New Delhi: India plans to once again push for the implementation of the 13th Amendment in the Sri Lankan constitution that will address the issue of giving equal rights to the minority Tamil population there, during the upcoming visit of of Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe, ABP Live has learnt.
This will be Wickremesinghe’s maiden visit to India as Sri Lanka’s President. He visited India several times before when he was the Prime Minister. Wickremesinghe, who has been the PM for six times before, is arriving in India late Thursday for a 15-hour trip. He will be meeting PM Narendra Modi Friday. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will have a call with him Thursday.
Just days before his visit to India, Wickremesinghe met a delegation of leading Tamil parties in Colombo where the 13th Amendment issue was discussed apart from other key issues such as giving state pardon to former LTTE insurgents, who continue to remain under detention there, sources told ABP Live.
According to the sources, the meeting was convened by Wickremesinghe keeping in mind his upcoming visit to India. New Delhi wants Colombo to adhered to “complete implementation” of the 13th Amendment and not take some “piecemeal” gestures that “will do more harm than good”, said an official who is involved in the talks.
Sri Lanka has urged India to “think afresh” on the issue that became part of the Sri Lankan Constitution in 1978, which was agreed upon between both sides under the ‘India-Sri Lanka Peace Accord’.
India had raised this issue earlier too when former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was ousted last year, came to India in November 2019. However, the matter did not make any progress under his government similar to all other previous administrations there.
During his meeting with the Tamil parties, Wickremesinghe presented a “comprehensive proposal” to the Tamil parliamentarians there and told them that “He is Ranil Wickremesinghe and not Ranil Rajapaksa”, according to a statement by the President’s Office.
The statement also said that the President “expressed his genuine intention to resolve issues faced by the Tamil people without any political motivations and elaborated on various bills and plans concerning the functioning of Provincial Councils, the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation”.
However, the government has also told Tamil parties that the community will be granted all powers, except powers.
Sri Lanka To Seek More Investments
Coming exactly one year after Sri Lanka was rocked by protests over misgovernance of the previous Rajapaksa government that led to Wickremesinghe coming to power promising a revival even as Colombo is seeking big-ticket investments across all sectors, the sources said.
India also wants more and more private investors to invest heavily in some of the infrastructure as China has entered the sector in a gigantic way. China has built a massive Port City Colombo right on the Indian Ocean by reclaiming land there. Sri Lanka wants global investors, especially from neighbouring India to invest heavily in that project.
India’s Adani Group is engaged in some of the key projects with an investment to the tune of $1 billion, which includes building the West Container Terminal at the Colombo Port that became a centre of controversy in 2020. The Adani Group is also building two wind power plants in Mannar and Pooneryn in northern Sri Lanka.
Besides, Wickremesinghe is coming to India at a time when Sri Lanka is neck-deep in debt. It has already managed to bag a bailout package of $3 billion in March from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is subjected to a plethora of conditions that the government has to meet.
India is also helping Sri Lanka in meeting the requirements. All these matters were discussed during the recent visit to Sri Lanka by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.
Recently, a delegation from Tata Sons visited Colombo to explore investment opportunities.
India Keen On Enhanced Defence Partnership
With China’s growing presence in Sri Lanka, India is worried that its plans of securing maritime domain awareness and strengthening its position in the Indian Ocean may become a challenge.
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry recently undertook a major visit to China where both sides committed to work towards a “high quality Belt and Road Cooperation”, much to India’s concern as that will mean deeper penetration of Beijing in India’s immediate backyard.
“Sri Lanka is an important partner in India’s Neighbourhood First Policy and Vision SAGAR (Security and Growth For All). The visit will reinforce the longstanding friendship between the two countries and explore avenues for enhanced connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation across sectors,” said the Ministry of External Affairs.
In June, the ‘Vagir’ submarine of the Indian Navy undertook a four-day visit to Sri Lanka. Apart from this, INS Delhi, Sukanya, Kiltan and Savitri have also visited Colombo.
India has also expressed its displeasure and serious concerns over the Chinese spy ship visits to Sri Lanka late last year. Last December, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar visited Sri Lanka and met President Wickremesinghe to discuss “furthering defence cooperation”.
So far, New Delhi has provided around $4 billion worth of aid to Sri Lanka so that it can meet immediate needs of food, fertiliser and fuel, the shortage of which brought the country to its knees last year.
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