G.L is heading to India

External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris is to visit India next week to meet Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, Live Mint reported.

India and Sri Lanka are expected to review the status of projects undertaken by the larger neighbour in the island nation at the meeting.

Peiris will be in New Delhi for the meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission, an umbrella body that looks at various areas of bilateral cooperation from science and technology to agriculture.

He will head the Sri Lankan delegation while foreign minister Salman Khurshid will lead the Indian side. The meeting will also mark the first interaction between Peiris and Khurshid, after the latter was named foreign minister in October last year replacing S.M. Krishna.

Since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in May 2009, India has been engaged in reconstruction and development projects in the north and the east of the country—areas that were the main theatres of the three-decade civil war that ravaged the country.

Among the projects undertaken by India are rebuilding rail linkages in the north and the east, setting up several vocational training centres, repair and construction of schools and houses and supplying inputs for agricultural regeneration. One of the projects undertaken by India was the construction of 50,000 houses for internally displaced persons —or refugees of the civil war—in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Simultaneously, India has been nudging the Sri Lankan administration to introduce political and democratic reforms to bring the minority Tamil community into the national mainstream.

It was the feeling of alienation among the mainly Hindu Tamil community that sparked the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. Tamil separatist groups demanded the creation of a separate state carved out of Sri Lanka’s north and eastern provinces that have traditionally had Tamil majorities. The war officially ended in 2009 with the killing of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the chief of the Tamil Tiger militant group, but the Sri Lankan government has since then been accused of human rights violations, especially during the last stages of the war.

The issue of the treatment of the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka is a touchy issue in India as the community shares close cultural and linguistic ties with India’s 62 million Tamils in southern Tamil Nadu.

Relations between Sri Lanka and India, which is the island nation’s largest neighbour, have traditionally been close but there have been strains recently over India voting in favour of a motion censuring Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The vote took place last year and a review of Sri Lanka’s record is expected in Geneva in March.