India should see Sri Lanka as a whole and stop focussing just on the island’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, Minister of Power and Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka said in an interview to The Hindu on Monday.
The Minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pragmatic approach to Sri Lanka could enhance trade, technological and political partnerships, paving the way for a “win-win situation” for the neighbouring countries.
“That India is a guarantor of the northern Tamil people’s rights should now be a thing of the past,” he said in an apparent reference to India’s push for devolution of powers in Sri Lanka as per the 13th Amendment, consequent to the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.
“The Sri Lankan Tamils have to cooperate with the existing government to settle their problems without dragging India in,” said the Minister.
Observing that India’s perspective on Sri Lanka needed to change, he said: “It [Sri Lanka] is not part of India or Indian culture, we have created a unique, organic culture here.” India’s “support” to the LTTE had caused a “big disappointment” in the psyche of the Sinhalese people, but India could change that by engaging through music, cinema, fashion and cricket. “There are various common things other than Hinduism and Buddhism.”
Commenting on major infrastructure projects funded by foreign nations, Mr. Ranawaka said Sri Lanka ought to have had technical audits before clearing them, pointing to Sri Lanka’s Northern railway line project that was restored with Indian assistance. “The line constructed by India was four times more than the benchmark costs,” he said, adding that similar infrastructure projects funded by China should have also been subjected to greater scrutiny.