Bridge to the future?

The Indian Express

Bridge to the future?

Why peace in Sri Lanka will pay dividends for India

The perfect understanding India has with Sri Lanka was reflected in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s two-day visit to New Delhi. The interest both India and Sri Lanka have shown in constructing a land bridge to connect southern Tamil Nadu with northern
Sri Lanka is a case in point. If Rameswaram can be connected with the mainland by rail and road bridges, what is being contemplated is in the realm of the possible. The bridge will boost trade and other ties between the two countries.

However, the significance of the visit lay in Wickremesinghe briefing India about the peace process now underway in the island nation to sort out the ethnic crisis. Despite the reservations India has about certain aspects of the Norwegian initiative, under
which talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) are scheduled to begin in Thailand in early July, it is keen not to obstruct the process in any way.

Wickremesinghe will soon have to order de-proscription of the LTTE as a prelude to holding talks with the militant organisation. There is no way the Sri Lankan government can avoid accommodating the LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, if it really wants peace
to return to the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern regions of the country. This is where a problem can arise for India because Prabhakaran is wanted by the Indian police in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.
It was precisely for this reason that India refused to provide a venue for the peace talks, although feelers had been sent for permission to hold them on Indian soil.

India, at the same time, also recognises that if it were to insist on the arrest and deportation of the LTTE chief, it would be undermining the very peace efforts it would like to see succeed. India would, therefore, prefer to turn a blind eye to the talks
rather than raise hard questions about the ethics of negotiating with an alleged murderer. After all, India realises that the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has continued for far too long and any step to end it needs universal support.

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