A delegation of six Indian parliamentarians will visit Sri Lanka between April 8 and April 12. They will also visit Colombo and Jaffna during the trip, which is being organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
In addition to meetings with MPs here, the members are likely to meet senior Ministers and political leaders. “The MPs will also visit Jaffna to look at work on projects supported by the Indian government, particularly the owner-driven housing initiative,” said the High Commission on Friday.
The delegation comprises Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress), Sandeep Dikshit (Congress), Anurag Thakur (BJP), Dhananjay Singh (BSP), Goud Yaskhi (Congress) from the Lok Sabha, and Prakash Javadekar (BJP). They will be accompanied by two FICCI representatives.
Jyoti Malhotra, convener of the FICCI’s Forum of Parliamentarians, who will accompany the delegation, said FICCI had been working to constitute a ‘Track Two political dialogue’ between Indian parliamentarians and their Sri Lankan counterparts for many months now, for greater political interaction and understanding. The visit is part of a larger programme that seeks to institutionalise political partnerships. Similar interactions have earlier been held among Indian MPs and those of Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“We intend to pursue these political tracks within South Asia because we believe that talking to each other can be the only way forward out of any crisis, whether political or economic. We greatly look forward to our visit to Sri Lanka to take forward our very dynamic relationship,” said Ms. Malhotra in a statement.
On the rationale behind the selection of the MPs, FICCI maintained that the participants were finalised keeping in mind their interests, the need for multiparty representation and their availability. MPs representing Tamil Nadu are not in the delegation. A FICCI source in Delhi said this interaction was not a “direct political talk, but only a ‘track two dialogue’ that required a diverse group.”
In April 2012, a parliamentary delegation led by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj visited Sri Lanka. Ms. Swaraj, who met President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had underscored commitment to being closely engaged with Colombo to further rehabilitation processes, reconstruction and national development. She also emphasised the need for a “genuine political solution.”
This year’s delegation comes at a time when certain groups in Tamil Nadu have, over the last few months, been protesting against the Sri Lankan government.
Meanwhile, trade relations seem poised for improvement, with India recently facilitating greater import of garments from Sri Lanka. In August 2012, Sri Lanka requested that the condition on sourcing of fabric be removed to enable an increase in export of duty-free apparel. Now, a total of 8 million pieces of garments can be exported to India duty-free — under the terms of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement — as against the earlier quota of 5 million.