LIRNEasia’s image is tied up with ICTs, thought from the beginning we wanted to be an infrastructure shop. Ports are infrastructure, and for the city I live in, perhaps the most vital infrastructure. So this piece fits. But the fit is even more from the mindset side. Everything we do as a think tank is intended to get people to think about problems (and solutions) differently. That is where the discussion of ports ends up, inevitably.
The mindset problem is not limited to Indian Government officials. Small economies in the neighbourhood like ours are unattractive to executives in Indian “multinationals” who much prefer investing in faraway Britain. In 2003, it took direct orders from Ratan Tata to get VSNL, now Tata Communications, to invest in Sri Lanka. The managers of VSNL saw no value in this small market.
There is hope. If decisions get made and implemented and growth picks up, the result could be a more self-confident India. In a self-confident India, it will be easier to think beyond the Indian territory, of South Asia as the system. Even short of that, the repeated statements of commitment to ensure the region participates in India’s resurgence on the part of Prime Minister Modi and his team suggest a mindset change may be possible.
Unless the mindset changes, both in the Indian Government and in the Indian private sector, Sri Lanka is in for a rough ride.
The talk given at an event on November 7th as a respondent to BJP Spokesperson M.J. Akbar was the basis of this piece.