Indo-Lanka ties and
Keheliya Rambukwella’s rather detailed observations on the
nature of Indo-Lanka relations, on our front page yesterday, we
hope, would put to rest the now customary apprehensions that
originate in some sections of the public on this subject. It is
our considered opinion that, thus far, less light and more heat
has been generated on Indo-Lanka ties, when the matter is
taken-up for discussion by these groups.
This is a most unfortunate trend because what we need right
now is enlightened thinking on issues of this kind. It could not
be emphasized enough that it is in the interests of the whole of
South Asia for India’s neighbours to relate cordially and
positively with her and for her to do likewise.
This lesson, the countries of this region cannot afford to
ignore or gloss over. It could be stated with some certainty
that the governments of South Asia know this for a fact but the
valuable lesson is lost on some sections of their publics. The
latter usually happen to be those who seek to convert xenophobia
into votes, and their ardent backers.
As far as issues relating to Sri Lanka are concerned, we now
have it on the authority of Minister Rambukwella that there will
be discussions between India and Sri Lanka in the course of
arriving at a solution to the conflict in this country. That is,
the decisions arrived at would be of a consensual nature. There
would be no question of India dictating to Sri Lanka on this
question. Besides, the talks would be wide-ranging and there is
no indication that this negotiatory process would be confined to
only the two countries. It would be a very broad consensual
process involving other parties too, and as is well known, the
state is already engaged with the TNA on finding a solution.
The key to good neighbourly relations is a keen sensitivity
to the susceptibilities of one’s neighbours. If India and her
neighbours practice this norm in their interstate ties, there
are unlikely to be ripples and tensions in their mutual
relations. Sri Lanka has been abiding by this principle thus
far, and there is no reason why she should entertain any
apprehensions that she would be dictated to from any external
actors on matters affecting her national interests.
Particularly in the case of India, Sri Lanka has the evidence
of her eyes that India would not be at cross-purposes with her
on issues relating to the conflict in particular. For instance,
at the height of efforts by the Lankan state to crush the LTTE,
India was solidly behind Sri Lanka, giving her all the relevant
assistance to facilitate the downfall of the Tigers. This alone
is proof that India means well by Sri Lanka and that she would
do nothing to undermine Lanka’s vital interests.
This being the case, it is difficult to figure out why some
sections in this country entertain an obsessive fear of India.
The Lankan state has, very wisely, decided that she would be
dealing only with the Indian Centre on issues growing out of the
conflict, since it is the Indian central government that wields
preponderant power in the Indian Union and not any state, and
this should help clear all doubts in the minds of those who view
India suspiciously in our midst.
Given that these fears are of a highly irrational nature, a
duty is cast on the Lankan state to educate its public on the
baseless character of this anxiety. To be sure, not all sections
are gripped by this irrational fear but those who are thus
afflicted with the malaise could be exploited by the xenophobic
elements in our political community and when this happens
hysterical, lawless conduct among some could not be ruled out.
There is also a case here for more people-to-people contact
and stepped up cultural relations. Tourist traffic to and from
India could help in bringing the countries closer and also bring
into focus the commonalities between our countries. Efforts must
be stepped-up at state level to bring about the closer economic
integration of our countries.
As is widely known, India is an emerging economic giant, and
the entirety of the public needs to see more clearly the
numerous ways in which Sri Lanka stands to gain by having more
frequent economic exchanges with India.
These home truths apart, it must be clearly seen in Sri Lanka
that India is staunchly opposed to separatism in all its forms
and nuances. Inasmuch as the Indian Centre says ‘no’ very
strongly to separatism within the Union, it would oppose
separatism in the region because divisive tendencies of any kind
in its neighbourhood would be a strong incentive to separatist
tendencies within India. Thus, India and Sri Lanka are in
perfect accord on the undesirability of divisive tendencies
within states which could bring about their dismemberment.