Write a short note on India-Sri Lanka Relationship.

India and Sri Lanka have relations since ancient times when Buddhist monks travelled to the island to spread Buddhism during Emperor Ashoka’s period. These bonds were consolidated during British rule when Tamil workers from India were taken to Sri Lanka as workers on tea plantations. Political experiments in India and Sri Lanka have succeeded and both followed complimentary policies at global and regional levels. But a decision to make Sinhalese language as the official language created dissensions amongst Tamils. The clashes between Tamils and Sinhalese resulted in strong reaction in Tamil Nadu in India. There was also problem of citizenship for Tamils of Indian origin. An agreement was signed between India & Sri Lanka in 1964 whereby Sri Lanka agreed to give citizenship to 3 lakh Tamils and India agreed to take back 5.5 lakh Tamils. But still 1.3 lakh Tamils remained stateless. The issue became very serious when Tamils fled to India to save themselves from atrocities of army & people. India, under pressure from Tamils in India, took up the issue with Sri Lankan government, but declared that it will not compromise on the integrity & security of Sri Lanka. The issue became very serious in the 1980s when a hardliner group of Tamils formed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and resorted to armed rebellion against Sri Lanka to carve out a separate Tamil state in the Northern parts of the island. This was an acid test for Indian diplomacy. On the one hand, there was growing sentimental reaction amongst Tamils in India and they pressurised India to intervene in the matter and, on the other hand, India had taken a moral stand true to its principles of foreign policy that the issue was Sri Lanka’s internal matter and she valued Sri Lanka’s integrity. In 1986, under a pact between Rajiv Gandhi and Jayewardene, India decided to send a Peace-keeping Force of Indian Army to resolve the issue. It turned out that Indian troops were used to kill Tamils of Indian origin. The move proved to be a blunder. It also aggravated tension between the countries when opposition party came to power in Sri Lanka and India had to withdraw the IPKF. It also cost the life of Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by some Tamil extremists. It also led to the assassination of Sri Lankan President Premdasa. The LTTE continued its agitation with greater vigour throwing the island nation into turmoil. Sri Lanka, however, remained politically stable and firmly dealt with the Tamil insurgency. In 2011, Sri Lankan army successfully eliminated LTTE and its leaders through a meticulously planned and swiftly executed action. Throughout, India also maintained her stand and did not allow to any tension to surface in bilateral relations. There were some other irritants in Indo-Lanka relations like; one, permission granted to the US to use Trincomalee in Lanka as its naval base, and second; arrests and killing of Indian fishermen while fishing in the sea. These issues, however, were handled amicably and relations between the two countries remained cordial. In spite of the problematic issues, bilateral cooperation between the two has increased over the years. Bilateral trade witnessed 45% increase. India has granted assistance to Sri Lanka to construct Railway, Hospitals, Schools & Training facilities for police officers.

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