The Sunday Leader

Refreshing Winds Across Palk Strait

A fresh outlook for Indo-Sri Lanka relations opened with the visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to New Delhi on the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This should be considered a welcome change for relations between the countries that had commenced souring after the continuous rule of the decade-old regime of Congress in India and an equally senior the Rajapaksa government of Sri Lanka.

The Indian Prime Minister in his talks with President Rajapaksa had expressed interest in two Sri Lankan issues: ‘expeditious reconciliation of the Sinhalese and Tamil communities and the early and full implementation of the 13th Amendment even going beyond’. This indicates the continuance of India’s Sri Lankan policy under the Modi regime even though some Sri Lankan analysts speculated that the new Indian premier would be willing to consider a centric policy of governance instead of devolution of power to the periphery.

While good relations and co-operation between the countries goes without saying, the euphoria of the ‘Modi Wave’ that appears to have reached even the shores of the West need not sweep Sri Lanka off its bearings.

By inviting President Rajapaksa to his ceremonial investiture, ignoring the strong protests made by politicians of Tamil Nadu, Narendra Modi demonstrated that regional compulsions will not take precedence over Indian National policy. But it will be naïve to presume that he could continue to ignore the strongly expressed concerns of 75 million Tamils in the southern state. However, amidst renewed cordialities Modi has to be impressed that the problems of the Tamils of this country are essentially a Sri Lankan issue and that it has to be resolved by Sri Lanka which is an independent and sovereign state.

Resolution of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem defied any form through negotiations for three decades with the LTTE continuing with its intransigent demand for a separate state. Its military defeat ended that impasse but the Sri Lankan government has failed to meet the demands made by main Tamil political parties.

Implementation of the 13th Amendment too is one of the main demands of these parties. The Rajapaksa government has conceded much of the demands such as with the establishment of the provincial councils to the Northern and Eastern Provinces but has been unwilling to grant police powers and powers of land distribution to these councils. A reason is that being a democratically elected government, it is susceptible to its Sinhala vote base which is presumed  to be opposed to police and land powers being granted to the provincial councils of the north and east.

There are vociferous Sinhala political parties and groups opposed to the 13th  Amendment’s provisions of devolving police and land distribution and could whip up sentiments against the Rajapaksa regime.

In order to overcome this opposition the polarization of politics of the south must end. The government should be able to foster much better relations with the main Southern political party the UNP which is bitterly opposed to the government. Consensus should be reached on the 13thAmendment. The UNP has been making sounds on its flexibility about this amendment. As the ruling party the government should take the initiative in bringing about reconciliation in Southern politics before attempting reconciliation with the north. There can be no national unity without bringing about southern unity on national issues.

Meanwhile, Jeyalalithaa, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister who led her party to sweep the recent Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, is now in full cry on the Sri Lankan issue. She seems to be more anxious to represent the Sri Lankan Tamils than her own 75 million Tamils in her state! The Tamil National Alliance wants to meet her and make representations on behalf of Sri Lankan Tamils.

The likelihood of a political scenario reminiscent of the mid 1980s which resulted in Indian military intervention could be in the making. This should not be permitted. Sri Lanka should resolve its own problems with or without the assistance of foreign forces.
President Narendra Modi, after his recent sweep of the Indian electorate, is the most powerful Indian leader to emerge in recent years. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ruled Sri Lanka continuously for a near decade winning every election of all kinds and has crushed the LTTE militarily. He, with the help of the all-powerful Indian president, has the grand opportunity to resolve Sri Lanka’s Tamil problem, once and for all time.

2 Comments for “Refreshing Winds Across Palk Strait”

  1. D.Nimal

    Sri lanka cannot agreed on 13A by and large any way.13A is products of Invaded- IPKF by Indian army. It was force agreement between India and Sri Lanka 1987 by Indian ruling class gunpoint. The settlement of Tamil minorities issues to decided by Majority decision of deliberation of norms of democracy not by Indian gun point.
    There is no homeland for Tamils in north part of Island. Tamils homeland is Tamil-Nadu. No police power or land powers for north of Island; the very reasons are LTTE launch 30 war of Terror against people of Sri Lankan support by Indian Tamil-Nadu. We don’t want another war in this tiny Island given police powers to North Council by 13 A of Modi’s new politics of Indian hegomoinism..
    Modi’s has more responsibility and accountability of to be discharge of elections promises to accomplished by people’s mandate.800 millions of people of India are suffering poverty and unemployment ,inequality and other man-made disaster by Indian big-capitalist class by misrule and mismanagement of political-economy and social system..Modi has to address urgent problems of own people who are in below the poverty level Indian as well as Tamil Nadu.
    Leave it Sri lankans to decided their own affairs by themselves not that by Indian big batten politics of BJP.


  2. Gabriella

    The devolving of police and land powers within a Sovereign state is not only impractical, but sheer lunacy. It is tantamount to creating a separate state within the state.

    If this was acceptable to the people of Sri Lanka, then, there would have been no reason to fight a war for 26 years,

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