Suave and articulate, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to India, Mr. Chrysantha Romesh Jayasinghe was the keynote speaker at a seminar on "Post-Conflict Sri Lanka and India's Role" organized by the Observer Research Foundation and the Stella Maris College in Chennai on July 7.
In his talk, he tracked repeated and vain attempts by his government to mend fences with the LTTE before being forced to opt for a military solution. Flagging Colombo's challenges and priorities post the eventual rout of the LTTE, he appealed for 'closure of any tendency to become fixated on the past,' and take steps which 'would help India and Sri Lanka as the nearest of neighbours and the inheritors of a common culture, to choose on an informed basis the road that would best lead them, to the realization of their shared goals.'
Mahatma Gandhi said "It is, at least it should be, impossible for India and Ceylon to quarrel. We are the nearest neighbours. We are inheritors of a common culture... But even as blood brothers sometimes differ, so do next-door neighbours. And like brothers, they usually adjust their differences and are often more closely knit together after the clearance".
Though the Father of the Indian Nation made this statement almost 70 years ago, the sentiments expressed have withstood the passage of the years. Indeed, they have perhaps even gained in relevance at this present juncture, with the historic clearance or end of the conflict which affected parts of Sri Lanka for over a quarter century.
It is of course a fact that despite the conflict, the bilateral relationship between India and my country was never a hostage to the situation in Sri Lanka. After all, it was during this period that both nations established a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, which has in turn led to two way trade today growing to a level of over US$ 3 billion per year. Parallel to the growth in trade, civil aviation links too expanded significantly, thereby enabling an exponential increase in people to people contacts. Nevertheless, it has also to be accepted that what was happening in Sri Lanka did have a potential of placing great stress on the bilateral relationship, with accordingly a need for both nations to devote some energy to managing the situation.
That particular need is now no more and so there is a consequent opportunity, for an even greater strengthening of relations. At the same time, the efforts in this direction would be even more sustainable, once they are evolved through a thorough understanding of the relevant background and issues.
High Commissioner Chrysantha Romesh Jayasinghe delivers the keynote address at the Stella Maris College auditorium. Picture copyright Ramananda Sengupta/Sify.com