India should refrain from taking sides in Colombo
Sri Lanka, as the Indian Express put it, “seems to be on the brink of a new political fracture.” It is unclear why Mahinda Rajapaksa had to resort to highly draconian measures after his electoral victory. Putting his defeated challenger under arrest and on trial on ostensibly flimsy legalistic grounds appears to be wholly unnecessary and a grossly perverse calculation of priorities—the urgent task of reconciling a post-LTTE Sri Lanka needs political magnanimity and high statesmanship, not petty authoritarianism. [See Dayan Jayatilleka’s post in Groundviews] President Rajapaksa has made a big mistake.
Even so, India would do well to allow the Sri Lankan political processes and constitutional machinery to run their course. It is not unusual for Sri Lankan politicians to call for an Indian intervention when their own chips are down, but New Delhi should keep its distance from the goings-on in Colombo. Even as it maintains overall neutrality, it is important that India deeply engage all segments of Sri Lankan politics through multiple, parallel channels. It is possible that such a position, by itself, will result in a calming influence that will restore political stability. If it does not, it will place New Delhi in a much better position to intervene should the need arise.
And no, engaged does not mean passivity. It means the opposite.