Sri Lanka will not allow any country to act against India's interest from its soil, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said, looking to address New Delhi's concerns about China's presence in the island nation.
In an exclusive interview to HT four days before the Northern Province goes to the polls, Rajapaksa said he was worried about the "message of separatism" still emanating from Tamil Nadu but he understood the compulsions of politicians in New Delhi and would give them a "wide margin".
He was responding to a question on deteriorating ties between the two countries due to coalition pressures on New Delhi from partners in Tamil Nadu.
Terming the India-Sri Lanka relationship as still very good, he said Indians controlled all wholesale businesses and were also at the helm of 43 international companies operating in his country.
The Northern Province was at the centre of three-decade-long civil war and is going to the polls after a gap of 25 years.
The opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is expected to emerge victorious, has raised the issue of Chinese presence.
Rajapaksa conceded that he had sought China's help in development, including in satellite technology, after the 30-year civil war that had battered the country and killed more than 120,000 people.
"But India's fears are unfounded," he said. "We will never allow any country to act against India in any way from our soil."
Padma Rao Sundarji is a veteran journalist who has covered Sri Lanka for more than two decades. She is based in Delhi.