A section of the media in Sri Lanka, particularly the English press, has lapped up the recent visit of the Indian delegation led by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad.
On Saturday, Daily News reported Mr. Prasad as having told Sri Lanka’s Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa that he witnessed the “mega development that is taking place in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka” and that the [Indian] government and the people of India were aware of the “the high level of development being carried out without racial prejudice.”
Though the delegation did not meet the local press in Colombo, there have been some reports of the visit, and of the observations made by the delegates at different forums, largely those in praise of the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.
According to the report in Daily News, published by the government-owned corporation Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, Mr. Prasad said the visiting team would “make the maximum effort to erase the misconception created among certain sections of Indians as a result of certain misrepresentations made on Sri Lanka.”
One June 10, the newspaper ran a column by Swapan Dasgupta (who was also on the delegation) that originally appeared in The Pioneer in India, titled ‘Sri Lankan Diaspora powers Tamil politics.’ The same day, the newspaper published an editorial that pointed to Mr. Dasgupta’s “accurate observations” in his piece, which talked about Jaffna having become “a mid-sized town with good roads and lots of new buildings, bustling with activity.” In his column, Mr. Dasgupta drew attention to his Twitter post on June 5, “There are more sandbags and police pickets in south Delhi than there are in Jaffna town! What militarisation?” that, he said, provoked “howls of protest.” The observations were made after a day’s visit to the town.
The delegation, which included Suresh Prabhu (Shiv Sena), Ram Madhav (RSS), former IFS officer Vivek Katju and advocate and human rights activist Monika Arora, was here on a five-day visit, organised by the New Delhi-based India Foundation and Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in Colombo.
The members met senior leaders of Sri Lanka, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peris, and with civil society representatives.
Only supportive role
Earlier, Ceylon Today reported that Mr. Prasad told civil society representatives in Jaffna that India could play only a supportive role in solving the Sri Lankan crisis and they cannot influence the Lankan leadership.