman said that ETCA will not allow Mode 4 involving movement of natural persons across borders and added that India was open to discussing the matter fully with Sri Lanka.
No pact will be signed without the two parties agreeing to it wholeheartedly, she said.
So far two meetings on ETCA have been held between Sri Lanka and India. The next round of talks will take place in New Delhi during the visit of Sri Lanka's Minister of International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, Sitharaman said.
Minister Samarawickrema told reporters that the ETCA was expected to open up a market of 1.25 billion people in India and Sri Lankan entrepreneurs were asking for the import of labor in sectors such as construction, ship building and IT services. The government will put in a system to regulate the use of imported labor, he added.
Samarawickrama further said that the island nation is interested in attracting Indian investment in construction, ship and harbor building, infrastructure development and energy. ■