1. Spread in the Community (Community transmission)
- India has acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic is now in the community transmission stage.
- It is a stage where it becomes difficult to establish the chain of infections, or determine who infected whom.
Stages of spread according to WHO:
- No active cases: If no new cases are detected in 28 days, a country or region is said to have no new active cases.
- Sporadic cases: The cases are so few (single or in a cluster) and separated so widely in time and place that there exists little or no connection within them. They also do not show a recognizable common source of infection.
- Cluster of cases: stage where cases detected in the previous two weeks are “predominantly limited to well-defined clusters that are not directly linked to imported cases, but which are all linked by time, geographic location and common exposures”. It is assumed that there are a large number of unidentified cases, but this is still considered a low-risk situation.
- Community transmission is the final stage of classification of the epidemic on this basis.
- Testing and tracking contacts could not prevent the further spread of the Omicron variant at this stage, even though it was still important to test.
- Those who are unvaccinated, or only partially vaccinated, are in the high-risk category. And so are people with chronic underlying diseases like cancer, heart transplantation or lung disease.
- Genomic sequencing will be necessary as Omicron may not be the last variant.
2. India Srilanka Relations
India and Sri Lanka have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious, and linguistic interaction, and the relationship between the two countries is more than 2500 years old.
Areas of cooperation:
- India is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.
- Trade between the two countries grew particularly rapidly after the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement which came into force in March 2000.
- India is Sri Lanka’s third largest export destination, after the US and UK.
- LINE OF CREDIT: About one-sixth of the total development credit granted by India is made available to Sri Lanka.
- FDI from India amounted to around $ 1.7 billion over the years from 2005 to 2019.
- India has supplied medical equipment to hospitals at Hambantota and Point Pedro.
- Projects for providing fishing equipment to the fishermen in the East of Sri Lanka and solar energy aided computer education are under consideration.
Defence and strategic cooperation:
- Joint Military exercises called ‘Mitra Shakti’ and joint naval exercise called ‘SLINEX’.
- India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives have signed trilateral maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. The cooperation aims at improving surveillance, anti-piracy operations and reducing maritime pollution.
- Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed between the two governments forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes.
Strategic importance of Sri Lanka:
India is the only neighbour of Sri Lanka, separated by the Palk Strait; both nations occupy a strategic position in South Asia and have sought to build a common security umbrella in the Indian Ocean.
This island nation lies astride the major sea lanes of communication from Europe to East Asia and the oil tanker routes from the oil producing countries of the Gulf to China, Japan and other Pacific countries.
In the military sense it is important to the United States as these same sea routes are used for transference of naval power from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.
For the Indian Navy, it is important as the switching of naval fleets from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea and vice versa the fleets have to take a round of Sri Lanka.
- Buddhism is one of the strongest pillars connecting the two nations: India in 2020, announced USD 15 million grant assistance for protection and promotion of Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka.
- According to Government census figures (2011), the population of IOTs (Indian origin Tamils) is about 1.6 million.
- Sri Lanka is a member of regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC in which India plays a leading role.
- India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy towards Sri Lanka had resonated with Sri Lanka’s ‘India First’ foreign and security policy in 2020.
- Fishing disputes: India and Sri Lanka are only separated by 12 nautical miles. Indian fishermen having used mechanized trawlers, which deprived the Sri Lankan fishermen (including Tamils) of their catch and damaged their fishing boats. The Sri Lankan government wants India to ban use of mechanized trawlers in the Palk Strait region.
- Kachchativu island: It is an uninhabited island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 based on a conditional agreement called “Kachchativu island pact”.
- But Tamil Nadu claimed that Katchatheevu falls under the Indian Territory and Tamil fishermen have traditionally believed that it belongs to them and therefore want to preserve the right to fish there.
- China factor: China is Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor. China’s loans to the Sri Lankan public sector amounted to 15% of the central government’s external debt.
- China’s exports to Sri Lanka surpassed those of India in 2020 and stood at $3.8 billion. India’s exports were $3.2 billion.
- Owing to Sri Lanka’s strategic location at the intersection of major shipping routes, China’s investment stands at $12 billion between 2006 and 2019.
- The ties began to worsen between the two since February, 2021 when Sri Lanka backed out from a tripartite partnership with India and Japan for its East Container Terminal Project at the Colombo Port, citing domestic issues.
- Both countries should try to work out a permanent solution to the issue of fishermen through bilateral engagements.
- Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) must be signed to improve the economic cooperation between both countries.
- India needs to focus more on its traditional and cultural ties to improve relations with Sri Lanka.