After losing power in January, Mahinda Rajapaksa, former president of Sri Lanka, is trying to re-enter politics by contesting for the prime minister’s seat in the elections on August 17. If he wins, it could destabilise Sri Lanka’s politics and impact relations with India, which had been hit under Rajapaksa’s rule. The future scenario will become clearer by next week.
India has tried to address the concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils through projects such as the recently-inaugurated railway between Jaffna and Colombo. But their aspirations for autonomy in the North and East remain unfulfilled, and New Delhi faces a dilemma—pushing Colombo on political issues can drive it closer to Beijing
It is evident that Tamil Nadu plays a large role in shaping India’s policy towards Sri Lanka. The recent visit to India by Sri Lanka’s President, coming promptly after aggressive rhetoric from Tamil Nadu, is yet another sign that foreign affairs cannot be outsourced to regional or state governments.
The Western and Indian response to Sri Lankan aspirations has sent the island nation into the arms of China and Pakistan. But Colombo’s trust must be won. For Sri Lanka is vital to India’s security and the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.