On a day former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he recalled that India’s “abiding friendship” was amply demonstrated by its rapid response to Sri Lanka’s needs during the 2009 war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Rajapaksa, who was President when the Sri Lankan army defeated the LTTE, said he was sensitive to India’s concerns at the time. “Our policy in this regard was constant consultation with India and other neighbouring countries. For this purpose, we had evolved the Troika mechanism involving key officials on both sides, who were in touch with one another at all times,” Rajapaksa said.
He was referring to the Troika set up in 2008-09, as the war peaked. From the Indian side, it comprised three officials — NSA M K Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh — and three Sri Lankan officials — Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Permanent Secretary Lalith Weeratunga. They navigated the choppy waters of the Indo-Lanka relationship.
The former President said a crucial feature of his vision was “abiding” friendship with India, and asserted that a complete understanding between the two countries would be “one of the pillars of our foreign policy”. He proposed that a similar mechanism could be set up by Sri Lanka and India to resolve economic and social issues.
Rajapaksa, who is accompanied by his son Namal Rajapaksa, met Modi at his residence on Wednesday evening. “While this was of vital assistance to us, I remained unshaken in my conviction that foreign armies could not successfully banish terrorism from our soil, because the broad mass of popular opinion would not support this,” Rajapaksa said, delivering a speech at a seminar on ‘Indo-Sri Lanka Relations: The Way Forward’, organised by the Virat Hindustan Sangam led by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy.
“We did not wage an ethnic war. The military action was certainly not directed against the Tamil community. It must not be forgotten that the reach of this terrorist organisation was not confined to Sri Lanka, but extended to Indian soil where they assassinated (former PM) Rajiv Gandhi and many others,” Rajapaksa said. He asserted that eradication of terrorism was not for the sole benefit of one community or one country.