Sri Lanka has always held a special place in India's foreign policy, both as its closest neighbor and as a country where a substantial part (albeit a minority) of the population are Tamils. Relations between the two nearest neighbors cannot be called trouble-free. It is sufficient to recall how the Indian troops had to intervene in the Sinhalese - Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka at the end of the 80s, and how it ended. It all started with the fact that the Indian army tried to separate the warring parties to protect, above all, the Tamil minority. As a result, it had to fight against the most militant of the organizations, "the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam" and, after losing more than a thousand people killed in action, had to leave the island. And it all ended with the fact that in 1991 the same "Tigers" killed the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Now the relationship between the two countries are affected by new foreign policy factors, says Boris Volkhonsky, an expert of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies:
“In recent years, Sri Lanka has focused its attention on China, who has heavily invested in major infrastructure (mainly port ) projects and transformed this island, situated in a strategic area in the middle of the Indian Ocean, into one of the main elements of its strategy of "string of pearls ". Naturally, this has left its imprint on the Indo- Sri Lankan relations . "
This is supplemented with a whole range of controversial issues related to the unresolved problems connected with fishing in the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan warships periodically detain Indian fishermen and seize their vessels, said Boris Volhosnky .
the one hand, he had to maintain the rigidity of the political line against Sri Lanka in order not to annoy their own Tamil politicians who are even otherwise often critical of the government of India for " softness " . On the other hand, it was important not to "overreact" and push the Sri Lankan authorities to even greater convergence with China, India’s main geopolitical rival in Asia.
The talks were focused on issues, besides those already mentioned above (fishing), relating to internal problems of Sri Lanka - in particular, the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which delegates a large part of responsibilities to local authorities . And the backdrop for the negotiations was the assumption of office of the new Chief Minister of the Northern Province by C V Wigneswaran who represents the Tamil National Alliance that won a landslide victory in the first elections in the Northern Province in almost 30 years.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister of India met with the newly appointed Chief Minister Wigneswaran and, apparently, he managed to avoid any extremes in his approach to bilateral relations . In any case, Salman Khurshid did not take an example from the Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper who on Monday announced that he will not attend the Commonwealth summit to be held in Colombo in November to protest against the "human rights violations in Sri Lanka."
However, it is not clear what response this cautious position of the head of Indian diplomacy will arouse in India in the elections and after them - after all Tamil parties are always coercing the government for a harder attitude, and a new manifestation of "softness" may eventually ruin the prospects of the ruling party.