India and Sri Lanka are separated by the Palk Strait, a narrow body of water that connects the Bay of Bengal with the Palk Bay. The strait has been a source of tension and cooperation between the two countries for decades, as they have different interests and perspectives on various issues, such as fishing rights, security, trade, and development.
One of the most controversial projects that India has proposed is the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, which aims to create a navigable channel across the Palk Strait by dredging parts of the Adam’s Bridge, a chain of shoals that is considered sacred by many Hindus and Buddhists. The project has faced opposition from environmentalists, religious groups, and some Sri Lankan politicians, who fear that it would damage the ecological balance, cultural heritage, and sovereignty of the region.
Another area of concern for many Sri Lankans is India’s involvement in the reconciliation process after the end of the civil war in 2009, which pitted the Sri Lankan government against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). India has been a vocal supporter of the rights and aspirations of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, who share ethnic and linguistic ties with the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. India has also provided humanitarian and development assistance to the war-affected areas in the north and east of Sri Lanka, where most Tamils live.
However, some Sri Lankans view India’s role as intrusive and hegemonic, accusing it of interfering in their internal affairs and trying to influence their political and economic decisions. They also recall India’s controversial intervention in the 1980s, when it sent a peacekeeping force to disarm the LTTE, but ended up fighting against them and causing civilian casualties. Some also blame India for supporting and training the LTTE in its early stages, before banning it as a terrorist organization in 1992.
India and Sri Lanka have tried to maintain cordial and friendly relations, despite these challenges and differences. They have signed several agreements and initiatives to enhance their cooperation in various fields, such as trade, energy, security, tourism, education, and culture. They have also engaged in dialogue and consultation to resolve their disputes and misunderstandings peacefully and amicably.
However, as India’s involvement in Sri Lanka continues to grow and diversify, so do the concerns and anxieties among some segments of the Sri Lankan population, who feel that their interests and identity are being threatened or undermined by their powerful neighbor. How India and Sri Lanka will balance their mutual interests and respect their mutual sensitivities remains a key question for the future of their bilateral relations.