The Sri Lankan govern­ment has re­sisted all in­ter­na­tional pres­sures so far but de­lay in reach­ing a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment with the Tamils may force In­dia to im­pose a so­lu­tion.

Southasia - - Contents - By Fah­mida Ashraf

In­dian poli­cies to­wards Sri Lanka aim at es­tab­lish­ing its in­flu­ence in the Tamil pop­u­la­tion.

Un­like its in­ter­ven­tion­ist pol­icy to­wards Sri Lanka in the 1980s, which ma­ligned In­dia’s im­age in the Asian re­gion, the In­dian govern­ment dur­ing the civil war (2009) and postcivil war (May 2009) pe­riod has adopted a non-in­ter­ven­tion­ist pol­icy to­wards Sri Lanka aimed at es­tab­lish­ing its in­flu­ence in the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in the Tamil­dom­i­nated North­ern re­gion.

The In­dian Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter, S. M. Kr­ishna, made a de­tailed state­ment in par­lia­ment in Au­gust 2011, ex­plain­ing the pri­mary fo­cus of the In­dian govern­ment’s non-in­ter­ven­tion­ist pol­icy dur­ing the post-civil war pe­riod in Sri Lanka. He stressed that the In­dian govern­ment’s main ob­jec­tive was ‘to en­sure the wel­fare and well be­ing of Sri Lankan Tamils, in­clud­ing in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDPs) and to as­sist the de­vel­op­ment of North­ern Sri Lanka.’

The In­dian govern­ment has been em­pha­siz­ing that the Sri Lankan govern­ment needs to take ur­gent and ‘ex­pe­di­tious steps to­wards gen­uine national rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in­clud­ing early re­turn of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons to their re­spec­tive homes, early with­drawal of emer­gency reg­u­la­tions, in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, restora­tion of nor­malcy in af­fected ar­eas, the re­duc­tion and ul­ti­mate elim­i­na­tion of high se­cu­rity zones, ac­count­abil­ity for miss­ing per­sons and re­dres­sal of hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns of af­fected fam­i­lies.’

The In­dian govern­ment has also been press­ing for the in­tro­duc­tion of a new sys­tem of in­sti­tu­tional re­forms by the Sri Lankan govern­ment, in­clud­ing a de­vo­lu­tion pack­age for the North­ern re­gion. Re­cently, com­ment­ing on the lift­ing of emer­gency laws by the Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent on Au­gust 25, the In­dian Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Mr. Kr­ishna, in his state­ment on Septem­ber 4 in the In­dian par­lia­ment cau­tiously wel­comed the step and hoped that this will be ‘fol­lowed by ef­fec­tive steps lead­ing to gen­uine national rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in the coun­try.’

In­dian pol­icy to­wards Sri Lanka is mainly in­flu­enced by two de­vel­op­ments. First, the In­dian govern­ment is con­cerned about the in­creas­ing Chi­nese in­flu­ence in Sri Lanka. China has emerged as the largest lender in Sri Lanka - $1.2 bil­lion in 2009 and $821 mil­lion in 2010. As part of its non-in­ter­ven­tion­ist pol­icy, in the post-civil war pe­riod, In­dia has also been con­cen­trat­ing on pro­vid­ing eco­nomic as­sis­tance, grants and loans for re­lief, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and de­vel­op­ment work in Sri Lanka. The govern­ment of In­dia in June 2009 an­nounced a grant of Rs. 500 crore for re­lief, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­set­tle­ment work in Sri Lanka, es­pe­cially in North­ern Sri Lanka; it an­nounced the con­struc­tion of 50,000 houses mainly for IDPs. Un­der the Line of Credit of about U.S. $800 mil­lion the In­dian govern­ment is in­volved in ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives, such as rail­way line restora­tion projects in North­ern Sri Lanka; re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Kanake­san­thu­rai har­bor; joint ven­ture project at Sam­pur south of Trin­co­ma­lee har­bor; restora­tion of Du­ra­iappa sta­dium; con­struc­tion of cul­tural cen­tre at Jaffna; vo­ca­tional cen­ters at Bat­ticaloa and Nuwara Eliya; and pe­tro­leum ex­plo­ration in the Man­nar Basin.

In­dia has also as­sisted in the dem­i­ning process in North­ern Sri Lanka. In or­der to fa­cil­i­tate its ef­forts for fi­nan­cial and de­vel­op­men­tal as­sis­tance, In­dia has opened two new con­sulates, in Jaffna and Hambantota, be­sides a con­sulate in Kandy and its High Com­mis­sion in Colombo. As ob­served by Sri Lankan an­a­lyst, Sergei De­Silva Ranas­inghe in his ar­ti­cle pub­lished by

In­dian For­eign Min­is­ter S.M. Kr­ishna with his Sri Lankan

coun­ter­part G.L. Peiris.

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