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Can Modi & Gotabaya build bridges of trust?

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Within days of his election Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will visit New Delhi on Friday, November 29, his first trip abroad. Sri Lankan leaders in the past have often done so to convey the importance they attach to their country’s ties with India. External affairs minister S. Jaishankar also underscored this by making an unscripted visit to Colombo on November 19, the day after the new President was sworn in. Besides his extensive experience in dealing with Sri Lanka as foreign secretary, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term, Mr Jaishankar was the political officer attached to the star-crossed Indian Peace-Keeping Force in 1988-1990, which was an ill-judged foreign intervention by India’s armed forces.

Since the 1980s, at the core of the relationship has been the fate and political future of the island nation’s Tamil minority, constituting 15 per cent of its total population. The rise of Tamil militancy under the LTTE and the civil war that ended in 2009 still casts a shadow over India-Sri Lankan relations, although it has not been a significant factor in the politics of Tamil Nadu in recent times. The vital issues of devolution of power and reconciliation are still up in the air. As civil war swirled and was ended successfully, but brutally, by Sri Lanka, India was under a Congress-led coalition government of which the DMK was a part. This complicated security cooperation between Sri Lanka and India against the LTTE. While intelligence was shared and aid and abetment from Indian soil curbed, there could be no direct military training or supplies. That allowed Pakistan and China to fill the........

© The Asian Age