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A tale of two nations

books Updated: May 20, 2011 23:45 IST
SJS Chhatwal
SJS Chhatwal
Hindustan Times
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My Days in Sri Lanka
Lakhan Mehrotra
Rs250 pp 195

The author rightly begins the book with a narration of the historic ties between India and Sri Lanka. He takes us through the peaceful political struggles for freedom in both countries; the inter-State visits of political leaders and cordial relations among the political parties of the two States.

There is an appropriate reference in the beginning to ‘Highland Tamils’ or ‘Indian Tamils’ in Sri Lanka who had lived for about a century at the time of the country’s independence and had built the only export industry of the island at the time. But the issue of their citizenship became an irritating factor soon after the independence of the two countries and it was resolved only 50 years after Sri Lanka got independent. While tracing the recent history of Indo-Sri Lankan relations, the author rightly questions the role of Sri Lanka in Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan conflicts. The discrimination of Tamils in Sri Lanka since 1956 has been dealt with in a single chapter. The issue led to the formation of militant groups like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). All this has been explained well in another chapter.

The author describes in great detail the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 and Sri Lanka’s invitation to the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to assist the government. He rightly states that the problem that arose over the effective functioning of the IPKF was due to Sri Lankan PM Ranasinghe Premadasa’s opposition to the Accord.

When Premadasa became the president of Sri Lanka in 1989, the ties between the two nations suffered, as he almost ‘ordered’ India to withdraw its forces. It’s heartening that we were able to resolve the issue, the credit for which goes to then Indian high commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lakhan Mehrotra, who is the author of the book. The book is based on authentic documents and his first-hand experiences.

SJS Chhatwal is former Indian ambassador to Sri Lanka.