Machiavellian strategies in Sri Lankan Foreign Policy: the crucial importance of Pakistan
Posted on February 11th, 2012

R Chandrasoma

We must accept the hard truth that the coming years will be trying ones for our country. It is not the economic threats “”…” important as they are “”…” that will test our powers of survival in a dangerously destabilized world. It is the insecurity of great neighbours and the decline of Western Imperial Power that will be the prime cause of discontent in our region.

We are fated to be very close to the historic land of India – a billion-strong nation with little internal cohesiveness and even less of the discipline and determination that leads to long-term survival. It is bordered by another great nation “”…” China “”…” that sees no advantage in being friendly with the great Asiatic power across its southern border. Indeed, it is a fact of history that great nations that are juxtaposed fight each other for supremacy. While overt battle is unlikely, the tensions between these two aspiring “ƒ”¹…”great powers’ will remain high for decades.

This has a sequel that no political analyst can overlook “”…” any move by Sri Lanka to foster trade and other relations with China will be looked at with a jaundiced eye by our powerful neighbor. In a kind of zero-sum political game, India sees the rise of a prosperous and independent polity in our Island nation as a blow to its own role as the hegemon of the region. Despite its size, India is riven by racial and political divisions that will only grow in the future. Its huge population “”…” of which about 75%  are barely above starvation level “”…” and the precariousness of its resource-base do not augur well for its future. This instability will translate into a  hostility and nervousness about developments in its neighbourhood “”…” chiefly Sri Lanka “”…” which by virtue of its strategic position wll be the region of most concern to the Indians.

Let us turn to the Imperial West. That this region is in decline will not be contested by anybody. But declining powers lash out at those who are seen as upstarts and potential rivals in in the struggle to survive in our overcrowded planet. The great havoc caused by the USA in its military ventures in Asia in the post-war years is an example of malignant meddling by a Great Power that has no other aim than to assert its global dominance. In recent years the European Union “”…” a fast declining “ƒ”¹…”super-power’ – has imitated this act with nefarious adventures in Egypt, Libya and most conspicuously in Syria. These “ƒ”¹…”adventures’ are passed off as moves to “ƒ”¹…”democratize’  ailing and corrupt states but the actuality is that the once–great powers dislike demotion  and are greatly chagrinned by the success in places that were once backwaters. In pursuance of this malicious agenda to subvert and render ineffective  those nations and powers that are seen as outside their “ƒ”¹…”club’, we can be sure that any recurence of the fissiparous tendencies (pushed to brutal extremes by Prabhakaran) in our country will be swiftly exploited by the questing agents of the Imperial West. We will not have a second chance at holding on to our historic land.

 What will be the role of India in in such a future crisis? Will it help Sri Lanka or – at the very least – remain a neutral bystander? Will not a beligerant Tamil Nadu make neutrality impossible?  More importantly will not the growing ties with Western Capitalism make India a crony of the West in the struggle of the latter with the rising power in the East? The sad truth is that Sri Lanka has no true friends in the World “”…” no Buddhist country will come to our succor in a time of peril. Indeed, Buddhist Thailand helped the Tamil Tigers in that perilous conflict of recent memory with the latter. We spoke of a Machiavellian foreign policy. Pakistan is a Muslim country and no historic ties bind us to this troubled nation. Nevertheless in a future conflict rooted in internal broils or the result of external pressure, Pakistan will help us “”…” as, indeed, it helped us at a critical moment in recent history. It will do so not for sentimental reasons but as it is in its own strategic interest to have a friendly power at the Southern tip of India.  A stable and affluent Sri Lanka  diminishes the power and reach of India and in this sense helps Pakistan in its perpetual quest to foil the ambitions of a great power breathing down its neck. We are allies not because there is a commonality of values or shared ambitions but because of the strategic predicament of living close to a very large and ambitious country “”…” a country with no shortage of hotheads prepared to use the primitive nuclear weapons they possess. It is heartening to note that the Government of Sri Lanka is fully cognizant of the strategic dimension of our relationship with Pakistan. The current visit of our President to Pakistan is a clear indication of this sensitivity.

10 Responses to “Machiavellian strategies in Sri Lankan Foreign Policy: the crucial importance of Pakistan”

  1. aloy Says:

    This is a short and accurate analysis. Why did Thailand, which was a backward nation, supported Tamil Tigers and not Buddhist Sri Lanka?. Today they are in the forefront of production of technological goods and even motor vehicles. We must not get involved in international politics. Our writers should not express critical views about western powers, Caucasians and Christians while sitting on their lands. Also our leaders should not get involved in countries like Iran which has problems of their own.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:


  3. nandimitra Says:

    Sri Lanka will never get out of this mess until the rulers are transparent in their actions. Corruption is pauperising the country, the leaders are not accountable, the majority are silenced by fear, the IMF and the west is dictating terms and in the name of development the environment is destroyed. Once you remove the veneer of nationalism and patriotism what you find is disingenuous leadership who are only interested in their own self interest. This has been the norm since 1977. There is no point looking for friends outside when the enemies are with in.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    Sri Lanka has not balanced Indian interests with Pakistani interests. It is time Pakistan is allowed into the island as India is.

