Who’s afraid of India and USA?
Posted on July 18th, 2012

H. L. D. Mahindapala

I wish to begin by welcoming the initiative of the convenors of the National Organisations’ Conference aimed at focusing on the impending threat of imposing 13 + under Indian, American, NGO and the separatist lobbies, both in Sri Lanka and abroad. It is the latest front organised to combat the anti-Sri Lankan forces in NGOs, foreign separatist and diplomatic lobbies, the UNP-TNA combination, the Tamil wing of the divided Catholic Church and other allied groups.

This move is timely because there is a  well founded fear of the  GOSL caving in under local, regional and international pressures. Private and public utterances of some ministers indicate that there is an influential section in the Cabinet whispering “13 +” obscenities in the ear of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Some ministers and MPs have declared in private that there is nothing wrong in handing over the north to the “13 Plus-ists” because most of it is covered in forests. Some have even declared that the coastline consists only of sand and therefore there is no harm in giving it away. There is  also a lobby even within the government ranks which believes that  in the current phase, overshadowed by the US-sponsored UNHRC Resolution, appeasement is the only way to win the so-called “international community” (read the West) and keep them in our good books.  Undoubtedly, maintaining cordial relations with the West, the East and the rest  is a pragmatic aim but this should not be at the cost of surrendering the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity  to bulling Big Brothers.

In the swing of the UNHRC resolution a campaign has been launched by the anti-Sri Lankan forces to drive into the national psyche the fear of an apocalyptic end. TNA and the anti-Sri Lanka lobby  are whipping up a campaign, domestically and internationally, to feed this  “onna-babo-bili-enawa” fear with the sole aim of pushing  GOSL into granting their demands. “Give in or else…” is the common theme of the threat posed by TNA -UNP and NGO lobbies. This is the same lobby that created the fear of the “invincible Tigers”. Creating fear psychosis has been a common tactic of the anti-SriLankan lobbies. Of course, all this reveals the level of thinking of our  political pundits and prime decision-makers operating at the highest level. 

But there is reason to be alert. After the  Mahinda Rajapakse gaffe on  ” 13+ ”  it seems that even the Rajapakse brothers  — the last defence —  are not quite sure of where they stand. The fear is that they too may cave in if the politico-economic situation deteriorates.

The threat, however, is not in the non-binding resolution passed by the UNHRC. The threat comes  primarily from India manipulated by the Tamil lobby in Sri Lanka and S. India.Their primary motive is to regain the upper hand they lost in Nandikadal. They are openly insisting on going back to the basics  of  the failed Vadukoddai Resolution  — a fatal move that must necessarily end in Vadukoddai violence. R. Sampanthan, the TNA leader, is trying to play down the violence embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution purely for international consumption. Their overall tactic in  the current phase is to put pressure on GOSL through India and the Tamil diaspora manipulating USA. Their immediate goal is to get 13+. Their long-term goal is to get Eelam after getting 13+. Their hidden agenda is to go down the Chelvanayakam path of carrying the gun inside the Gandhian garb. Now as then (the pre-Nandikadal period), the tactic is to pose as non-violent activists for external consumption while pursing the violent military solution contained in the Vadukoddai Resolution. 

Clearly, “13 A” has reached a critical point and the future depends on whether “13 A” will remain as it is, or go up to 13+. But, as everyone knows, “13 A” has failed and has become a part of the problem instead of being the solution. So what chances are there for “13+” to succeed? Besides, it has solved neither the problems of Sri Lanka nor India. It offers no prospects of settling the core issues in the future either. Furthermore, TNA wants 13+ not as a final solution but only as a stepping stone to the next level.  

In any case, it was initially imposed by the Indians to serve and further the  hegemonic interests of India — not Sri Lankans. It is also universally accepted that solutions exported from India to the region — from Kashmir to Sri Lanka — have been total disasters. So the best solution that India can do is to keep its messy hands out of Sri Lanka.  Kashmir, for instance, has been on the UN agenda from day one of the UN (1948). If  India is so smart in prescribing solutions for Sri Lanka why doesn’t it solve its own problems before rushing into places that angels fear to tread? 

India’s stand-over tactics  — a common practice of India in dealing with all its neighbours — has not enhanced India image in the region nor helped to strengthen India’s  SAARC relations in the region. The more it bullies the small nations  the more it drives them into the hands of its enemies. India, in this sense, is its worst enemy. India’s capacity to turn friends into enemies is unlimited. The “13 A”, for instance, was naked neo-imperialism forced down the throat with threats of regime change.  Some ministers, concocting excuses for India, have the audacity to say in public fora that India came at the invitation of Sri Lanka. Pah!.

