The Indian high commission in Colombo has over the past week, particularly since Tuesday, been battling rumours that seek to portray New Delhi as a meddlesome neighbour in relation to Sri Lanka’s political crisis.
The latest round of speculation in Sri Lanka was triggered by a tweet from former Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy of the BJP.
On Monday, Swamy tweeted: “India must send in the Indian Army to restore Constitutional sanity. At present anti Indian foreign forces are taking advantage of people’s anger. This affects India’s national security.”
Swamy made it clear in a second tweet that he was referring to Sri Lanka.
Given that India has sent its army to Sri Lanka in the past — in the 1980s, the Indian Peace Keeping Force was deployed in the island nation for two years to oversee the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord — this was quickly picked up by sections of the local media.
The Indian high commission had to step in to put an end to these speculative stories, which come at a time anger against the Rajapaksa clan is at its peak and the family’s homes are being torched.
“The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media and social media about #India sending her troops to Sri Lanka,” it said in a tweet and a statement.
The statement said: “These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of the Government of #India.”
The mission flagged a statement issued in New Delhi on Tuesday that articulated India’s position on the political turmoil in Sri Lanka.
In that statement, India appeared to side with the people of Sri Lanka, who find a mention, while remaining silent on the Rajapaksas.
“As a close neighbour of Sri Lanka, with historical ties, India is fully supportive of its democracy, stability and economic recovery. In keeping with our Neighbourhood First policy, India has extended this year alone support worth over US$3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka for helping them overcome their current difficulties,” the statement said.
“India will always be guided by the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka expressed through democratic processes.”
This is the second time in a little over a month that the Indian mission has had to counter speculation about India sending troops to Sri Lanka.
On April 2, the high commission had issued a statement denying “blatantly false and completely baseless reports in a section of media that India is dispatching its soldiers to Sri Lanka”.
The second pushback on rumours about India sending troops to Sri Lanka came within hours of the mission having to put down talk of helping certain political leaders and their families flee the country after Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down on Monday.
“High Commission has recently noticed rumours circulating in sections of media & social media that certain political persons and their families have fled to India. These are fake and blatantly false reports, devoid of any truth or substance. High Commission strongly denies them,” it said in a tweet.
On May 7, the mission had had to deal with reports that the Sri Lankan government had imported a water cannon vehicle under a credit line extended by the Indian government.
“No water cannon vehicles have been supplied by India under any of the credit lines extended to Sri Lanka,” the mission said.
It clarified that the latest $1-billion credit line was meant to help meet the Sri Lankan people’s requirements of food, medicines and other essentials, all of which have become scarce in the country because of the economic crisis.