Indo-Sri Lanka relations have come under the limelight once again following President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s statements and moves by South Indian politicians to hold a pro-LTTE forum, which has been actively condemned locally.
In the strongest reaction yet to India’s contentious support to a US-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against Sri Lanka earlier this year, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has broken his silence by calling upon the Indian Government to have a relook at its dealings with its neighbours.
In a freewheeling interview at his Temple Trees residence, his first full-length interview since India’s vote for the resolution in March, Rajapaksa suggested that India could be abdicating its leadership role in the region. Rajapaksa, in fact, did not fully agree with India’s contention that it had helped tone down the resolution against alleged human rights abuses, saying that if India had continued with its support to Sri Lanka, there may not have been any resolution against Sri Lanka.
In response to the conference in South India, Sri Lanka’s Collective of Nationalist Organisations staged a demonstration march in Colombo over the weekend to protest the Tamil Eelam Solidarity Organisation (TESO) Conference that was scheduled to be held in Chennai by the leader of the Tamil Nadu political party DMK.
The Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala nationalist Patriotic National Movement Gunadasa Amarasekera had called the TESO Conference an attempt by India’s Tamil Nadu politicians to divide the country and is launched with the support of the Central Government of India.
The Patriotic National Movement was an active participant of the agitation held last morning before the Indian High Commission in Colombo in protest of the TESO conference. The activists carrying placards and shouting slogans marched to the High Commission and set fire to effigies of DMK Leader M. Karunanidhi and Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance Leader R. Sampanthan.
The Chairman of the Sinhala nationalist organisation linked to Government coalition party National Freedom Front added that their doubt was proved by the Central Government of India allowing the use of the word ‘Eelam,’ which means a ‘separate homeland,’ with the conference.
India’s Central Government on Saturday reversed its earlier edict and told the court that it had no objection to using the word ‘Eelam,’ in the title of the conference, which will undoubtedly raise questions in Sri Lanka.
India will always remain a strong ally of Sri Lanka and while it has over the past few weeks made strong inroads on the economic from with the tour of the Commerce Minister Sharma, there are political tensions that will surface on actions such as the conference. At a sensitive point when Sri Lanka is attempting to rebuild after three decades of war, there will be grave concern if India does not support its neighbour in its peace building efforts.
For the past three year Sri Lanka and India have had strong relations on solving the ethnic issue with many delegations and visits exchanged. While these interactions may not have been entirely satisfactory, firing up the situation would also not lead to sustainable or positive relations between the two countries.
Traditionally tense relations with South India do reflect on the Central Government and more needs to be done on both sides if Sri Lanka is to maintain its hard-won peace.