Sri Lanka is also India’s first graveyard abroad. If the military operation in creating Bangladesh, defeating Pakistan, is considered as India’s greatest military victory then the IPKF operation in Jaffna is India’s biggest disaster. The Jaffna Tamils who first welcomed them rejected the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and ganged up against India. It is the Tamils who killed 1700 India IPKF forces and eventually killed Rajiv Gandhi the father of the 13th Amendment. Like all imperialist adventures — Soviet Russians in Afghanistan, Americans in Vietnam etc.,  — India stepped in believing that it can impose its  political will by force. But it had to run away  from Sri Lanka with its tail between its legs.

In political, economic and military terms “13 A” has not brought any dividends to India.  It  has only exacerbated the ethnic tensions and alienated Sri Lankans at the grassroot levels. And yet they insist on pushing for “13+”. Can the Indians guarantee that this  revised  formula will solve their problem, the problem of the Tamils who are demanding it, and the problems arising from it to Sri Lanka?  In case 13+ is granted can India guarantee that they will not back any further demands  for “self-determination”  from the TNA and their allies in Tamil Nadu ? India is playing the same old game of  other big power using domestic separatists,  irredentists, or disaffected groups, to further their hegemonic objectives. By and large,  these short-sighted strategies have boomeranged on India. In fact, the whole of SAARC is bogged down, unlike other regional blocs that had  taken off, because of the failure of Indian foreign policies. India’s attempt to pose as the regional super power, demanding total obedience from the regional neighbours, is  one of the primary factors that is destabilizing the region and stalling the progress of SAARC.

Despite its arrogant grand standing in the region, India has shown time and again that it cannot stand on its own as a regional super power. Though India poses as Super Cop (Big Bully?) in the region it goes cap in hand to the big powers to protect its own security, territorial integrity and to ward of threats from its real or perceived enemies. First, it was clinging on to the skirts of USSR when they perceived America was their potential enemy. After it imploded and collapsed India is now hanging on to coattails of Uncle Sam as insurance against possible threats from China.  

Take  also the case of UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka.  It was not a victory for India that claims to have a big clout in the international arena.  It is by teaming up with Uncle Sam that India was able to push it against Sri Lanka with great difficulty.  

In the  Asian region India could not get the votes it needed to side with her anti-Sri Lankan move. India also took the Western route, using Uncle Sam as it’s cat’s paw in UNHRC, because both US and India knew that they could not push their anti-Sri Lankan line at the Security Council — the strategic point that really matters in global affairs.  Nor could do they win against Sri Lanka if they went alone at UNHRC. Only when the ganged up did these big powers feel confident of winning against tiny Sri Lanka. Of late the outlook for the West and India have worsened at the UN. After the West used the UN for regime change in Libya both Russia and China are very wary of allowing the West to  use UN channels against other countries . Example: Syria. So India scored only a pyrrhic victory in Geneva. 

India’s alienation from  the region was quite apparent. India’s backstabbing at the UNHRC can be dismissed as a pre-emptive strike to keep Sri Lanka in line with India. But was it worth it? Can India be trusted ever as a friend and a good neighbour after its betrayal in Geneva? Doesn’t this indicate that India is acting against Sri Lanka not out of strength but out fear of Sri Lanka moving away from her?

India also has this fatalistic tendency to hitch its wagon to losers. For instance, India trained, financed, directed and manoeuvred the Tamil terrorists on its soil aiming to destabilize Sri Lanka. What did India gain? It antagonized Sri Lanka. It did not win the gratitude from the Tamil terrorists it trained. Nor did it win the goodwill of Sri Lankans ? Besides, it is the terrorists whom they sponsored and trained in Punjab and Sri Lanka that targeted with deadly accuracy the mother and son respectively.  Also what gratitude has India earned from Bangladesh, its bogus sea adventure in the Maldives, its  disaster in Kashmir, or its botched military fiasco in Sri Lanka?

Right now India is struggling to ride  three horses  — Tamil Nadu, TNA and GOSL — at the same time . None of them is happy with India’s wobbly equestrian stunts. The suspicions and the hostility of India’s role is expressed more virulently in the Tamil media (particularly Tamil websites) than in the mainstream media in  Sri Lanka.  The Tamils who are committed to a separate state know that India will not support their demand unless it serves India’s interests. Right now it is not in India’s interests to back the Tamil separatists.  Besides,  in the current geo-political scenario, India can  hope to divide Sri Lanka only with military force – a venture that is doomed to fail unlike in Bangladesh. Moreover,  India has invested too much in Sri Lanka and is bound to provoke a backlash against its expanding economic empire if Delhi pushes too hard politically against its economic interests in Sri Lanka. At some point Sri Lanka is bound to say enough is enough. India cannot hope to depend forever on its fake front of friendship, or its big stick to keep Sri Lanka within its sphere of influence.

