Subramaniam Swamy, a stalwart of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in an email interview with Daily Mirror, speaks about India- Sri Lanka ties . Swamy, a Harvard-educated economist, recently invited former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to address a seminar in New Delhi. He is an ardent critic of the LTTE. The Excerpts:
Trincomalee is one of the world’s natural harbours/ports
Citizens of N/E should regard themselves as Sri Lankans first and Tamils afterwards just as Sinhalese should
Q How do you analyze the current status of Indo-Sri Lanka relations?
Friendly, but not as partners.
Q There is perception here that India, under the current government, played a major role in installing the current government. What is your view on this?
No doubt, perception is widespread but nothing concrete as evidence that has emerged. We cannot decide on perception.
Q Under the current geopolitical developments, how should Indo- Lanka relations be shaped?
There should be a comprehensive Indo-Sri Lanka Friendship Treaty covering strategic threats and joint responses.
Q India looks paranoid about Sri Lanka’s engagement with China even on commercial projects, and particularly, the Indian media sounds alarm in this regard all the time. Sri Lanka has joined hands with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. How do you look at the whole picture?
China is also located across our borders and hence both our countries must have mutually beneficial relations with China. Also trade with China is mutually beneficial for which we need good relations.
China is also located across our borders and hence both our countries must have mutually beneficial relations with China. Also trade with China is mutually beneficial for which we need good relations
Q India is interested to invest in Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm. What is the strategic importance of it for India?
None. Trincomalee is one of the world’s natural harbours/ports, and hence, any country with global reach in the neighbourhood of South India would be interested in it. It is for Sri Lanka to decide as to which country to give access to this port.
Q Geopolitically, India is allied with the US, Japan and the west as far as maritime order in the Indian Ocean is concerned. India and China are the largest growing economic powerhouses in the world. How beneficial is it for the two countries to cooperate with each other in this aspect?
India is not allied to the US. Geographically India is far away from US. But the latter shares values of democracy and competitive market system with the US. We also admire American technological progress and thus want transfer of technology and innovation culture from US. We have six million people of Indian origin domicile in US and are prosperous. But China is culturally closer to India and we share common concerns on growth and environment.
Q When it comes to Indo-Lankan ties, a political solution to the problem in the north and the east takes the centre-stage. From your point of view, how important is it to resolve the crisis?
According to me, and as former President Rajapaksa has said, Indians and Sri Lankans are relatives. We must learn to live as one family. We in India admire Sri Lankans under his leadership for your tenacity in wiping out the treacherous LTTE. In this case, not only you secured your national security but also of India. It is for your government to find ways to establish harmony. North and East Sri Lanka citizens should regard themselves as Sri Lankans first and Tamils afterwards just as Sinhalese should.
Q What is your analysis on the current validity of Indo-Lanka Accord that provided for the establishment of the provincial councils here?
The Indo-Lanka Accord has outlived its utility. All that remains is formation of provincial councils and adoption of a unitary Constitution with subsidiary federal principals (for example as it is in India).
Q What is your assessment of the strength of the main parties in Tamil Nadu now, as far as the issues relating to Sri Lanka are concerned?
Anti-Sinhala and Tamil separatist movement in Tamil Nadu has fizzled out. One example is the non-existent protests and demonstrations when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in India recently.
India is not allied to US but shares values of democracy
Q How do you assess the meeting between former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian PM Narendra Modi?
Very cordial and fruitful. They talked alone. So I don’t know anything beyond that.
Q Any idea about the duration of that meeting…
Unable to comment. Nevertheless, we are all happy that former President Rajapaksa came to India. We want more leaders to come and address public meetings here.