India Sri Lanka Relations Essay

Sri Lanka, the pear-shaped island, is a Republic of the British Commonwealth, to the South-East of India. It has an area of 25,000 square miles and a population of about 1,50,00,000. Out of the total population nearly one million are Tamils (13 percent of the 15 million people), Dravidian immigrants from India and mainly fishers and plantation workers. About 60 percent of the populations are Sinhalese, as the Dravidian natives are called. The next largest group is formed by Arabs who number about 6,00,000. Sri Lanka was one part of the Indian mainland from which it separated by Palk Strait. It is an extremely important focal point of Indian Ocean trade routes owing to its position near the southern end of the Indian peninsula which divides the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea. By virtue of its geographical location on the map of Asia, Sri Lanka holds a position of supreme strategic importance in the Indian Ocean. Both the super-powers have an eye on Sri Lanka and U.S.A. has succeeded in establishing a major naval base in Diego Garcia very little island near Mauritius. Now in the event of a Third World War, the naval sovereignty and even the security of India and Sri Lanka would be endangered. It is in the interest of both the countries that India remains a nuclear free peace zone.

With Sri Lanka, India has at the moment quite friendly rela­tions based upon mutual understanding. Although there have been minor disputes and differences in the past, they seem to have been closed by now. When a dispute arose about the possession of Kacchativu island which to all purpose belonged to India. India was gracious enough to hand over the possession of this island to Sri Lanka. India did not want Sri Lanka to become a pocket of America on this score, for then. Colombo would have become an American Military base.........Both India and Sri Lanka are active members of the Colombo Plan and the Nun-Aligned Movement. And now, India and Sri Lanka seem to have amicably settled the issue of the Tamil immigrants in Sri Lanka after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka Agreement drawn in July, 1987.

The ethnic problem in Sri Lanka dates back not to one year or the decade only, but it has its roots deep clown in centuries old history. The rivalry between the Sinhalese (the Dravidian natives) and the Tamils (the Dravidian immigrants) is at the root of the geno­cide of the civilian population that has shaken the very roots of the entire political structure of Sri Lanka. It is difficult to say for cer­tain who are the original natives of Sri Lanka—the Sinhalese or the Tamils, both staking claim to this privilege. In this ethnic rivalry both the Dravidian races conveniently forget that they both origi­nally hail from India and that Sri Lanka was once part of the Indian peninsula.

Religion and language have no small share in creating the schism. Theologically, the Tamils follow Hinduism whereas the Sinhalese worship Buddhism. Surprisingly both the religions preach Ahimsa and religious Forbearance and tolerance, but in. Sri Lanka they have become so intolerant as to shed the blood of each other sect. Linguistically, the official language of the Sinhalese (as also of the administration) is Sinhalese, while the official language of the Tamils is Tamil.

In 1956, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) as formed, professing Sinhalese as the official language as its motto. The SLFP government declared Sinhalese as the official national language. After a stiff challenge from the Tamil leader Selvanayakama, a pact was arrived at in 1957 between Prime Minister Bandamaike and Selvanayakama whereby Tamil was recognized as the official language of the Tamil minorities of the eastern peninsula. However, the pact was not implemented.

In 1972, the new constitution of Sri Lanka was framed and Sri Lanka was declared a Republic with Sinhalese as the Official language and Buddhism as the official religion of the country. The Tamils boycotted the entire process of the framing of the constitu­tion. This paved the way for the formation of the Tamil United Front (TCJF) with 6-point demands for decentralized structure of the government at the basis of religion and languages.

In fact, there had been a planned move on the part of the Sri Lankan government to downgrade the Tamils as 'second grade citizens' under the guise of standardization and regionalization of education, there began a gradual elimination of Tamils from engineering, medical, science and technical education and minimization, of Tamils in government employment. This naturally created a strong wave of discontent and rebellion among the Tamil militant youths.

The year 1976 proved to be a milestone in the history of the Tamil Movement; it saw establishment of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and the institutionalization of the Tamil Movement. The TULF pressed forward the demand for seven Tamil Eelam dis­tricts in the north eastern Jaffaa peninsula, including Jaffna Vavunia, Trincomalls and Batticaloa. In 1977 the TULF fought the general elections with 'Tamil Eelam1 as their manifesto. When the UNP cams into power with President Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka President promised to give adequate representation to Tamils in education and employment. However, when in 1978 the new Constitution was passed, Sinhalese was recognized as the official lan­guage, with recognition to Tamil as second language for official ad­ministrative work in Tamil majority areas. But all this was a paper exercise and a ploy. So discontent went on brewing among the Tamils against this discrimination.

By now several underground terrorist groups of Tamils had sprung up—LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam); EROS, EPRLF, TELO and PLOT. The government passed stringent laws to neutralize and liquidate the legitimate demands of the Tamils and gave unlimited powers to the armed forces to deal with the Tamil militants by declaring emergency in May 1983.

Ethnic riots broke out in Colombo on July 25, 1983, prompt, by the killing of 13 Sinhalese soldiers in an ambush by Tamil mili­tants in Jaffaa in northern Sri Lanka. Five hundred persons mostly Tamils were killed, hundreds of houses, shops, factories and places of worship belonging to the minority community were destroyed or damaged and 1,00,000 Tamils were left homeless in nine days of rioting across the island.

