Global Insider: India-Sri Lanka Relations

India's chief of naval staff called for increased bilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka during a visit to the country late last month. In an e-mail interview, Eurasia Group's Asia analyst, Maria Kuusisto, discusses evolving relations between India and Sri Lanka.

WPR: What is the historical context of India-Sri Lanka relations?

Maria Kuusisto: India-Sri Lanka relations have been marked by both tension and cooperation. The relationship has been historically driven by the shared Tamil ethnic community: India has a Tamil community of 60 million and Sri Lanka has a Tamil community of three million. When the Tamil ethnic insurgency in Sri Lanka arose in the 1980s, it spread to southern India. Anti-Tamil violence in Colombo in 1983 thus prompted New Delhi to mediate a peace agreement and send a peacekeeping mission to enforce it. The accord gradually broke down, but during that time, the Indian peacekeeping force became part of the conflict, triggering calls for India to disengage. The Indian intervention -- which culminated in the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by suspected Tamil militants -- dampened New Delhi's interest in the internal matters of Sri Lanka and furthermore limited the scope of their cooperation.

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