Letter to the Prime Minister on involving the CPSEs with a good track record in investing in Sri Lanka in the context of the economic crisis faced by that country
Shri Narendra D Modi
Prime Minister of India
Dear Shri Modi,
I welcome the timely help being provided by India to Sri Lanka at this crucial hour, when that country is confronted with an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis.
In this connection, I understand that the economic assistance package being contemplated by India comprises supply of foodgrains, fuel, fertilisers, medicines etc. which are urgently needed. In addition, according to news reports (https://theprint.in/world/india-providing-financial-package-to-sri-lanka-to-help-stabilise-its-economy/902473/), the Government of India would continue to “encourage efforts towards medium to long-term capacity creation through enhanced Indian investment in Sri Lanka in key sectors that include ports, renewable energy, manufacturing, etc.”.
In this connection, I would strongly recommend a cautious and measured approach by India in encouraging Indian investments in a manner that is conducive to promoting a harmonious long-term, sustainable bilateral relationship with that country, rather than encouraging private investments driven largely by short-term profit motives.
In particular, I would suggest that India makes it a point to encourage only the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and other agencies which have an excellent track record in promoting public-oriented approaches, whether it is in the field of energy including petroleum and decentralised renewable energy systems, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, ports and so on.
In my view, on strategic considerations, a decision on this assumes considerable importance. Whatever investments that India will be promoting in Sri Lanka should be such that they gain support from the country’s people at large.
Past experience with overseas investments suggests that India’s image will greatly depend on the kind of investments that are made by Indians and Indian enterprises. India should avoid repetition of the mistakes committed by the other countries that have invested in Sri Lanka that have resulted in the present crisis.
I am sure that the Ministry of External Affairs, in consultation with the Department of Public Enterprises and the Ministry of Finance, will give due consideration to this suggestion in its future dealings with Sri Lanka.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Govt of India