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A bridge to Sri Lanka

DR. RAM MANOHAR LOHIYA


NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY,
LUCKNOW

ACADEMIC SESSION: 2016-17


POLITICAL SCIENCE : FINAL DRAFT
TOPIC: A bridge to Sri Lanka

Submitted To: Submitted By:

Dr. Monika Srivastava Margaret Rose

Asst. Professor 3rd Semester

RMLNLU Roll No: 62

Section: A
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A bridge to Sri Lanka

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

It feels great pleasure in submitting this research project to Dr. Monika Srivastava,
Asst. Professor (Political Science), without whose guidance this project would not
have been completed successfully. Secondly, I would like to express my gratitude
towards Prof. Gurdip Singh, Vice Chancellor and Prof. (Dr.) C. M. Jariwala,
Professor, Dean Academics for their support and encouragement.

Next, I would like to sincerely thank my seniors, whose suggestions and guidance
assisted me throughout the entire tenure of making the project.

Last but not the least, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude towards my
parents and friends who guided me and helped me at every possible step.

Margaret Rose

B. A. LLB (Hons)

3rd semester

Roll. No.62
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A bridge to Sri Lanka

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................. 4

India and Sri Lanka: A Short Note.5

Indias Strategic Interest in Sri Lanka

& increasing Chinese influence8

Change of regime in Sri


Lanka10

The Modi effect12

Conclusion.13

Bibliography..14
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A bridge to Sri Lanka

INTRODUCTION

Connecting this vast region by land and sea, our two countries can become engines of
regional prosperity.

I also assure you of India`s full commitment to development partnership with Sri Lanka. We
see this as a responsibility of a friend and neighbour.1

--- Narendra Modi

In his speech in Sri Lankan parliament Modi has promised to end Indias sleepwalking on
regional connectivity. Sri Lanka is a strategic partner of India but these relations got strained
due to Chinese interest in Sri Lanka. This project highlights the ups and downs in the
relations of India and Sri Lanka.

There is little doubt that the relationship between India and Sri Lanka has undergone a period
of significant recuperation since Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) withdrew from Sri
Lanka in 1990. Today, India and Sri Lanka have a friendly diplomatic rapport, mutually
benefit from economic cooperation in both trade and investment, and the bilateral
relationship appears to be moving towards a strategic partnership. This is a remarkable
turnaround from the late 1980s and early 1990s during which the bilateral relationship
suffered from bitterness and mistrust on both sides.2

This project supports the argument that Indias policy found a way to foster a close
relationship with an immediate neighbour following a political catastrophe. Instead of a
relationship focused on conflict intervention, Indias policy has pushed economic engagement
into the lead role in bilateral relations. The success of this shift in policy suggests that a
policy emphasizing economic relations and backing away from the highly contentious

1Text of PMs Address to the Sri Lankan


Parliament<http://www.narendramodi.in/text-of-pms-address-to-the-sri-lankan-
parliament-2959

2India and Sri Lanka Continuing Innings, Constructive Engagement by N


SathiyaMoorthy<http://www.ipcs.org/pdf_file/issue/IB140-Sathiyamoorthy-SL.pdf
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A bridge to Sri Lanka

political issues of conflict-intervention helped India push past the mistrust and resentment
upon which India-Sri Lanka relations floundered in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This project also analyse how Modi-effect has helped India in regaining the strategic position
in Sri Lanka to counter China.

