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India-US partnership on 'creating order' in Sri Lanka

Amid the newly enhanced ties between the United States and India, the contours of a shared approach to Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis by the two states appeared in little reported comments last month by Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon.

Speaking in Washington, he outlined a twin track Indian strategy, which he said was supported by the US: first, restoring normalcy in the war-shattered Tamil areas, and, second, “creating an order [in Sri Lanka] within which, not just the restoration of democracy, but … an order within which all the communities feel that they can determine their own futures.”

Mr. Menon’s comments, quoted by rediff.com in early October, came in response to a question from the floor during an interaction as to whether “India shares any concerns about the roll-back of democracy in Sri Lanka.”

"Frankly for us, we are dealing with a neighbour, who's had a troubled history and has just come out of a civil war and has to repair the damage of that civil war and the effects that's had on their own society."

"So two things become very important,

"One is reconciliation between the communities and we've tried very hard to help in that process -- in reconciliation, in trying to bring life back to normal for especially the areas where most of the war was fought in the north and the east.

“[In this regard] We have a huge program to try and do that and we've discussed it with the US as well, which is also participating in this effort and we've tried very hard to make sure that by doing this -- and this is a common Indo-US interest really -- that we can prevent the emergence of the sort of terrorism that came out of Sri Lanka, which in our case cost us the life of a Prime Minister.

"But equally, there is also the work of political recovery in Sri Lanka … Of creating an order within which, not just the restoration of democracy, but more than that, an order within which all the communities feel that they can determine their own futures -- that they have a say in the choices that affect their lives.”

Mr. Menon admitted this was “a much more sensitive task” and said that “while we will continue to encourage Sri Lanka to do what she says, what the Sri Lankan authorities have consistently told us they want to do, ultimately that's their internal affair and it's something they'll have to take the tough decisions themselves on.”

This week, US President Obama urged India to do more to stand up for the oppressed in abusive states.

“Speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries. It is not violating the rights of sovereign nations, it is staying true to our [US and India’s] democratic principles."