–Dr. Abdul Ruff
Sri Lankan regime, committed only to protect and promote majority Singhalese, continues to attack the helpless Tamil fishermen on sea but Lankan-Tamil relations have been very old.
The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old with both countries having a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
On the positive side, in recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence.
Generally, both countries share a broad understanding on major issues of international interest. In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has helped further cement the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) comprise Sindhis, Borahs, Gujaratis, Memons, Parsis, Malayalis and Telugu speaking persons who have settled down in Sri Lanka (most of them after partition) and are engaged in various business ventures. Though their numbers (10,000 approximately) are much lesser as compared to Indian Origin Tamils (IOTs), they are economically prosperous and are well placed. Each of these communities has their organization which organizes festivals and cultural events. According to unofficial statistics, it is estimated that around 14,000 Indian expatriates are living in Sri Lanka. The IOTs are mostly employed in either tea or rubber plantations in Central, Uva and Sabragamuwa Provinces though the younger generation has been migrating to Colombo in search of employment. A fair number of IOTs living in Colombo are engaged in business. According to Government census figures (2011), the population of IOTs is about 1.6 million.
The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE – Lankan war on Tamils – came to an end in May 2009. During the course of the conflict, interestingly, India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against so-called Tamil terrorist forces- LTTE, though it also conveyed 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.
For unknown reasons, Indian government transferred Katchatheevu islet where Indian and Lankan fishermen have been fishing for making livelihoods, to Sri Lankan control, thereby putting Indian interests at bay. Indian Tamil fishermen have been attacked regularly as a major policy of Srilanka. .
Even as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an investment of Rs 12,000 crore to upgrade eight state highways to National Highways in his home state Gujarat as the state would go to polls soon, the Sri Lankan government reportedly shot dead 22-year-old Tamil Indian fisherman was on Monday the 06 March while he was fishing in a mechanized boat near Rameswaram Dhanushkodi at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. One fisherman, K. Britjo, was killed. Another who was injured was awarded in a hospital in Tamil Nadu. The tragedy has ignited tensions in the state but Colombo insisted its Navy was not involved. Sri Lanka says Indians fish on Lankan waters and six fishermen from Thangachimadam in Ramanathapuram district were fishing near the Katchatheevu isle…
Interestingly, Indian government is yet to properly react to Sri Lankan criminal arrogance; ignoring the fact SL killed an Indian on Indian sea. The 22-year-old Indian fisherman was shot dead while he was fishing in a mechanized boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. Local fishermen alleged that he was killed by the Sri Lankan navy while another was injured.
Sri Lanka declined to take responsibility for the murder of a Tamil fisherman. But the Sri Lankan government on Tuesday said that an initial probe report has ruled out its navy’s involvement in the shooting of an Indian fisherman, an issue raised by India with Sri Lanka’s prime minister.
Indian fisherman Bridgo along with others were fishing near the Katchatheevu islet when the Sri Lankan naval personnel arrived at the spot and opened fire, fisheries department officials in Tamil Nadu had said. Bridgo was shot in the neck and died on the spot and another fisherman, Saravanan (22), suffered leg injuries in the firing. Other fishermen who went along with them escaped unhurt and returned to the shore. Katchatheevu is located in the narrow Palk Straits dividing India and Sri Lanka. The sea near the island is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.
The riots in Sri Lanka were common and one-sided against the Tamils and hence meet the definition of a pogrom. The book also explores into the manifestation of Sinhalese nationalism in the form of anti-Tamil movement in a large-scale pogrom as a result of closely coordinated action of politicians, Buddhist monks, and rural Sinhalese
1958 anti-Tamil pogrom and riots in Ceylon, also known as 58 riots, refer to the first island wide ethnic riots and pogrom to target the minority Tamils in the Dominion of Ceylon after it became an independent country from Britain in 1948. The riots lasted from 22 May until 27 May 1958 although sporadic disturbances happened even after the declaration of emergency on 1 June 1958. The estimates of the murders range based on recovered body count from 300 to 1500. Although most of the victims were Tamils, some majority Sinhalese civilians and their property was also affected both by attacking Sinhalese mobs who attacked those Sinhalese who provided sanctuary to Tamils as well as in retaliatory attacks by Tamil mobs in Batticaloa and Jaffna. As the first full-scale race riot in the country in over forty years, the events of 1958 shattered the trust the communities had in one another and led to further polarization.
