Sri Lanka Mission in Chennai is one of the older Missions dating back to 1957 and is also the Mission closest to Sri Lanka in geographical terms. The Office of the Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Chennai was established in 1957, as the Passport and Information Office, under the supervision of the Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi. Since then, it has been elevated to the status of an Office of Assistant High Commissioner in 1959, and subsequently to that of Deputy High Commissioner in 1966. The Madras Mission plays an increasingly important role with respect to the Southern Indian States. It has responsibilities for the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
The importance of the Mission is based on its geographical proximity to Sri Lanka, as well as its ethnic commonality with the island. This has brought about a special affinity between the peoples of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Close family relationships also exist with many residents of Tamil Nadu with Sri Lankans.
A large number of Sri Lankan students also seek admission to Indian universities and colleges in Sothern India while thousands of Sri Lankan pilgrims visit Southern India enroute to the Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the North. In addition to the above, a quite large number of Sri Lankans visit Southern India for medical treatments.
It is also significant to note that there have been other Ceylon Government Agencies in what is now Tamil Nadu, some even before independence. A Quarantine Office and an Immigration Office in Mandapam Camp in 1949, a Labour Office in Trichy and a Food Purchasing Mission in Madras in 1946, and a Visa Office in Trichy established after independence and closed in 1962, are notable among these.
There has been considerable increase in economic activities in recent years between India and Sri Lanka. The first Sri Lankan Bank in India was established when the Bank of Ceylon opened its branch in Madras on 31st October 1995. The setting up of two more banks by the People’s Bank and the Bank of Ceylon in Tuticorin and Coimbatore, respectively, is at present under consideration.
The numbers of flights between South India and Colombo have also increased considerably, and there are at present 100 flights from Colombo to Southern India per week.