India and Sri Lanka: A Short Note

Indias failed boots on the ground3intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s cemented
Indian public opinion against intervention. Indias involvement in Sri Lankas ethnic conflict
transformed from one of heavy meddling, with both state and non-state actors, starting in
1983, to the boots on the ground intervention in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Two years
before the end of the Cold War, in 1989, then Sri Lankan President, Ranasinghe Premadasa,
started pushing Indian Peace Keeping Forces out of Sri Lanka, embarrassing India on the
world stage and pushing Indo-Sri Lankan relations to a new low. In 1991, after the IPKF
withdrawal was complete and the LTTE had assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi, India brought its involvement in Sri Lankas internal ethnic conflict to a complete
halt. After 1991, India reversed its policy of active involvement, distancing itself from an
interventionist role that in the past it had felt compelled to play. Later this conflict also put a
damper on relations with Sri Lankas closest neighbour and regional power India. Two
major influences pushed Indias policy response to the Sri Lankan conflict: the active
engagement of foreign influence by the Sri Lankan government and demands of Indias own
Tamil population for India to act on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Sri Lanka pushed for a
military solution to the conflict by seeking external support from countries that India was not
comfortable having a presence so close to its southern border. Also of concern to India was
the backlash among kin Tamils in Tamil Nadu. Indias Tamil population in Tamil Nadu, then
some fifty million strong, felt India had a responsibility to control the Sri Lankan states harsh
response against Sri Lankan Tamils. For India, the July 1983 events in Sri Lanka were
alarming, and the Government of India, then under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, asserted its
influence on the situation as a regional power, kin state, and close neighbour. Mrs. Gandhis
policy featured a multipronged approach. It facilitated direct talks between the Sri Lankan
government and Tamil leadership (TULF, not LTTE) ,producing the Annexure C proposals
for the devolution of power - a basic tenet of the demands of moderate Tamils. Mrs .Gandhi
had persuaded Sri Lankan President Jayewardene to open negotiations with Tamil groups.
3Military phrase meaning troops in place (Urban dictionary).
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But even as she beckoned Jayewardene to dialogue with the Tamils, Indian government
officials voiced strong concern and sympathy for the sufferings of Sri Lankan Tamils, which,
to the Sri Lankan Sinhalese, biased Indias support for a negotiated settlement. By focusing
attention in Western capitals on the Sri Lankan militarys aggression towards the Tamils,
India further fortified the Sinhalese perception that India was prejudiced against the Sri
Lankan state. It was also during thistime that Indias external intelligence agency, the
Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), began supplying Tamil militant groups with military
training, cash, and arms in an attempt to draw them under Indias influence and to use that
influence as leverage against the Sri Lankan state. When Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his
assassinated mother as Prime Minister, he pressed Indias neighbourhood policy into
friendly mode, what some referred to as pactomania agreement-hungry diplomacy.
Rajiv, changing tack from his mothers Sri Lanka policy, drew closer to the Sri Lankan state
and toughened Indias position on the LTTE.4 Reversing Mrs. Gandhis posture on the matter,
Rajiv adopted the Sri Lankan governments priorities by supporting political negotiations
after, rather than before (as Mrs. Gandhis policy held) a cessation of violence. At this time as
well, India, in cooperation with the Sri Lankan Navy, started patrolling the Palk Straits in
earnest, to counter Tamil militant groups who were transporting supplies and rebels between
the southern coast of India and northern Sri Lanka. The policy shift under Rajiv, pushed for a
resolution of the conflict at the cost of alienating the Tamil militants. Rajivs policy,
however,, failed to resolve the ethnic issue, and instead, by the end of 1985 the Tamil
militants were connecting internationally and despite the Centres opposition, nationally, and
regionally in Tamil Nadu. To make matters worse, Colombo was showing no proclivity
toward granting basic regional autonomy and devolution of powers to the Tamil community.
After failed peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil leaders in the
Bhutanese capital Thimpu in 1985, the Sri Lankan government resumed its military solution
against the Tamil insurgency. By 1987, the Tamils on the Jaffna Peninsula faced a
humanitarian crisis caused by the Sri Lankan offensive, pushing India to intervene. After
sending relief supplies by boat that Sri Lanka turned away, India launched Operation
Poomalai dropping bread bombs 5(relief packages) on the Peninsula from Indian Air Force