Signs started emerging of possible solution to the Sri Lankan crisis three years after ethnic riots sparked a major increase in violence between Sinhalese and the Tamils. In 1985 Rajiv Government put forward fresh proposals of mediation when Jayawardene visited India in June 1985. An agreement was arrived at to the effect that India would assist in the suspension of the fight, and that India would cooperate in the talks between the Tamil militants and Sri Lankan government. There were two rounds of talks in July and August 1985, but the talks proved abortive with both the parties sticking to their guns. In December 1985, TULF made some alternative proposals, which were also turned down by the government.

In April 1986, an Indian delegation under Mr. P. Chidambararn, the Central International Security Minister, discussed the Tamil issue with President Jayawardene. Consequently, Jayawardene proposed a peace plan which was endorsed by a conference of eight moderate political parties on July 26, 1986. This raised expectation of a settlement. The peace conference appealed to the Tamil militants to put forward their own proposals for a political solu­tion within a undivided country. After the ten-day talks between the TULF leaders and Sri Lankan President the prospects to a settle­ment of the ethnic conflict improved. But once again the Govern­ment backed out of the pact.

In January 1987, President Jayawardene imposed strict con­trol and restriction on the Tamils' economic constraints in Jaffna and launched military action against the Tamil guerillas. la May and June 1987 more than 600 Tamils were slaughtered and thousands were injured as the invading Government troops rampa­ged through villages and towns and fired indiscriminately on civilians. There were heavy casualties when Sri Lankan Air Force bombed school buildings and temples where the civilians had taken shelter. This was genocide in the name of combating terrorism. India tread to send relief to the Tamils in a 20-boat Indian flotilla. But Sri Lanka threatened to 'shoot and sink' any Indian boat appro­aching Sri Lankan waters. Appalled by the 'negative and obstructive attitude' of Sri Lankan government, India gave a stern warning to Sri-Lanka that it will not remain a silent and 'indifferent-spectator' to the plight of Tamils in Jaffna. Under the circumstances, the Indian government had no option but to paradrop the relief supplies. In a swift operation, the Indian Air Force flew into the war—torn Jaffna peninsula on June 4, 1987, over-riding Colomo's warning: Five AN-32 transport aircrafts escorted by 4 Mirage 2000 fighters took off from Bangalore and were back in Indian airspace within an hour after completing their assignment. All this happened under the supervision of the Red Cross. Now, the 82 year-old President took the hint and relented.

On 29 July, 1987 the India-Sri Lanka Agreement was signed between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Sri Lankan President Jayawardcne. The TULF and other parties but the LTTE tigers did not favor this agreement. The following are the terms of agreement:

(1) Rejection of the demand for a separate Eelam with a view to strengthening the integrity, sovereignty and regional supremacy of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was declared as Multi-ethnic and Multi­lingual society;

(2) English and Tamil given a status equal to Sinhalese as official language;

(3) Northern and Eastern regions to be recognized as joined administrative units with separate elected council, Governor, Chief Minister and Ministry. It was also decided upon to hold a plebiscite to whether the people want a joint administration or not;

(4) Tamil guerillas must stop violence within 48 hours of the Agreement, and must surrender their arms to the Sri Lankan authorities;

(5) General political reprieve to all political prisoners and rehabilitation of the Tamil militants to bring them back in the main­stream of the nation;

(6) The Indian Government to guarantee the implementation of the Agreement proposals and to assist the Sri Lankan Govern­ment in its implementation. India will take firm steps in not allowing the Indian territory for any anti-Sri Lanka activities. India will also ^give military assistance to Sri Lanka to facilitate the implementation of the agreement.

On the request of President Jayawardene, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was sent to Sri Lanka. Detailed talks were held on 23, 26 and 28 September, 1987 between the Indian Officials and the leader of LTTE to sort out various disputed points of the India Sri Lanka Agreement, particularly the surrender of arms and the formation of an Interim Administrative Council with greater representation to LTTE in relation to the other Tamil groups.

Trouble again shot up about the nomination of the Administra­tor of the Interim Council, Jayawardene nominated Sivaganam; LTTE rejected their name and insisted on the nomination of Pad-manatham, a native of the eastern peninsula. Even the intervention of the Indian government yielded no results. In the meantime Jayewardene committed a diplomatic blunder. The Sri Lankan forces apprehended 17 Tamil guerillas and as they were being whisked away to Colombo for interrogation they swallowed cyanide and committed suicide. This acted as an incendiary and the Tamil gueri­llas mounted attacks on the Sinhalese on all fronts. Left with no choice, the IPKF had to take an unpleasant decision to disarm the LTTE guerillas and to compel them to surrender, just to salvage their prestige. This debatable and dangerous step resulted in con­fusion worse confounded. Since then, the situation in Sri Lanka is going from bad to worse. The Tamil guerillas are fighting an interminable war with the IPKF, unknown to the local terrain and the LTTE guerilla tactics the IPKF has been suffering heavy casualties, in addition to earning the wroth and animosity of the both the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

Recently, President Jayewardene has announced a general election to be held in Sri Lanka early next year with Prime Minister Premadasa as the official UNP candidate for President ship. State­hood has been conferred on the eastern Jafina peninsula and a majority of political prisoners have been released in a bid to ensure peaceful elections. Still, hopes of the dawn of peace in this Island of the setting sun are very bleak and remote indeed with the India Sri Lanka Agreement, the Rajiv government has played in to the hands of the clever Sinhalese. And the fun of all this game is that in an interview published in New York Times on September 25, 1988, Jayewardene said that the ethnic problem had been abetted if not created by India.

