The 26 years long civil war in Sri Lanka caused extensive damage to a progressive and promising economy. The war may have put an end to armed hostilities between state military and the now-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but it left most of the northern and eastern portions of the teardrop island in ruins. Moreover, it caused the internal displacement of nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians.
India has promised to be a partner in the redevelopment, rehabilitation and reconstruction of war-affected areas in Sri Lanka. Its obligation to regional peace and security, as well its predilection towards ethnic Tamils living in Sri Lanka are two of the main reasons for India’s involvement.
India has created programmes to facilitate the restoration of normal life for the internally displaced people. It has also provided technical know-how, manpower, medical facilities, billions of rupees worth of aid and has installed rehabilitation mechanisms for the IDPs in the northern and eastern provinces. These lie in the Tamil-dominated region which is poised to become a major centre for Sri Lankan tourism.
Earlier this month, the second phase of the Indian Housing Project in Sri Lanka was launched. Under this, the Indian Government will undertake the construction and repair of 43,000 housing units in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Mannar, Mullaithivu and Jaffna. The first phase of the Project began in 2011 and was completed in July 2012. This saw the repair and construction of 1,000 houses in which LKR 100,000 was provided to nearly 1,500 beneficiaries. The construction of 10,000 houses is scheduled to be completed by August 2013 and 50,000 houses within three years.
The Lankan Government sees economic development and reconstruction in these areas as a positive sign for Tamil citizens displaced by the civil war to return to their homes. It is also a definitive step to bolster a growing partnership between Sri Lanka and their northern neighbour.
India is one of the biggest donors of development credit to Sri Lanka, providing billions of dollars towards investment in railways, education, and the reconstruction of tsunami-affected areas and strengthening maritime security to check piracy.
While India’s role in redevelopment of Tamil-dominated areas in Sri Lanka has been lauded by the Tamil Nadu Government, its extensive support to a Sinhala-majority Government in Sri Lanka has drawn the ire of millions of Tamil citizens back home.
Tamil Nadu and the Centre keep falling out over issues relating to Sri Lanka. The training of Sri Lankan military personnel, visas to Sri Lankan citizens travelling to the State, and a perceived lack of action towards a federal structure for a Tamil State in Sri Lanka are all contentious issues. In fact, these views are shared unanimously by all major political parties in Tamil Nadu, in State elections and otherwise.