Sri Lanka has been a friend of India since ages from sharing deep cultural bonds, to sharing traditions and even food preferences. The island nation has been India’s traditional ally. India has from time to time made efforts to enhance relations with our southern brothers, be it through sports or by strategic partnerships in building infrastructure. This healthy relationship received a setback during the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule in Sri Lanka. Rajapakse turned out to be a stooge of China and he did not shy away from practically selling the country to the Chinese. His term saw dwindling relations between India and Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka’s trade with China greatly improved. Rajapaksa failed to secure his third term as the President of Sri Lanka and was defeated following massive public backlash on charges of corruption and nepotism in 2015. Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka too were against Mahinda Rajapaksa and had played an active role in ousting him from the President’s chair. The leader of the monks was Maduluwave Sobhitha. Rajapaksa had alleged that India and western countries had played an active role in making him lose the elections. During the elections, Rajpaksa even expelled an Indian High Commission official whom he alleged to be the Sri Lanka Station Chief of Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) accusing the official of sabotaging his Presidential bid. Whatever the case might be the relations between India and Sri Lanka started getting better with President Maithripala Sirisena coming to power.
Keeping up with the efforts to improve relations with the island nation India has funded a housing village in north-central Sri Lanka. The housing project named ‘Most Ven Maduluwave Sobhitha Thero Village’ is a 300 million Sri Lankan rupee project. According to the Indian High Commission in Colombo, it is a part of the process to boost relations with Sri Lanka. The 153 house project is based at Elapathagama in Anuradhapura and is named after the late Buddhist monk who was instrumental in uniting the opposition forces against Rajapaksa’s regime. The foundation stone of the project was laid yesterday after a ceremony. The 300 million Sri Lankan rupees project will be constructed by a grant from the Indian government.
Naming the project after the late Buddhist monk might irk the former President Rajapaksa, but it is a great move by India to clarify that it reveres and cares for the icons that have helped protect Indian and Sri Lankan interests in the past. Sobhitha had been very instrumental in ending Chinese influence in Sri Lanka and opening the eyes of the public towards the growing Chinese presence in the country under Rajapaksa’s rule. His importance in throwing out Rajapaksa’s regime is being accepted by the Indian government.
This housing project is a small step in the long march towards restoring ties between the two countries. India and Sri Lanka share many common interests from sea to land both countries can once again go back to a mutually beneficial phase. The project is a part of the India’s development cooperation with Sri Lanka which will lead to many more such projects in the coming times. Colombo and New Delhi want to boost ties in order to benefit from each other’s strengths. With the re-emergence of India as a global superpower under PM Modi, Sri Lanka and other former allies seem to be getting back on the track towards maintaining a warm relationship with India. A great sign for India, indeed.
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