Sinhalese gangs attacked Tamil laborers in Polonnaruwa farms. The Tamil laborers in the Polonnaruwa sugar-cane plantation fled when they saw the enemy approaching and hid in the sugar-cane bushes. The Sinhalese mobs however set the sugar cane alight and flushed out the Tamils. As they came out screaming, men, women and children were cut down with home-made swords, grass-cutting knives and katties, or pulped under heavy clubs. Those who fled were clubbed down or hit by machetes. In Hinguarkgoda, rioters ripped open the belly of an eight-month-pregnant woman, and left her to bleed to death. One woman in sheer terror embraced her two children and jumped into a well. It has been estimated that 70 people died the night of 25 May.
As the usual international practice, Sri Lanka used some prominent Tamils work against Tamil interest and to promote Singhalese domination and attacks on Tamil community. Pseudo-patriotism a hallmark of Indian system to deny justice to many sections of populations, has been applied by Lankan government and military to injure and insult Tamils. .
Lankan regime fought a historic war to end rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka mainly because majority Singhalese population looks down upon Indian Tamils as semi-humans who should not enjoy any rights in that island nation.
Rajapaksha used the military excessively against Tamil minority fro demanding equal rights. In decimating Tamils, Colombo sought the support of all major powers and neighboring India whose population is Tamils.
War crimes perpetrated by Sri Lanka could silence Tamils and Indian regime at the same time. But Rajapaksa fell in the general poll that brought a new Singhalese regime in 2015 under Maithripala Sirisena as President, a member of Rajapaksa’s inner circle, who announced “reconciliation” with Tamil community but nothing has happened to that effect as Sirisena also is keen to promote Singhalese domination in the nation. . .
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 also talks about democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights. Sirisena has not done even single thing to show that he is really keen for any reconciliation.
Political Relations President Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the new President of Sri Lanka in the presidential election held on 8 January, 2015. He succeeded former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Following parliamentary elections on 17 August 2015, Ranil Wickremesinghe, a close ally of Rajapaksha, was reappointed as the Prime Minister by President Sirisena on 21 August 2015.
Notwithstanding Singhalese-Tamil conflict, political relations between India and Lanka have been marked by high-level exchanges of visits at regular intervals. Even after military attacks and even murders of Tamil fishermen by Lankan regime, mutual visits continued even as Indo-Pakistani relations continued to fluctuate on account of Kashmir issue.
Mutual tours as part of betrayal of Tamils
Apparently, both Sri Lanka and India have forged an illicit nexus to target Tamils. India helps Lanka economically while targeting people of Tamil Nadu.
From Sri Lanka, President Sirisena visited India on a four-day starting 15 February 2015. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited India in September 2015, in fact his first overseas visit after being appointed as Prime Minister. President Sirisena and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi also met on the margins of 70th session of UNGA in New York in September 2015 and at the COP21 meeting in Paris in November 2015. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited New Delhi in January 2015 on his first overseas official visit. Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga visited New Delhi in September 2015 to attend the “Samvad-Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness” organized by Vivekananda International Foundation. The Sri Lankan Air Force Commander visited India from 27-31 July 2015.
Earlier, the Sri Lankan Navy Commander visited Goa in May 2015 to participate in the keel laying ceremony of the 2nd Offshore Patrol Vessel being constructed for Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Mr. Karunasena Hettiarachchi led a delegation to India for the 3rd Annual Defence Dialogue which was held in New Delhi in September 2015 at the Defence Secretary level. From India, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka on 13-14 March, 2015. He also travelled to Anuradhapura, Talaimannar, and Jaffna. External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj was in Colombo on 6-7 March to prepare for Prime Minister’s visit. Former President Dr. Abdul Kalam visited Sri Lanka from 25-27 June 2015 to participate in the “International Energy Symposium titled Energy Challenges in the Knowledge Economy”. The then External Affairs Minister of India Shri Salman Khurshid, visited Sri Lanka in October and in November 2013.
BJP’s External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj led a 12-member Parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka from in April 2012 as the then Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Congress party enabled that visit. Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. K. Dhowan visited Sri Lanka on 22-25 November 2015 to participate in the annual International Maritime Conference ‘Galle Dialogue’, while Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag visited Sri Lanka from 29 November – 4 December 2015. Commerce Secretary Shri Rajeev Kher visited Sri Lanka on March 4, 2015 for the third round of Commerce Secretary level interactions. Commercial Relations Sri Lanka has long been a priority destination for direct investment from India. Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading-partner in SAARC.