4 Indias Sri Lanka Policy Towards Economic Engagement by Brian Orrland.

5ibid.
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planes. Critics complained that India had impinged on Sri Lankas sovereignty, but India was
unapologetic since it held that its intervention had helped limit Tamil suffering at the hands of
the Sri Lankan government. It was this humanitarian intervention that served as the launching
pad for deeper and formalized Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. In June 1987, Sri Lankas
Foreign Minister stated that by involving itself using bread bombs, India now had a moral
obligation to resolve the ethnic dispute. The Foreign Ministers statement, while beckoning
Indias further involvement, also indicated Indias loss of credibility as a mediator on the
ethnic issue, as it made clear Indias bias in favour of the Tamil cause. Its humanitarian
intervention did in fact signal Indias openness to greater intervention, prompting Sri Lanka,
then under President J. R. Jayewardene, to initiate talks with Rajiv Gandhi, resulting in the
signing of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord (ISLA) on 29 July 1987. The ISLA was signed
between India and Sri Lanka with only a dubious go-ahead from the LTTE. Under the
terms of the ISLA, the Sri Lankan government agreed to make constitutional changes for
devolving powers, the essential moderate Tamil demand, in exchange for India enforcing an
arms-collection from the rebel groups. Indias obligation essentially made it the guarantor of
peace. The LTTE however, only briefly laid down their arms only to pick them up again. This
time India implicitly agreed to confront them. The IPKF was welcomed by a grateful
Jeyawardene, who was also facing JVP insurrection. But Indias military operations suffered
failure and substantial casualties (over 1200 fatalities), causing resentment and mistrust on all
sides India, Sri Lanka, and the LTTE. When power changed hands in Colombo and India,
there was a consensus on withdrawal and it was completed in early 1990 with a great deal of
mutual bitterness.
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Indias Strategic Interest in Sri Lanka& increasing Chinese influence

"For India, Sri Lanka is not indispensable, but for Sri Lanka, India is indispensable. We
have to balance carefully between China and India. That is the cold reality. That is the
hard fact. China is our most consistent and strongest single friend, but the reality is that
even with its growing power, China is rather too far to come to our aid if our closest and
only neighbour makes a move that is unfriendly to us."6

- Dr Dayan Jayatilleka
(Former Sri Lanka's permanent representative to the UN, Geneva, during the crucial
period of the Eelam War IV)

Today, Sri Lankas unity, peace and stability are Indias primary concern. Additionally,
maritime security in the Indian Ocean and between India and Sri Lanka has developed into a
prominent concern for Indian policymakers. Third, the influence of China and Pakistan in Sri
Lanka is also worrisome for Indias security interests.
The emerging geopolitical reality relating to the shared waters of the Indian Ocean
neighbourhood involving India and Sri Lanka is also an important strategic concern for New
Delhi. Instability in Sri Lanka also undermines security in the Indian Ocean, which India has
a great economic stake in protecting. Sri Lanka occupies a critical location in the Indian
Oceans strategic environment, as international shipping lanes flow right by Sri Lankas
southern coast.
The projected emergence of China as a global military/maritime power at par with the US has
been an issue of great concern to sections of the strategic community in India. The
simultaneous global attention on securing the energy sea-lanes from the oil-rich Gulf region

6Sri Lankan Relations: Appraisal And Future Role Projection <http://www.ukessays.com/essays/history/sri-


lankan-relations-appraisal-and-future-role-projection-history-essay.php
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to the rest of the world has created greater awareness about the need for nations in the Indian
Ocean neighbourhood to work together. There is a continuing concern in the Indian strategic
community about the increasing involvement of China in Sri Lanka. Recently, there has been
increased Chinese presence in Sri Lanka and it poses lots of questions regarding their
intentions there. During the Eelam War IV, China provided military support to Sri Lanka in
form of F-7 jet aircraft, which were given free of cost. Various other military equipment like
fast attack boats and tanks, were also provided by China. Reference is often made to the
setting up a port and bunkering facility in Hambantotta by China. Beijing has also funded a
coal-fired thermal power project in Norchcholai in western Sri Lanka. Chinese funding has
been flowing enormously into the reconstruction and developmental projects envisaged by
Sri Lanka. The work on most of these projects is also being completed at a break-neck speed,
which Sri Lankans and Indians are not accustomed to. On the other hand, Indian funding for
developmental works in Sri Lanka have been tardy. Though efforts are being made by India
to look into the loopholes in the existing system, there will be continuing hesitation in Sri
Lanka for approaching India with their shopping list ,leave alone their imaginative wish-
list(s), until there is visible progress.7With the designs of major powers for gaining economic
and military footholds in the island, Sri Lanka finds itself vulnerable to major power
penetration. In the 1980s, the US wriggled its way into the island, causing worry and at the
same time irking Indian policymakers. Since then, China and Pakistans strategically-oriented
influence on Sri Lankas defence and economic activity have also worried Indian
policymakers. While the threat of foreign power penetration in Sri Lanka, inimical to Indian
interests, is real, it should not be overemphasized to the point of paranoia. It is unreasonable
for India to expect Sri Lanka not to take advantage of lucrative Chinese contracts in the
energy sector, or resist buying ammunition from Pakistan, when India is reluctant to meet all
of Sri Lankas demands for arms and ammunitions.
China has recently sent its navy ships in Gulf of Aden to check piracy in that area, and in
future also China is likely to keep some presence in Indian Ocean and with the development
of ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma, China is keeping options for its future naval
presence in the IOR. This is how the map of the Indian Ocean exposes the contours of power
politics in the initial years of the 21st century. This would be the gateway to the world in

