Is India washing its hands off Sri Lankan Tamils?

To say that the political decimation of the parties that claim to speak for the Sri Lankan Tamils has been completed is an understatement. It was a rout. The Tamil National Alliance was all but swept away in the unprecedented flood of support that marked the return of the Rajapaksas to pre-eminence in the Sri Lankan polity.

But what was equally remarkable was the swiftness with which Prime Minister Narendra Modi called to congratulate the Sri Lankan leader, even as parliamentary poll results were coming in on August 7. It underscored India’s growing concern that in light of China’s Ladakh ingress and the challenge posed to India’s land and maritime frontiers, Colombo cannot be allowed to slip back into China’s zone of influence. But is India ready to heed the rise of Sinhala nationalism over the cause of the Tamil minority as geopolitical constraints take primacy?

India’s foot-dragging when Mahinda Rajapaksa, as president, was looking for investments to reboot his country’s post-war economy has not been forgotten by the new first family of Sri Lanka, which did not take kindly to being treated like a minnow left dangling by the big fish. Today, more so than ever, Colombo’s strategic importance to India, sitting as it does at a key intersection in its southern backyard—where the sea lanes from the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea connect to the Indian Ocean, and where China has acquired one critical port after another—can no longer be ignored.

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