Ground Report | New Delhi: Sri Lanka disappointed India again; India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is on a visit to Sri Lanka and has also met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The shadow of China continues to loom over the relations between Sri Lanka and India, and the presence of China affects the bilateral relations of both the countries.
Apart from this, the issue of Tamils is also very important in the relations between India and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that it is very important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. Gotabhaya said that the talks need to proceed accordingly.
However, he spoke of the same level of warmth in relations between the two countries in the 1960s and 1970s. India wants Sri Lanka to follow the 13th amendment of its constitution. This amendment took place in 1987 following an agreement between the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the then Sri Lankan President JR Jayawardene.
Under this, there is talk of making the council a partner in power in nine provinces of Sri Lanka. Its purpose was to prevent conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Through the 13th amendment, there was talk of creating a provincial council so that power could be decentralized.
In this, it was asked to give the provincial council the right to take decisions related to education, health, agriculture, housing and land. But many of these things could not be implemented. India wants Sri Lanka to implement this so that Tamils in Jaffna get the right to decide for themselves at the policy level.
India has been suspicious of the Sri Lankan government in implementing the 13th Constitutional Amendment. In 2011, US Embassy cables were found by The Hindu via WikiLeaks. The cables showed that India was active on this amendment, but Sri Lanka was not ready. But for India, the Tamil question seems to be losing priority amid growing Chinese influence.
Shringla met the President on Tuesday. Shringla spoke on the last day of his visit to expedite bilateral projects of the two countries. (Sri Lanka disappointed India again)
The Indian Foreign Secretary reiterated to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa that India wants Sri Lanka to fully implement all the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. These include the transfer of power and soon the election of provincial councils. The Indian Foreign Secretary said that the 34-year-old law is still disputed in Sri Lanka.
The President of Sri Lanka said that it has been agreed to further strengthen the short-term and long-term relations between the two countries. Gotabhaya also expressed the hope that India would support the proposal of the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimao Bandaranaike to declare the Indian Ocean a peace zone in 1971.
The newspaper quoted sources as saying that the Indian Foreign Secretary has expressed concern about the security of the beaches in the area. Sri Lanka recently confiscated a huge quantity of narcotics. India suspects that it is linked to the regional drug mafia. India has said that the threat to the security and peace of Sri Lanka is also a threat to India and Sri Lanka should not be its carrier.
President Gotabhaya’s remarks are being seen as an attempt to bring relations with India back on track. Last year, Sri Lanka unilaterally canceled the tripartite port terminal project agreement with India and Japan.
This agreement was signed by the three countries in 2019. One of India’s concerns has also been that the pace of its projects is very slow. On the other hand, China’s interference in the economy of Sri Lanka is increasing.
However, last week the Adani Group signed a 55% stake with Sri Lanka’s John Keels Holdings and the Sri Lankan Port Authority to develop the West Container Terminal. It is being said that Sri Lanka has tried to persuade India with this agreement.
According to official sources in Sri Lanka, both the countries have talked about increasing cooperation in the field of energy. There have been serious talks between the two countries regarding the development of Trincomalee oil tank farm. Sri Lanka says that this will benefit both the countries. Sri Lanka’s Energy Minister can visit India. However, there is also opposition to India’s involvement in this project.