7 India and Sri Lanka Continuing Innings, Constructive Engagement by N


SathiyaMoorthy<http://www.ipcs.org/pdf_file/issue/IB140-Sathiyamoorthy-SL.pdf
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A bridge to Sri Lanka

future8. In quest of becoming superpower through political, economic, military, technological


and diplomatic means, China is not only focussing on South China Sea, but also in Indian
Ocean. China is aware more than ever before that maritime trade, its security and naval
supremacy will play a key role in its eminence as a global power.

Change of regime in Sri Lanka


China's ambition to further its interests in Sri Lanka has suffered a setback after people
elected the common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena as President in preference to
two-term President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the election held in January 2015.
China is probably familiar with President Sirisena as he had served as a senior minister and
close aide of Rajapaksa during the last ten years. He was high in the hierarchy and served as
the defence minister when President Rajapaksa was absent from the country during the Eelam
War. However, China's personal equation with Rajapaksa was tailored to cultivate him, taking
advantage of his highly personalised style of governance. Rajapaksa and his two brothers
controlled the government and managed key ministries eg, development finance, internal
security, defence and urban development immensely benefiting China in furthering its
strategic agenda in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and South Asia. So China probably has
more problems in coming to terms with the Sirisena rule than any other power ie, India, the
US.In the short term, China's concerns would include recouping its close relations once again
with Sri Lanka under President Sirisena lest it loses its strategic gains made in the country
and region under the erstwhile Sri Lanka president. On the long term, China would be
worried about the Sirisena regime's desire to correct Rajapaksa's tilt towards China to balance
Sri Lanka's skewed relationship with India which has the potential to stall China's strategic
security plans in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and affecting the smooth implementation of
21st century Maritime Silk Route (MSR).In keeping with its foreign policy style China
cozied up with Rajapaksa, ignoring his autocratic rule and aberrations in governance,
allegations of corruption and abuse of power. China also did not bother about Rajapaksa side-
lining some of the senior leaders like Sirisena which drove them to challenge Rajapaksa's bid
for a third term. These issues relating to China formed the core of the presidential election
campaign of Sirisena and his supporters which included the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party)

8 ibid.
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dissidents led by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the United National Party (UNP)
and other smaller parties that had quit Rajapaksa's United Peoples Front Alliance (UPFA)
coalition. Soon after his election, President Sirisena has started implementing the 100-day
action plan. The plan aims at improving accountability of the executive president to the
parliament and empowering the prime minister. Assisted by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe,
he plans to achieve this by carrying out structural changes in the constitution and introduce
systemic changes to clean up the administration to improve governance. The new government
has also started the process of investigating and identifying those involved in corruption and
misuse of power during President Rajapaksa's regime.
As a part of the "cleaning up process," Chinese-aided mega projects including those under
execution have come under scrutiny. These include the biggest of all them all - the $1337
million Colombo Port City Project - now being executed by a Chinese company. This project
to reclaim more than 575 acres (233 hectares) of sea off Galle Face Green, Colombo is mired
in controversy due to the opaque process adopted in awarding the project as well as
environmental concerns.9China has been quite peeved with allegations of corruption and
sleaze in the project. India has also raised concerns over security threats posed by China
gaining ownership of 20 acres of freehold land next to the Colombo port where India is a
major user.
At the strategic security level, China's concerns with the Sirisena government are two-fold.
One relates to the new regime's repeated affirmation that it would correct Rajapaksa's tilt in
favour China at the cost of Sri Lanka's close relationship with India. The other relates to
China's ambitious power projection in South Asia and Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as part of
President Xi Jinping's realisation of the "Chinese dream".
Rajapaksa's biggest contribution to China was in helping it gain a firm foothold in the island
nation to further its strategic objectives relating to India and the IOR, mid-way astride the
Indian Ocean sea lanes. The Chinese-aided port and other infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka
have provided a legitimate reason for China's armed forces, particularly the PLA navy, to gain
very close access to the seas of peninsular India. These facilities would be handy for China's
naval power projection in the coming years challenging India's strategic supremacy in the
region.

