Once Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula was the theatre of a violent ethnic conflict that came to involve the Indian Peace Keeping Force— an involvement that later led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. A few decades later, the island nation has sought India’s help in the education and skill upgradation of the people—mainly Tamils— living on the peninsula.
It’s an opportunity India should not miss. Beyond the issue of ethnicity—62 million Indians share close cultural ties with Sri Lanka’s minority—a post-conflict nation has several infrastructural gaps. India can easily fill these, to its political advantage in the region.
China, of course, is already doing that—the massive Hambantota port in Sri Lanka is evidence. Hence, if India is to counter its eastern neighbour’s growing clout in the region, it will have to align itself more closely with Sri Lanka. Help with just education won’t do.