South Asia requires resilient and cost-effective regional supply chains. This can be achieved through Indian investment, fostering local linkages while reducing dependency on Chinese financing of regional partners. A new approach enhances India's regional influence, creating a win-win scenario for the entire South Asian neighbourhood in a changing global landscape.
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Sri Lanka has demonstrated signs of recovery following the stabilising policies implemented by the Wickremesinghe government. However, the road ahead for economic recovery is long, with risks associated with the upcoming Presidential elections, geopolitical tensions and debt restructuring.
At the COP28, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated the need for $12 billion in FDI for renewable energy sources by 2030 to fulfill the country’s climate commitment. For that funding to yield benefits and translate into long-term growth, Sri Lanka must now work hard to enhance its overall business environment and revisit its foreign investment strategy to focus on renewable energy and manufacturing.
The more India enjoys cooperative relations with its neighbours, the greater its ability to exert influence in the world. Meanwhile, neighbours looking at India with a reasonable mindset may internalise that cooperating with the world’s fifth largest economy is clearly in their interest.
A stabilising economy in Sri Lanka has eased inflationary pressures and foreign exchange liquidity crises in the past year. As economic recovery steps up, Sri Lanka has also sought free trade agreement-led Asian regionalism. However, with presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2024 and an opposition that wants to renegotiate the IMF agreement, A lasting economic recovery may be derailed by political risks.
The Sri Lankan economic crisis was the result of years of weak fiscal performance and lack of consistent development strategies. While economic recovery has picked up pace, addressing macroeconomics issues and implementing structural reforms to promote inclusive and sustainable growth is the key to its success
India and Sri Lanka recently signed six energy agreements, including plans for an oil pipeline from India to Sri Lanka, electricity grid connectivity, and cooperation in renewable energy. Sri Lanka can benefit from India's cost-effective oil sourcing and processing and pay for it in rupees, easing its balance of payments crisis. Its wider use of the Rupee fulfills a long term objective for Indian policymakers.
On July 21, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe is set to visit for the first time since taking office. India has already provided $5 billion in economic assistance to Sri Lanka, and is now looking to expand its investment in the nation. Sri Lanka is also seeing interest from Indian private investment. The visit presents an opportunity for the two countries extend this relationship in new areas of cooperation, especially energy, infrastructure, and tourism.
India’s South Asian neighbours have all seen sharp currency devaluations since early 2022. These are a result of maintaining artificially strong exchange rates, made possible by remittances from migrant workers. However, by postponing the inevitable devaluations, these states have made their economic crises much worse.
The Sri Lankan economy is showing signs of stabilizing after experiencing the worst contraction in its history in 2022. Decisive policies by President Ranil Wickremasinghe, timely Indian aid, and an IMF Programme have laid the groundwork for a return to growth. India and Sri Lanka must now shift from an aid relationship to one which deepens bilateral trade and investment flows.