India on Sunday denied reports that the station chief of its external spy agency was asked to leave Colombo by the previous Rajapaksa regime in the run-up to the presidential polls for encouraging the opposition alliance that went on to win the election.
The ministry of external affairs said no diplomat was transferred out of the island nation before the completion of tenure even as claims — made by news agency Reuters — of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) interfering in the Lankan polls triggered a storm.
A Reuters report said India was asked to recall the agent in December for helping gather support for joint opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena after persuading him to ditch Rajapaksa’s cabinet. Sirisena pulled off a stunning win on January 8, derailing Rajapaksa’s plan for a third successive tenure.
This agent — according to an Indian official and a Lankan lawmaker who spoke to the news agency — was said to have held meetings with Ranil Wickremasinghe, now the Lankan prime minister, to persuade him to step aside for someone who could be sure of winning.
The trigger for the proactive approach, claimed the report, was India’s concerns about China’s growing role and presence in the neighbouring country.
MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin rejected the reports based on unnamed sources. He said all Indian diplomatic postings were in the public domain. “The normal tenure of an Indian diplomat in Sri lanka is three years and all officials who have been transferred during last year have completed that. It’s a normal transfer.”
He challenged media to check recent postings and said all Indian diplomats who had left Colombo had done at the end of their term.
Rajapaksa told Reuters he did not know all the facts while the new government in Colombo said it was aware of the reports but couldn’t confirm them.