The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has opposed New Delhi’s offer to train Sri Lankan naval officers.
The opposition is the latest instance of continuing friction between Tamil Nadu and New Delhi over India’s relations with Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu shares close cultural and linguistic ties with the Tamils in the neighbouring island nation. The southern state has witnessed widespread protests against the alleged human rights abuses inflicted by the Sri Lankan armed forces against civilian Tamils during the war with separatist rebels that ended decades-long conflict in 2009.
Since then, led by Tamil politicians and mass anger, the southern state has blamed New Delhi of not exerting pressure on Colombo to investigate, what they call, continuing rights abuses. A few weeks ago, under pressure from Tamil Nadu, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stayed away from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet in Colombo.
Now, reacting to the Indian navy’s offer to train its Sri Lankan counterparts, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Sunday termed it insensitive, which “totally ignores the impact it may have upon the feelings of Tamils”.
Media reports quoting a letter written by Jayalalithaa to Manmohan Singh said the chief minister had asked the federal government to tell the defence ministry not to go ahead with the proposed training programme. The programme was conceptualised after a recent meeting of the Indian naval chief Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi with Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“I am dismayed that our Navy has offered to train Sri Lankan Navy officers and will put them through the four year Bachelor of Technology course being offered to Indian Navy officers,” Jayalalithaa said, adding that “this has come as a great shock to the people of Tamil Nadu.”
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier protested against the federal government-sponsored training of Sri Lankan defence personnel in Tamil Nadu. It had demanded that New Delhi not have any cooperative engagements with the Lankan armed forces until alleged rights abuses against Tamils in the island stopped.