Ethnic tensions in any part of South Asia have always been viewed with concern by India. Almost all the states of South Asia were once integral parts of a single sociocultural system of which India was the center. Religion, language, ethnicity, and, of course, a common colonial experience are the major forces that transcend the territorial boundaries of South Asian nations and strongly influence intraregional relations. As an Indo-centric region, serious ethnic or racial upheavals in any country that is a part of South Asia are bound to have a spillover effect in India. Thus the Tamil people of India, who sympathize with the Tamils of Sri Lanka, reacted emotionally when the island was rocked by violent Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic riots in July 1983. Historically and culturally the Tamils of India and the Tamils of Sri Lanka have felt close to each other, and the Tamils of the Indian state of Tamilnadu become agitated over any event in Sri Lanka that affects the interests of their cousins across the Palk Straits. Sri Lanka's geopolitical location is another important factor that compels India's anxiety over any destabilizing development in the island. Often described as the fulcrum of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is barely thirty miles from the southern tip of India. The 4000-mile maritime border of the Indian Peninsula is largely fringed by the Indian Ocean, and ensuring peace and stability within the Indian Ocean region has been a major objective of India's foreign policy. Geopolitics and the sociocultural composition of the region, therefore, compel India to conceive of itself as the security manager of South Asia. India's role in Sri Lanka's fouryear old ethnic conflict needs to be understood in this perspective.

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