Sri Lanka can form new relations with Pakistan and China, but what about the others in South Asia?

Written by | October 7, 2016 | 0

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is currently on his second visit to India within two years since the unlikely ‘rainbow’ coalition of his United National Party (UNP) and the faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) under President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in a stupendous election in January 2015.

One of the earliest promises made by Wickramasinghe’s government was to restore ties with India which, under the former government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had sunk to their lowest levels.

“We will improve relations and seek stronger economic ties with India,” Wickremesinghe had told this writer in an interview on the eve of the historic election that had brought the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combine to power. “But that does not mean we will be hostile to China or Pakistan.”

Despite cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and repeated attacks on India’s civilian and military establishment, New Delhi is not so naive as to expect other countries, no matter how closely linked to India through religion or culture, to entirely break off diplomatic relations with, or launch hostilities against the two other nuclear powers in the neighborhood.

After all and despite the Uri attack and all the continuing aggression by Pakistan, New Delhi itself has not cut off all ties with Islamabad. (Yet).
Still, it was a welcome and clear signal of solidarity that Bhutan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan (with whom India does not share a marine or land border other than in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir), also pulled out of the Saarc summit scheduled in Islamabad.

More importantly, those countries clearly gave the same reasons as India for doing so: terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and growing interference in their domestic affairs by “one country”.

Filed in: International

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