The latest development in the India-Sri Lanka relations is a probable flaring up of animosities as a result of the declaration made by Precedent Premadasa regarding the total withdrawal of IPKF from Sri Lanka by July 1989 and the refusal of the Indian Government to do so. The world is watching further movements with baited breath.


India Sri lanka relations UPSC

India Sri Lanka relations UPSC

India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour. The relationship between the two countries is more than 2,500 years old and both sides have built upon a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic intercourse. Relations between the two countries have also matured and diversified with the passage of time, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance. The shared cultural and civilizational heritage of the two countries and the extensive people to people interaction of their citizens provide the foundation to build a multi-faceted partnership. In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at the highest political level, growing trade and investment, cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence, as well as a broad understanding on major issues of international interest.

Conflict Zones The main factors which have contributed to the strained relations between the two countries are – Peace Process: India has deep interest in peace and stability in Sri. Peace in Sri Lanka can only contribute to the further deepening and expansion of Indo-Sri Lankan ties to mutual advantage. The Government of India is committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and to the restoration of a lasting peace through a peaceful, negotiated settlement that meets the just aspirations of all communities. The Fishermen issue: Arrest of Indian fishermen on the Sri Lankan side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar by Sri Lankan authorities has been a long-standing problem. The catch on the Sri Lankan side is better both in terms of quality (high-value prawns) and quantity. The Kachativu Issue: Kachativu, meaning of ‘barren island’ lies about 15 km from Rameswaram and 20 km north of Neduntivu off the Jaffna peninsula and is just 1.5 km from the International Boundary Line in Sri Lankan waters after the 1974 agreement. The windswept, desolate 112 hectares has very little plant or animal life. Its only man-made structure is a church, dedicated to St. Antony. The Island’s importance stems from the fact that the sea around it is rich in white and brown prawns and other varieties of fish. After a good catch, fishermen from Rameswaram used to rest and dry their nets there. While Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) claimed that Kachativu belonged to it because the Portuguese and later the British rulers of Sri Lanka exercised jurisdiction over it from Colombo, India argued the island formed part of the zamin of the Raja of Ramanathapuram. Though the dispute erupted now and then in the late 1960s, it figured for the first time at the highest level when Prime Minister,Kumaratunga’s visit to New Delhi on the last week of December, 1998. Negotiating teams had been at work on the pact since the middle of December, without clinching every detail of it. At one stage External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh urged the teams to go that extra mile to uphold the principle of free trade.

The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in May 2009. During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against terrorist forces. At the same time, it conveyed at the highest levels its deep concern at the plight of the mostly Tamil civilian population, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE. The conclusion of the armed conflict saw the emergence of a major humanitarian challenge, with nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians housed in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Government of India put in place a robust programme of assistance to help these IDPs return to normal life as quickly as possible. The last few years have also witnessed an increasing trend of Sri Lankan investments into India. Significant examples include Ceylon Biscuits (Munchee brand), Carsons Cumberbatch (Carlsberg), Brandix (about US$ 1 billion to set up a garment city in Vishakapatnam), MAS holdings, John Keels, Hayleys, and Aitken Spence (Hotels), apart from other investments in the freight servicing and logistics sector. The need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the ethnic issue has been reiterated by India at the highest levels. India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and which is consistent with democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights. The Government of Sri Lanka has conveyed its assurance that political proposals building on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution will be discussed with the Tamil leadership of the country. The India-Sri Lanka Foundation, set up in December 1998 as an intergovernmental initiative, also promotes greater understanding between the peoples of the two countries, including through enhancement of scientific, technical, educational and cultural cooperation. The Foundation focuses especially on the promotion of civil society cooperation and enhancing contact between the younger generations of the two countries. With a view to this, the Foundation has supported a number of student exchange programmes and activities at the school and university levels. It has also promoted the pursuit of higher studies as well as research in both countries, besides supporting a variety of cultural performances and programmes. Given the proximity of the territorial waters of both countries, especially in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar, incidents of straying of fishermen are common. Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bonafide fishermen of either side crossing the IMBL. Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner. India and Sri Lanka also enjoy a growing defence relationship built on extensive training and Service-to-Service linkages. The commonality of concerns of both countries, including with respect to the safety and security of their sea lanes of communication, informs their bilateral exchanges in this field. Today, the India-Sri Lanka relationship is strong and poised for a quantum jump by building on the rich legacy of historical linkages and strong economic and development partnerships that have been forged in recent years.

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