India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally. Trade between the two countries grew particularly rapidly after the entry into force of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in March 2000. According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade in 2015 amounted to US $ 4.7 billion. Exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2015 were US$ 4.1 billion (up by 2.1%), while exports from Sri Lanka to India were US$ 645 million (up by 3.2%). India is among the top four investors in Sri Lanka with cumulative investments of over US$ 1 billion since 2003. The investments are in diverse areas including petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunication, hospitality & tourism, banking and food processing (tea & fruit juices), metal industries, tires, cement, glass manufacturing, and infrastructure development (railway, power, water supply).
A number of new investments from Indian companies are in the pipeline or under implementation. Notable among them are proposals of Shree Renuka Sugar to set up a sugar refining plant at Hambantota (US $ 220 million), South City, Kolkota for real estate development in Colombo (US $ 400 million), Tata Housing Slave Island Development project along with Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka (US $ 430 million), ‘Colombo One’ project of ITC Ltd. (ITC has committed an investment of US$ 300 million, augmenting the earlier committed US 140 million). Dabur has already set up a fruit juice manufacturing plant (US$ 17 million) in May 2013. On the other hand, the last few years have also witnessed an increasing trend of Sri Lankan investments into India. Significant examples include 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. Developmental Cooperation 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 the IDPs return to normal life as quickly as possible as also consistently advocated the need for them to be resettled to their original habitations as early as possible. India’s immediate humanitarian assistance to IDPs included supply of 250,000 family relief packs, establishment of an emergency medical unit which treated over 50,000 IDPs, supply of over one million roofing sheets, as well as 400,000 bags of cement for constructing temporary housing and provision of 95,000 starter packs of agricultural implements. India also assisted in revival of agricultural and economic activities in areas affected by the conflict.
Persecution of Lankan Tamils and Indian money for Colombo
The main impetus for stepping up of India’s development assistance flowed from the commitments made during the visit of President of Sri Lanka to India during June 2010, when the then Prime Minister of India announced a Development Package for Sri Lanka. This included construction of 50,000 housing units, rehabilitation of the Northern Railway lines, wreck-removal and rehabilitation of the KKS Harbour, establishment of Vocational Training Centres, construction of a Cultural Centre at Jaffna, setting up a 500 MW coal power plant at Sampur, restoration of Thiruketheeswaram Temple, establishing an Agricultural Research Institute in the Northern Province, expanding the scholarship program for Sri Lankan students to pursue their higher studies in India, setting up Centres for English Language Training and providing technical assistance for the National Action Plan for a Trilingual Sri Lanka.
The Housing Project, with an overall commitment of over INR 1372 crore in grants, is the flagship project of Government of India’s assistance to Sri Lanka. It is perhaps the largest such project undertaken by the Government of India overseas.
The first stage of construction of 1,000 houses in the Northern Province was completed in July 2012. The second phase of constructing or repairing 45000 houses in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is being implemented under an innovative owner-driven model, wherein the owner-beneficiaries undertake the construction/repair of their houses themselves and Government of India arranges technical support and financial assistance. This phase was launched on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October 2012 and has made excellent progress since its launch. As on 31 December 2015, a total of 43,800 houses have been completed. During 2015, 13,827 new houses were constructed in the Northern Province, and 2,051 in the Eastern Province.
In addition, 502 damaged houses were repaired in the Northern Province. Only 2,200 houses remain to be constructed or repaired in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, which is expected to be completed during the next few months. The third phase, to construct 4,000 houses in the Central and Uva Provinces through an innovative community-driven approach, will be launched very shortly.
Sri Lanka is one of the major recipients of development credit given by the Government of India. Under a line of credit of $167.4 million, the tsunami-damaged Colombo-Matara rail link has been repaired and upgraded. Another line of credit of $800 million for track laying and supply of rolling stock to support construction of Medawachchiya to Madhu, Madhu to Talaimannar, Omanthai to Pallai, Pallai to Kankesanthurai railway lines and setting up of signaling and telecommunications systems in Northern Sri Lanka is already operational. In October 2014 the Pallai-Jaffna reconstructed railway track and signal system was inaugurated thereby reconnecting Jaffna to Colombo by rail. India also continues to assist a large number of smaller development projects in areas like education, health, transport connectivity, small and medium enterprise development and training in many parts of the country through its grant funding. Cultural Relations The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the Government of India and the Government of Sri Lanka on 29 November, 1977 at New Delhi forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries. The Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo actively promotes awareness of Indian culture by offering classes in Indian music, dance, Hindi and Yoga. High Commission organized an event on 21 June 2015 to celebrate the First International Day of Yoga at the iconic ocean side promenade Galle Face Green. The event was attended by two thousand yoga enthusiasts. Every year, cultural troupes from both countries exchange visits.
