• “Recently, in a bilateral meeting India has agreed to provide a grant to Sri Lanka to implement a ‘Unitary Digital Identity framework’, apparently modelled on the Aadhaar card.
  • Both sides also discussed the fishermen’s issue and India provided financial assistance of 2.4 billion USD to Sri Lanka.
  • Earlier, India and Sri Lanka agreed to a four-pronged approach to discuss initiatives on food and energy security to help mitigate Sri Lanka’s economic crisis.
  • It is similar to India’s own Aadhaar and under the proposed Unitary Digital Identity framework, Sri Lanka is expected to introduce a:
  • Personal identity verification device based on biometric data
  • Digital tool that can represent the identities of individuals in cyberspace and Identification of individual identities that can be accurately verified in digital and physical environments by combining the two devices.
  • This is not the first time that Sri Lanka is attempting to digitise its citizens’ identities. Just a few years ago from 2015 to 2019, the Sri Lankan government mooted a similar Electronic-National Identity Card — or E-NIC —that privacy advocates opposed on grounds that the state would have full access to citizens’ personal data in a central database.
  • Government also tried initiating the project as early as 2011. Neither project was implemented.
  • Beginning January 2022, India has been providing crucial economic support to the island nation in the grip of a severe dollar crisisthat, many fear, might lead to a sovereign default, and a severe shortage of essentials in the import-reliant country.
  • The relief extended by India from the beginning of this year totals over USD 1.4 billion —a USD 400 currency swap, a USD 500 loan deferment and a USD 500 Line of Credit for fuel imports.
  • Sri Lanka is further negotiating a USD 1 billion assistance from India to help the country as it faces an unprecedented economic crisis.
  1. Expeditiously take forward mutually beneficial projects”, which include:
  2. Proposals to enhance air and sea connectivity between India and Sri Lanka
  3. Economic and investment initiative
  4. Steps to enhance Sri Lanka’s energy security
  5. Keeping the neighbours’ “shared maritime domain safe from various contemporary threats”, and cooperation in combating Covid-19 pandemic.
  • A subterranean trust deficit exists between India and Sri Lanka yet neither Sri Lanka nor India can afford to have strained ties.
  • However, as a much larger country, the onus is on India to carry Sri Lanka along. India needs to be extremely patient and avoid reacting to any pinpricks and engage Sri Lanka even more regularly and closely, especially at the highest levels.
  • There is a need to step up our people-centric developmental activities while scrupulously staying clear of any interference in Colombo’s domestic affairs.
  • Nurturing the Neighbourhood First policy with Sri Lanka is important for India to preserve its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region.

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