Certain bilateral issues – such as the increasing incidence of illegal fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan waters – occasionally strain the otherwise sound relationship between India and Sri Lanka, said Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, here on Tuesday.
Speaking at ‘Defence Seminar 2013’, a two-day event organised in Colombo by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence, he said the country faced certain significant issues due to its geographic positioning in South Asia. Consequently, there was some inter-linking of domestic issues between Sri Lanka and India, Mr. Rajapaksa -- also the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa -- said.
“For example, India is very sensitive to events in Sri Lanka because of the large Tamil population in its influential southern State of Tamil Nadu. Particularly during elections, Sri Lanka figures large in Indian power politics,” he said, according to the text of the speech which was made available on the Ministry’s official website.
Observing that India is, without doubt, the most important and powerful country in South Asia, he said Sri Lanka is a completely independent sovereign nation, which India is very much aware of and supports. “It is critical that both countries retain a meaningful and close relationship despite the issues that sometimes arise between them.”
The theme of this year’s seminar was ‘Post Conflict Sri Lanka-Challenges and Regional Stability’. Mr. Rajapaksa, in addition to outlining some of the contemporary challenges — as perceived by him — including the threat of militant groups resurfacing and the issue of media freedom and false propaganda, also spoke on the nature of Sri Lanka’s engagement with China. “Sri Lanka's cordial relationship with China has sometimes become an issue for other countries because of misperceptions about the nature of China's influence here. It is important to understand that China's involvement in Sri Lanka is purely diplomatic and economic,” he said.