9Colombo Port City Project suspended; construction at site continues reported by Bella
Dalima<http://newsfirst.lk/english/2015/03/colombo-port-city-project-suspended-construction-site-
continues/81714
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The Modi effect

Prime minister Narendra Modi visited sri lanka which was the first bilateral visit by an Indian
PM in 28 years, since Rajiv Gandhi came to Colombo in July 1987 to ink the Indo-Sri Lanka
Accord. Modi will also be the first Indian PM to visit post-war Jaffna and the second head of
government to do so after British PM David Cameron. He will also be the fifth Indian PM to
address Sri Lankas parliament. It is accepted without contest that the Mahinda Rajapaksa
regime had tilted very much towards China and that had left New Delhi distraught. Therefore,
there is a new hype about loosening the taut relationship between the two countries. Second,
vis-a-vis the Tamil conflict in the northeast, the Rajapaksa regime had left Indias previous
UPA government in continuous friction with Tamil Nadu. The first reason is a political fiction
that allowed the two governments to manipulate nationalistic mindsets. The second was also
about politics, which the Rajapaksa government lived on for the Sinhala majority vote. The
question today is how the new MaithripalaSirisena-RanilWickremesinghe government will
handle these two issues and what Modi would expect from them in settling the Tamil
political conflict. In Jaffna, Modi met the chief minister of the Northern Province and former
Supreme Court judge C.V. Wigneswaran. Modi has promised to end Indias sleepwalking on
regional connectivity. Modi also inaugurated a railway line in northern Sri Lanka.

Hanuman sita:

The stretch of low lying banks that connects India to Sri Lanka across Palk Strait is very
much part of the subcontinents Ramayana lore. Lord Ram build this bridge with the
assistance of Hanumans monkey army, walked into lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana. Now
New Delhi and Colombo are going to turn that myth into reality by building a causeway
across the 30 km of water between Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and
Talaimannar in northern Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Narendramodi has acted like Sri Ram who
is rescuing Sri Lankan people from the Ravana (China). Promoting connectivity within and
across national boundaries, has been a major priority of PM Modi. Long before Modis
arrival, his counterpart in Sri Lanka, Rani Wickremesinghe had proposed the construction of
land bridge across the Palk Strait but Delhi said- No. But now things have been changed
Modi has accepted the plan of building the bridge to Sri Lanka. Asian Development bank has
shown its eagerness to support the project that would cost more than 5 billion USD. The
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hanuman bridge will would connect the road and rail network in both the countries and ease
of flow of goods across Palk Strait.

Conclusion

In the context of emerging relations between India and Sri Lanka, New Delhi has often been
seen as over shooting immediate neighbours for a place on the larger table, especially in the
years after the end of the Cold War. The Indian approach needs to be seen in perspective.
Having extended its reach in the past decade, India now seems to have returned to the base, to
build a brick by brick relation with immediate neighbours, at the level of the government and
also their peoples. With the Indian Ocean holding an eternal promise for the future, from the
days of the Cold War, if not earlier, there is no way that India can hope to become a super-
power and retain the tag without carrying the Sri Lankan neighbour with it. The reverse is
true of Sri Lanka, which is now hoping to revive the economic glory of the earlier decades.
Indian policy makers should consider how economic-based problem-solving could help
reduce violence both in the Palk Bay area and in Sri Lanka itself. Change of governments in
both the countries will take the India-Sri Lanka relations to new heights.

Bibliography
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A bridge to Sri Lanka

India and Sri Lanka Continuing Innings, Constructive Engagement by


N Sathiya Moorthy
Sri Lankan Relations: Appraisal And Future Role Projection
<http://www.ukessays.com/essays/history/sri-lankan-relations-appraisal-
and-future-role-projection-history-essay.php>
Indias Sri Lanka Policy Towards Economic Engagement by Brian
Orrland.