NEW DELHI: In a bid to assuage Indian fears of a creeping Chinese influence in the island nation, a key Sri Lankan presidential aide said on Tuesday that China understood that relations with India was most important for the isles.
Speaking at a function of Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, Advisor on Reconciliation to the Sri Lankan President, professor Rajiva Wijesinha said that the projection of Sri Lanka as a bone of contention between India and China
was largely self-serving and typical of the West’s ability to only see binary opposites.
“This is also understandable given the manner in which they fought the Cold War, but China has made it clear that the primacy of our (Sri Lanka’s) relationship with India is understood,” he said.
Wijesinha, an Oxford academic who had also headed the Peace Secretariat, said that if rivalries between India and China had to be fought, it would be in Africa or other places which had scope for large scale investment.
There had been fears raised in various quarters in India about a Chinese encirclement, especially after China started to develop the Hambantota harbour.
“Everybody knows that it was first offered to India, but they refused. So, as a result India is moving fast on the Kankesanthurai harbour,” he said.
His remarks came ahead of a four-day visit of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Sri Lanka, beginning on January 16.
Besides Colombo, Krishna will be visiting Killinocchi, Jaffna and Galle.
Wijesinha said that it would be “counter-productive” if it was seen in Sri Lanka that the west and India were moving together in putting pressure on the Rajapakse regime that those responsible for war crimes should be first persecuted, before starting the reconciliation process. “Instructively, and I believe this is where India must be careful not to allow itself to be used, I have heard some western observers claiming that the policy of persecuting Sri Lanka is also in India’s interests,” he said.
He said that Sri Lanka needed to understand more the “sensitivities” of the Indian Government owing to pressure from forces in Tamil Nadu, but Wijesinha added that Colombo has noted that the Indian Government had not bowed down to “excessive demands”.