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After GMR, Indian carmakers in deep waters in Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI, Dec 11, 2012, DHNS 2:30 IST
Hyundai cars manufactured in India are parked at the 	Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. AFP file
After the Maldives, India’s economic interests are in deep waters in another neighbouring island nation, Sri Lanka.

Notwithstanding the setback in its efforts to help the GMR Group in the Maldives, New Delhi has now taken up the cudgels for Indian carmakers and urged Colombo to roll back the recent steep hikes in import duty on automobiles.

“The Indian High Commission in Colombo has taken up the matter with the Sri Lankan government. The issue will be discussed again when the Finance Secretary of Sri Lanka would travel to India,” said Syed Akbaruddin, Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), on Tuesday. Sri Lankan finance secretary Dr P B Jayasundera is set to visit India shortly.

The Sri Lankan government recently raised excise duty on imported utility vehicles from 100 per cent to 173 per cent. Duty on cars with less than 1000 cc engines was also raised from 120 per cent to 200 per cent, including a 47 per cent hike in excise duty.

The excise duty on both three-wheelers and two-wheelers were raised from 45 per cent and 61 per cent respectively to 100 per cent. Besides, an absolute levy of $ 845.95 was imposed on all commercial vehicles, in addition to an 12 per cent excise duty. Indian carmakers would be hit hard by the steep hike as the island nation is the largest export market, accounting to nearly 13 per cent of the total automobile export.

The Ministry of Commerce is understood to have sought the help of the MEA to take up the issue diplomatically with the Sri Lankan government.

Rajiv Kher, additional secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, on Monday said that New Delhi was concerned over the “very substantial rise in import tariff” by Sri Lank as the island nation on the Indian Ocean was a “very important market” for cars and commercial vehicles manufactured in India.

Lately, New Delhi has reacted very strongly to the Maldivian government’s decision to terminate its agreement with a consortium led by Indian infrastructure giant GMR Group to manage the international airport in an island close to the archipelagic nation’s capital Male. New Delhi warned Maldives about the repercussions their move could have on bilateral ties.

But a judgment of the Court of Appeal of Singapore on December 6 ruled that the Maldivian government could take control of the airport from the GMR Male International Airport Limited or GMIAL, a joint venture of GMR Infrastructure and Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad.

The judgment came as a setback for the GMR Group that had earlier got an injunctive relief from the High Court of Singapore against the applicability and operations of the notice the Maldivian government had served the company on November 27 seeking to take back the control of the airport. India subtly toned down its rhetoric on Maldives move against GMIAL after the judgment.

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