Sept 22 (DNA) Notwithstanding the headline grabbing news of MDMK protests and an unfortunate self-immolation, the three day visit of the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, should be a time to reassess the trajectory of India-Sri Lanka ties.
The decision by the Indian government to accord summit level status to Rajapaksa's visit for the inauguration of the University of Buddhist and Indic Studies in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh has already underlined a new seriousness on New Delhi's part to impart a sense of dynamism to a very important relationship that seems to have become hostage to the domestic political dynamic in Tamil Nadu.
Many in India and especially in Tamil Nadu are rightfully concerned about the slow pace of the rehabilitation of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the disinclination of the Rajapaksa government to find a lasting solution to ethnic problems. The anger in Tamil Nadu at Rajapaksa's government's conduct during and after the war with the LTTE remains high.
The political parties in Tamil Nadu continue to exploit the Lankan Tamil card with an eye on the state electoral calculus, even though the issue had little resonance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
New Delhi has repeatedly emphasised the need for urgent steps to resettle internally displaced persons and urged the government to undertake speedy rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.
New Delhi has underlined the need for a meaningful devolution package, building on the 13th amendment that would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement. The Rajapaksa government remains largely non-committal on this. But the Tamils in Sri Lanka are not going to get a better deal by attacking Sri Lankan visitors in Tamil Nadu.
The Sri Lankan president is at the height of his power after having defeated the LTTE and winning an overwhelming mandate for himself and his party. Yet his government's human rights record is under critical scrutiny in the West and stable ties with India help him in underlining India's backing for his government to the world.
It is important to recognise that beyond that symbolic value, Sri Lanka is rapidly slipping out of India's orbit. India failed to exert its leverage over the humanitarian troubles that Tamils trapped in the fighting were facing. New Delhi's attempts to end the war and avert a humanitarian tragedy in North-East Sri Lanka proved utterly futile.