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A timely visit to India

PRESIDENT Kumaratunga's visit to India, which comes at a crucial juncture in Sri Lanka's efforts to revive her stalled peace process, testifies eloquently to the vast importance the Government attaches to Lanka's continued cordial ties with India.

Vibrant, mutually-beneficial ties with India have been a hallmark of governments headed by President Kumaratunga in particular, and it comes as no surprise that she wishes to keep India informed about crucial developments in Sri Lanka.

Cordiality towards India and sustained Indo-Lanka cooperation have been pivotal elements in the foreign policy of SLFP-led governments down the decades and it is relieving to find that this vital tradition in the conduct of Lanka's foreign policy is being vibrantly taken forward by the current administration too.

How counter productive it would be for Sri Lanka to ignore or be insensitive to India's crucial concerns was illustrated through the troubled relations Lanka had with India in the mid Eighties, when a UNP administration held away in Sri Lanka.

That was a time when hardly a thought was spared for the way India would perceive political developments in this country. That crisis in Indo-Lanka relations could have been averted if the then Lankan government worked in close cooperation with India and shared her keenly felt concerns, particularly in relation to security matters. Not surprisingly, Indo-Lanka relations hit an all-time low in those times.

It speaks volumes for President Kumaratunga's foresight that she has always thought it best to work in close cooperation with India, as in the present instance. It shouldn't come as a surprise to the Lankan public that India needs to be mindful of political developments in Sri Lanka, which is located a few kilometres away from her Southernmost state, Tamilnadu.

Inasmuch as Sri Lanka is profoundly concerned about preserving its territorial integrity, so is India.

Therefore, it would be in the interests of both India and Sri Lanka to work on a cooperative basis. For instance, the Tsunami Relief Council proposal of the Lankan Government has proved controversial among some sections of opinion. We believe President Kumaratunga is doing right by explaining to the Indian political leadership what it is all about and how it would serve the cause of peace in Sri Lanka.

By doing so, the Lankan Government could secure the goodwill and cooperation of India in its peace drive. Such assistance and cordiality in Indo-Lankan relations is vital because India has always meant well by those governments which have taken her into their confidence. In fact, India has always backed Sri Lanka's unity and geographical wholeness.

However, working out a just, negotiated settlement to the Lankan conflict is entirely a responsibility of Sri Lanka.


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