| by N.S.Venkataraman
( March 24, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) While India has number of neighbouring countries, India and Sri Lanka are the two neighbours with much emotional bond with each other. While lakhs of Indians Tamilians have migrated to Sri Lanka in the past seeking greener pastures to work in tea estates, the emotional bond has been largely due to spread of Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India and the Sri Lanka’s link with the epic Ramayana. Both these countries share the traditional value system.
Unfortunately , in the last few decades, frictions have developed between both the countries due to what was termed by India as unfair treatment meted out to the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. Of course, Sri Lanka has also expressed its unhappiness about India providing space for the LTTE rebels in the initial stage of the conflict.
The violent liberation movement launched in Sri Lanka by a section of rebel Tamil population led to a war like situation. No country or government worth its salt can allow any movement to split the country and would inevitably try to put down such movement with all the force at its command. This is what Sri Lanka government did and it resulted in sufferings to considerable section of Tamil population there and loss of lives for the army also. While all this form part of the recent history, the fact is that it is neither in the interest of Sri Lanka nor India to have continued friction in their relationships, which will only pave way for other countries to encourage the divisive forces in both the countries.
While the smooth relationship between both the neighbours can be natural due to several historical commonalities, the strained relationship is avoidable and should not be allowed to continue.
In a noisy and nearly chaotic democratic country like India, the political parties often play up any issue to whip up mass unrest to get electoral gains, particularly when elections have become too frequent either for parliament or for state assembly or civic bodies, one following the other after short gaps. In such circumstances, the political leaders in charge of the government in both the countries should be able to exhibit qualities of wisdom and understanding and should be able to guide the relationships between the countries with statesmanship approach. If they would fail to do so, the relations will inevitably become bitter, that would do great harm to both the countries, not only in terms of social harmony but also in terms of economy and trade.
Sri Lankan government has been facing adverse criticisms about its role in putting down the violent upsurge in part of the country. Several other countries have faced such criticisms in the past at one time or the other. United States of America has not hesitated to use brute force to put down the opponents whenever it would need to do so to protect its interests. USA has not done this in its own soil but in other countries to protect its economic interest and international leadership position. USA may not score better than Sri Lanka in human rights issue.
While it can be said that Sri Lanka may have been sinned against while it may also have sinned Sri Lanka should find some way to undo the damage and redress / compensate the grievances of the affected people, and create faith and confidence amongst the minorities in Sri Lanka as well as amongst the international community, about its intention and readiness to restore amity and harmony and walk extra mile to reassure the people who have suffered in the recent conflicts. This is necessary to ensure smooth relationship between India and Sri Lanka, that would provide win win situation for both the countries.
Sri Lanka’s problem with India is really with one state in India namely Tamil Nadu where the people seem to be upset about the sufferings of the Tamil population during the conflict period.
There are certain issues which can be sorted out quickly . For example, there are frequent reports about the Indian fisher men being arrested by the Sri Lankan navy , as they are said to be entering the Sri Lankan waters for fishing. The Indian fishermen argue that it is extremely difficult for them to know the correct border line between the Indian water and Sri Lankan water and also point out the fact that historically , there have been no such issues between the fishing community in India and Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan government can certainly issue instructions that Indian fishermen should not be arrested by Sri Lankan navy and similar instructions with regard to Sri Lankan fisher men can be issued by the Government of India. Joint patrolling between both the countries to prevent issues arising between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can be an ideal arrangement.
There are lakhs of Indians and Sri Lankans who can take pragmatic view of the existing scenario based on the ground realities and react with understanding and goodwill to usher in an era of peace. It is necessary that voice of sanity of such persons should be heard and the media in both the countries should give space for them.
India SriLanka relationship is now passing through a critical phase. The ball is clearly in the court of Sri Lanka , which should do its level best to provide support and encouragement to the Tamil population to integrate themselves with the mainstream of Sri Lanka and lead their life as respectable and recognised citizens of the country. They have certainly suffered. It should now be ensured that the rehabilitation measures for them would be implemented in a transparent manner with compassion by the Sri Lankan authorities. Certainly, the great teachings of Buddha should enable them to do so.