    Friendly relations of Pakistan with China is an added benefit. India (literally a bull or cow in a china shop) must be contained.

    If India sides with the west against Sri Lanka, I will not be surprised.

    We should also have independent tie with Russia without going through India. India’s double game with both Russia and the west has gone way too far. It is better for the Russians to keep a close tab on India to stop it from landing on the western lap. Sri Lanka is the ideal location to do so. It is something India cannot disagree. Russian relations with Pakistan and China have turned good now.

  5. Christie Says:

    Not only Pakistan, all countries surrounding India is impotant to us and them.

    India does not have a single close friend in its neighbourhood and will not.

  6. aloy Says:

    I did not quite get you. I do not know from where you are writing.
    What did we gain from getting involved in international politics?. In 1975 Gadafi came to Sri Lanka for non aligned conference and advised Easern muslims who had the highest population growth in the world at that time to double their rate of increase. These people were let in by our kings on compassionate grounds when they were expelled by the Dutch from Indonesia. We now have a region asking for a separate PC for them. We need to maintain friendly relations with Pakistan. But do we need to allow in large numbers even for commercial activity?.

  7. Dilrook Says:


    Gaddafi’s comment didn’t have any impact whatsoever. As you say, they anyway had the highest population growth rate. There is no indication it increased due to his comments.

    Defence and trade ties with Pakistan can certainly benefit Sri Lanka and balance Indian interests. Not an invasion of large numbers of Pakistanis but what is commensurate with trade that is essential for trade. Obviously no illegal staying in the country.

    We gained a lot from getting involved in international politics in the region. That was how we won the war by balancing Chinese, Indian and US interests in the island. Otherwise it would have been another July 1987 or worse. The army general was touring China in the last stages of the war clearly sending a signal to India and the west to keep hands off Sri Lanka at that crucial stage. Surely we don’t need to get entangled in unrelated international matters. Iran, Libya, Israel, Argentina, Syria, Korea, South China Sea are out of our concern. Without getting into international matters we should have come to some agreement on Iranian oil because it has a huge economic impact. Already the prices have been increased by a large amount. When it helps us we should not shun international affairs.

    Buddhism rarely worked for us in international relations. In 1072 AD King Vijayabahu asked help from a Burmese regional ruler to block Chola ships trading with China through Burmese ports. As an incentive the king invited the Burmese Buddhist sect to establish in Sri Lanka (Ramanna Nikaya). But after all that the Burmese regional ruler politely refused the request. The great king’s grand son King Parakramabahu had a different plan. He launched a landing attack on the Burmese regional ruler’s port wiping out his army and the entire Chola business structure in Burma. This followed an immediate massive onslaught on Cholas in South India that marked the beginning of the end of Cholas. Many diplomatic and military ties were established through marriage, goodwill missions with Kannuj, Kalinga and other North Indian kingdoms as well as with Kannada country to fight the common enemy. Helping Pandyans to take on Cholas was another achievement of the Sinhala army in Tamilakam.

    Dalai Lama incident of 1964 and the red carpet welcome of Burmese Junta leaders in 2010 are later day examples.

  8. Ben_silva Says:

    I am glad that at least one writer, Chandrasoma has realised that we live in a dangerous world. I would say we live in a war zone, with various groups competing for resources. The law of nature is survival of the fittest. In such a situation, we need to develop survival skils, rather than hang on to an Indian religion that even Indians do not believe any more. In my view our thinking need to be directed at dealing with problems such as over population, food and energy shortage and attempt to solve problems by using critical thinking and science and technology.
    At the moment there is a serious threat of division of the country. But majority Buddhists are demonstrating apathy, instead of mass protests against devolving power, which may enable an extension of Tamil Nadu in Sri Lanka.
    As for religion, we need to learn and move on rather than be stuck in the past.

  9. Ben_silva Says:

    To respond to Aloy. I do not think we can live like frogs in a well. We have to fully understand the nature of the world we live in. I would say, we need to understand the nature of the environment we live in. Now in a globalised world, with improved communication and transport, the external threats are even more significant. We need to get involved in world politics so that we understand threats and take survival measures. If we do not initiate survival strategies, India could do what China did to Tibet.Relying on religion (Buddhism ) is dangerous.
    Have we done any thing about the excessive growth of Muslims in Lanka ? as observed by Aloy Are we reacting sufficiently to the potential threat of division of the country ?

  10. Christie Says:

    The island has never been a part of any rulers of the indian sub continent.

    The only time even a part of the island was under administration from Madras was from 1792-1796 when British and Indian took over Dutch possessions.

    India and Indian colonial parsites feel that the island is theirs as it was a British- Indian Empire.

    Sinhalese unite and stand up to Indian hedgemony.

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