New Delhi, October 5 (The New Indian Express): Drawing lessons from the 30-year long war in the island nation, the visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday categorically ruled out war as an option between the two nuclear-powered countries and lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s restrained approach on the matter.
“I don’t think war is an option for anyone,” the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said when asked if the situation between the two countries can escalate militarily.
Sri Lanka also exhorted India and Pakistan to tackle the issue of cross-border terrorism or the future of the regional grouping SAARC looks bleak.
“Cross-border terrorism is on the table. SAARC has to look at it and discuss what has happened (cancellation of the SAARC meet). How we are going to handle it…SAARC has to decide on two issues — cross-border terrorism and areas in which we can work together.
“If we don’t do it, there is no future for SAARC,” Wickremesinghe said after meeting the Indian Prime Minister. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister also agreed that India-Pakistan rivalry had already impacted the functioning of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
Colombo had made the announcement of withdrawing from the SAARC Summit scheduled in Islamabad a few days after India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh opted out of the eight-member bloc. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe made it clear that unlike Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Sri Lanka did not face the problem of internal security. Also he clarified that he Sri Lankan Foreign Minister was traveling at the moment and the decision could not have been taken without his presence.
Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe have discussed the roadmap to take SAARC forward. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister made it clear that if one or two members leave there will not be any South Asia (Association).
Making it clear that the present phase is crucial for India and that Sri Lanka will stand by it, the visiting Prime Minister sought to allay any fears regarding the country’s bilateral ties with China. “The relationship with China is an economic one, not military and Chinese were involved in the infrastructure development projects in his country. He also asserted that Sri Lanka had ensured that there were no free-hold land rights,” Wickremesinghe said.
This was the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s second visit to India after his party formed the government last year.