Sri Lanka’s government reopened the country’s northern border crossing with India to international travelers on Monday, state media reported.
It’s the latest step in the island nation’s quest to reclaim its sovereignty following its victory over the Tamil Tigers in 2009. However, it’s also part of a broader global push by the Indian government to normalize relations with Sri Lanka as ties between the two countries cool.
The southern border with India, known as Polonnaruwa, was previously open to non-resident Lankans. Until Monday, only foreigners whose visas were valid in Sri Lanka were allowed to cross over to India through the northern border, the Times of India reported.
“Fearing a possible cyber attack and using powers to prevent such attack, they limited the movement of foreigners,” an Indian security official was quoted as saying. “The role of foreigners has always been of a burden for Sri Lanka.”
Indian policymakers have accused Sri Lanka of harboring Tamil Tiger rebels for years, allowing them to kill dozens of Indian nationals and push India’s borders to the brink. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation accused Sri Lanka of terror attacks in 2007 and 2008, citing 15 specific events, including the assassination of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York in 2012.
In recent years, India and Sri Lanka have signed several agreements intended to strengthen diplomatic relations, including recognition of each other’s sovereignty and land boundary disputes. Sri Lanka also accepted a list of Indian troops who served during the independence movement in India, including some from the world wars. India and Sri Lanka put their navies on high alert in recent weeks as India declared that submarines it has sent for training to Sri Lanka have returned home.
However, many outsiders are hesitant to visit Sri Lanka due to the ongoing legacy of the Tamil Tigers. “Huge naval facilities, manned by and visible to external eyes, are a reminder of the dark times a lot of people suffered during the murderous Sinhalese-Tamil civil war,” Gordon Weiss, who edited “Legacy of Killings: The Thirty-Year Conflict” for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at Vanderbilt University, told The Washington Post. “The legacy of conflict still casts a long shadow on Sri Lanka, helping to explain that island’s persistent levels of racial discrimination.”