The Role Sri Lanka Plays in South Asia’s Regional Connectivity

With Sri Lanka’s strategic location providing for international and region connectivity, it will remain a key maritime and logistics hub. Even with its proximity to all major ports of the Indian subcontinent, the port of Colombo still stands its ground as the maritime port of choice for many trading routes. Its superior infrastructure compared to that of its immediate neighbour as well as some of the best in the South Asian region with heavy investments in upgrading seaports, its airports as well as other logistical infrastructure.

The likes of Colombo Port Expansion Project (CEPP) has been extended by 600 hectares to facilitate three new terminals, whereas the Hambantota Port Phase II is underway, with the harbour offering zero deviation for international shipping routes. In terms of airports, the Bandaranaike International Airport is undergoing changes with its Phase II Stage II is undergoing renovations and expansions, whereas the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) offers logistical support closer to the Hambantota Port. Other logistical infrastructure available in Sri Lanka includes the likes of the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project (WRMPP) and Colombo International Financial City (CIFC).

Sri Lanka has made many efforts to improve its infrastructure and connections between key players in the freight market, especially to provide connectivity in regional connectivity and transport in South Asia. With this improvement to boosting regional transport, competitiveness and economic growth is a clear result. With the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation declaring the period between 2010 and 2020 as the “Decade of Intra-Regional Connectivity in SAARC”, more and more efforts have been taken into developing transport infrastructure and transit facilities.

With Sri Lanka chairing the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) since August 2018, there have been many efforts to improve on economic integration as well as   enter into Global Value Chains as well as Free Trade Agreements (that have been in discussion for the past 15 years. Apart from its BIMSTEC initiatives, Sri Lanka should also focus on strengthening ties with South Asian players via pursuing various other FTA with the goal of reducing barriers to GVC integrations.  Discussions with China can assist in strengthening ties towards the Belt and Road Initiative to lead to market access for Sri Lanka export players. Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, India, especially the southern states provide for great export potentials and start-ups. One of the requirements for Sri Lanka have been the need for a deep sea container terminal which was  highlighted by India as a need for BIMSTEC countries to strengthen their routes.