The Chinese factor too should be factored into the regional equation of calculating how far India can push Sri Lanka.  India should also open its eyes to measure the the covert and overt hostility of the Tamils towards India. For instance, on the grapevine it is known that LTTE agents in Channel 4 are behind the exposure of India’s criminal role in Kashmir. In the end, as in the IPKF misadventure, India will end up with having neither the Tamils nor the Sinhalese.  

It is against this background that India has renewed its interventionist tactics in Sri Lanka. India  has not gained from  this tactic in the past. Nor will it gain in the future. It is plainly counter-productive. Besides, Sri Lanka is not an easy nut for India to crack. RAW should know that Rajiv Gandhi was hammered in the south.  However, it is the north that took the extreme step taking him out of the political equation. India has not received any gratitude from either side. Nor can it hope to get any in the future if it pursues its counter-productive interventionism. Right now India is pressuring Sri Lanka playing on the gaffe of Mahinda Rajapakse 13+. In that case, Sri Lanka also must insist on India’s pledges of non-interference and accepting home-grown solutions, particularly because Indian solutions have not worked and will not work.  

Since India’s political, military and diplomatic interventions have failed in the past India should not risk rushing headlong across the Palk Straits once again. India must  tread the waters very warily. Besides, with the slow death of the old global order and the rapid rise of the new order in the East,  India needs its neighbours more than  the neighbours needing  India. In the case of Sri Lanka, neither India nor USA can defeat the internal strength of the Sri Lankan people backing President Mahinda. Sri Lanka also has the option of swinging either West or East. It is the meddlesome Indians who have been pushing Sri Lanka away from India. She will have to pay dearly if her unwanted interventions should push Sri Lanka to seek protection from India’s enemies.  What is more, in the new geo-political order India does not have the capacity to engage in gun-boat diplomacy as it did against J. R. Jayewardene , who caved into Indian pressure.  

The reality facing Indians  is clear: the more  they decide  to intervene the more they strengthen the hands of the Rajapakse government. Harsh V. Pant from the Department of Defence Studies in King’s College in London put  it succinctly when he told The Washington Post (July 13, 2012): “The Sri Lanka government have the wind in their sails, and they want to define the future of their country on their own terms…… It is going to be very difficult for outsiders like India and America to influence anything domestically.”  The coming provincial council elections will confirm this. The electoral results will also confirm that India can’t plant its puppet if it is contemplating regime change.

So who’s is afraid of India or USA?

Finally, if India fails to grasp the essence and the gravity of  Pant’s analysis then it’s time for the Indian High Commission in Colombo to pack up and go back to Delhi.

3 Responses to “Who’s afraid of India and USA?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    However, the government always gives into India after 2009. IIFA, CEPA, 13A/13P, KKS, demilitarization, etc. This is a tragedy.

    UPFA is heading for a historical defeat in the Eastern Province this year. With 42% of the Eastern Province being Muslims today and SLMC contesting alone, UPFA stands little chance of winning. Sinhala votes are devided between UPFA and UNP+JVP. Tamil votes are divided between TNA, UPFA and UNP. Although Muslim votes are also divided, they join the winning party after the vote unlike TNA and UNP.

    Eastern province must have a Muslim Chief Minister not a Tamil Chief Minister. Otherwise clashes will erupt further damaging the government. A Muslim Chief Minister will be a big headache to India. Strategically important Trincomalee falls under the Eastern provincial council which was always led by pro-Indians from Perumal to Pillayan. If the government fails to appoint a Muslim Chief Minister by dirty tricks as in 2007, UPFA will be opposed by SLMC in other PCs and whip up separatism in the east. That will also erode the two thirds in parliament. The government is in a soup for giving into India.

    What this government needs now is an eye opening defeat. Not more power. Even with the two thirds, it failed to do anything good for the country and more power is certainly dangerous.

  2. myopinion24 Says:

    This is better i follow , understand and agree

  3. AnuD Says:

    Either president is not listening to advisers and he does what ever he wants OR advisers are dishonest people who really don’t care about Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka will NEVER win making USA, INDIA or Tamils happy. On other hand, Sri Lanka cannot sideline USA or INDIA and live a happy life too. With those two, it is only a never ending CHESS game.

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