Playing big brother to Sri Lanka is not in New Delhi’s interest, says ex-RAW official

Jyoti Sinha, a former research and analysis wing official, played an important role in increasing India’s influence in neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka during the NDA regime (1999-2004). He is also considered the architect of Indian influence in Sri Lanka from 2001-2004. The former IPS official spoke to TOI on the Tamil issue during his recent visit to Bangalore for a lecture on ‘Latest developments in Sri Lanka: India’s Interest and Concerns’. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

How has India’s vote against Sri Lanka at UN change relationship between New Delhi and Colombo?

I am sure the Sri Lankan government is very upset about it. But, I think anyone who has dealt with the island nation closely will not disagree that most Sinhalese, except for a small percentage, want a deep abiding and enduring friendship with India. They feel much more comfortable with India’s support and our endeavour to help them prosper. The Sri Lankan government does realize that the voting was due to the present fluid political situation in India and Tamil Nadu in particular, prior to the upcoming 2014 elections, which has compelled New Delhi to take this stand at the UN.

Where do the political parties in Tamil Nadu stand on this issue?

The political parties in Tamil Nadu are trying to outdo each other in espousing the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils. But, had they been genuinely concerned, they would have raised the issue in 2008 when there were battles taking place about 24km from the coasts of Tamil Nadu. They didn’t ask the central government to send an observer force, either as independents or under the UN observer unit. Nobody talked about genocide then. This problem has been raised with keeping 2014 elections in mind.

Is there any part of the government/political establishment which is genuinely sympathetic to the Tamils in Sri Lanka?

The government knows that Sri Lankan Tamils look up to India as their mother country. There is sympathy in New Delhi and across India. But, just by making noise you are not serving the cause. All parties are aware of the fact that Sri Lankan Tamils need our support to create a polity that is fair to both the Singhalese population and themselves, one which gives them the opportunity to enhance their legitimate self-interest in Sri Lanka.

How should political establishment go about finding a solution?

By studying the ground realities in Sri Lanka and figure how best you can contribute to a settlement between the two ethnic groups, in such a manner that your subtle intervention is accepted by both sides, without impinging on the self respect of both Sinhalese and Tamils.

What should New Delhi’s approach towards Colombo be?

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