Pursuant to an announcement made by the Prime Minister of India during his visit to Sri Lanka, a Festival of India in Sri Lanka was launched in November 2015, with ‘Nrityarupa’, a scintillating dance medley from different parts of India performed in Colombo, Kandy and Galle. The theme of the Festival is “Sangam”: a confluence of cultures of India and Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka commemorated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (SambuddhatvaJayanthi) through joint activities. These included the exposition of Sacred Kapilavastu Relics in Sri Lanka that took place in August – September 2012.
During the exposition, approximately three million Sri Lankans (nearly 15 percent of the total population of Sri Lanka) paid homage to the Sacred Relics. The Indian Gallery at the International Buddhist Museum, Sri Dalada Maligawa, was inaugurated in December 2013. The Gallery highlights the shared heritage and close Buddhist links between India and Sri Lanka. The two Governments jointly celebrated the 150th Anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala in 2014.
The India-Sri Lanka Foundation, set up in December 1998 as an intergovernmental initiative, also aims towards enhancement of scientific, technical, educational and cultural cooperation through civil society exchanges and enhancing contact between the younger generations of the two countries. Education is an important area of cooperation. India now offers about 290 scholarship slots annually to Sri Lankan students. In addition, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme and the Colombo Plan, India offers nearly 200 slots annually to Sri Lankan nationals.
State terrorism and tourism
Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka. Government of India formally launched the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) scheme for Sri Lankan tourists on 14 April 2015. Subsequently, in a goodwill gesture, the visa fee for eTV was sharply reduced. The new eTV fee for Sri Lankan nationals is only US$ 25 (plus bank charges of 2.5%), instead of US$ 60 (plus US$2 bank fee) charged earlier. In 2015, out of the total tourist arrivals, 316,247 were from India constituting 17.58% of the total number of tourist arrival to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan tourists too are among the top ten sources for the Indian tourism market. In 2014, around 200,000 visas were issued by the High Commission and other posts in Sri Lanka to facilitate travel between Indian and Sri Lanka.
Fishermen issue and Indian Community
Sri Lankan government attacks local Tamils as well as those Tamils from India on the sea.
Sri Lanka treats Indian fishermen fishing at Katchatheevu. 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 bona fide fishermen of either side crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line. Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner.
Tamils see some apparent secret deal between Indian and Lankan regimes to deal sternly with Tamils and therefore, Indian government allows all atrocities by Lankan military on Indian Tamils. In a civil war earlier, Lankan military committed crimes against humanity by committing genocides of Tamils as part of their goal of holocaust of Tamil population in Lankan Island.
Conspiracy against Tamils?
The new regime in Colombo under Sirisena had declared loudly that it would go for reconciliation but now it has presided over the murder of a Tamil fisherman in Tamil Nadu, breaking all provisions of intentional law.
Is Lankan regime blood thirsty or is it just an isolated tragedy?
When Indian military keeps killing Muslims of occupied Jammu Kashmir it is strange why it is unable to put an end to Lankan arrogance towards Indians. Are Muslims so cheap for Indian regime?
Time is running out for India to make sure seas of Indian Territory are soverign and belong to India.
Sri Lanka fires all shots while India watches the show as a festival firework. Indian deliberately let the Sri Lankan military attack and even kill the Tamil fishermen. When Indian military keeps killing Muslims of occupied Jammu Kashmir it is strange why it is unable to put an end to Lankan arrogance towards Indians. Are Muslims so cheap for Indian regime?
Time is running out for India to make sure seas of Indian Territory are soverign and belong to India. The Modi government has to wake up before Sri Lanka invades Tamil Nadu if they have a hidden plan for that as Tamil people are divided because of the plotters led by Sasikala have divided the ruling AIADMK in order to promote her private interests and control both party and government?
Let the sacrifice of life of fisherman Bridgo resolve the issue of fishing rights of Tamils at Katchatheevu.
The Modi government has to wake up before Sri Lanka invades Tamil Nadu if they have a hidden plan for that?
Perpetual Lankans attacks on defenseless Tamil fishermen on sea are a serious crime committed by the state. India and Lanka must wake up to solve the issue in the best possible manners, preferably through peaceful sincere negations at top level.
Sri Lanka seems to be provoking India for a bloody war.
A war may not necessarily result in peace!