‘Important visits should take place after informing Indian authorities’

India responded to the advisory issued by Sri Lanka on travel to southern India by assuring the safety of its citizens but also pointed out that important visits should take place after informing the Indian authorities.

Colombo issued the India-specific travel advisory — which is usually taken in diplomatic circles as lack of confidence to protect its citizens travelling to the country mentioned — after virtually the entire political spectrum in Tamil Nadu, at some point or other, opposed the presence of Sri Lankan citizens.

In the latest incident, Colombo said visiting pilgrims were forced to take refuge in a church after being hounded by a mob. Earlier protests had forced the shifting of Sri Lankan Air Force personnel undergoing training at an Indian air base in Tamil Nadu to neighbouring Karnataka.

And a few days back, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had sent packing a goodwill football team from a Sri Lankan school, while suspending an official for facilitating a game for them at a Chennai stadium.

Rajapaksa’s visit

Political parties are also against the upcoming visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, saying that he was responsible for the deaths of civilians during the Sri Lankan security forces’ decisive battle against the LTTE in 2009.

“I wish to convey here that the government of India, in close consultation with the State governments concerned, has taken and will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Sri Lankan dignitaries and visitors to India, including to Tamil Nadu,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said in a statement.

‘No information’

But, he added, in certain instances, important visits from Sri Lanka have taken place without prior intimation to the authorities concerned.

“I find it important to emphasise here that people-to-people contacts are an integral part of the close historical, cultural, ethnic and civilisational ties between India and Sri Lanka,” he said, while pointing out that India issued two lakh visas to Sri Lankan nationals to visit the country last year while about 1.75 lakh tourists from here visited Sri Lanka in 2011. “It is this perspective that guides all our actions on such matters,” he said.

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