International Relations and Security: Moving forward with India
Posted on May 12th, 2013

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, MP Courtesy The Daily News 

With regard to the collapse of relations with India in the eighties, the reasons are clear enough. If anyone doubted the corrosive effect of President Jayewardene’s Cold War adventurism, the Annexe to the Indo-Lankan Accord makes crystal clear what India feared. At the time the Liberal Party regretted the fact that we should have acknowledged Indian supremacy over our foreign relations, but we also said that, without spelling this out, we should always have acted on the assumption that we could not afford to alienate India. We have also always pointed out that, for its part, when it did not feel threatened, India had usually displayed towards Sri Lanka a generosity and understanding that were not always a feature of its relations with its other neighbours.

Foreign policy

Why then have we found India ranged against us at the UN Human Rights Council, in 2012 as well as in 2013? How has it happened that, whereas in 2012 there was no certainty until towards the very end as to how India would vote, in 2013 India was under pressure to make the resolution brought by the US even more stringent?


UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva

All this happened despite the fact that, in February 2012, India assured us that she would vote in our favour. Unfortunately, contrary to her request that this be kept confidential, this commitment was promptly trumpeted aloud. There is some uncertainty now about who actually let the cat out of the bag. When I told Mahinda Samarasinghe that he had made a mistake in announcing the fact, he assured me that he had not been responsible. This is not unlikely, given the massive numbers the Ministry had decided to send to Geneva, all of them generals convinced that they knew best how to conduct foreign policy.

Sadly, there has been no inquiry into what actually happened, and why we made such an expensive mess of things in 2012.

Predictably the announcement that India would support us led to massive agitation in Tamil Nadu. Whereas without such an announcement the Indian Foreign Policy establishment could have worked discreetly to support us, whilst also advising us on the way forward, as had happened in 2009, they were faced with a major crisis. This became worse when our High Commissioner in Delhi was accused of having insulted Tamil Nadu politicians.

Tamil Nadu politicians

I could not imagine that a professional diplomat could have made such a mistake, and I have since been assured that he was misquoted. But the damage had been done, and he was then quoted as having virtually apologized in a clarification, which allowed the Tamil Nadu politicians to agitate even more forcefully. Meanwhile we failed to respond forcefully to the latest Channel 4 diatribe against us, which allowed even more emotion to be whipped up in India.

It was not surprising then that India finally announced that it would vote against us.

Of course there are those who argue that India was determined anyway to do us down, and the assurance given in February was not serious. I do not think that is the way Indian diplomacy works, though it is conceivable that the positive approach towards Sri Lanka which generally prevails in the Ministry was under attack in other quarters.

Assuming that to be the case, and that other imperatives were as important in changing the Indian stance as the agitation in Tamil Nadu, we should have studied the situation and worked out how to overcome it.

In the first place, we must understand that India must face great difficulties in dealing with Sri Lanka simply because they have no idea with whom they have to deal. More than once they have spoken to the President, and expressed themselves satisfied with the understandings that were reached, only to find that those understandings were repudiated.

Provincial Councils

What is depressing about this is that a little frank discussion would allow us readily to achieve consensus that would overcome the objections of extremists in both countries. Though obviously the political compulsions of Tamil Nadu are more worrying to the Indian government than the emotions of those elements in the Sri Lankan government that disagree with the commitments the President has made, India understands the need to work tactfully in a coalition government.

We could therefore, while affirming the principle of Provincial Councils, bring in the very minor changes necessary to assuage fears on either side, about possible separatism and about possible domination by the Centre.

We could also, studying both the Indian and the South African models, strengthen local government, which would make clear our commitment to empowering people, and allowing them command of their own lives, without perpetuating dependency upon central or regional politicians.

This requires some simple discussion, but it must be frank and productive.

7 Responses to “International Relations and Security: Moving forward with India”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    SELF CONTRADICTING STATEMENTS.

    1 —— “We could therefore, while affirming the principle of Provincial Councils, bring in the very minor changes necessary to assuage fears on either side, about possible separatism and about possible domination by the Centre.”

    TNA runs the north PC. SLMC runs the East PC.

    2 —— “We could also, studying both the Indian and the South African models, strengthen local government, which would make clear our commitment to empowering people, and allowing them command of their own lives, without perpetuating dependency upon central or regional politicians.”

    TNA voters run local government in north!!
    SLMC voters run local government in east!!

    So we are going to have TWO ENDIAN models – Provincial Councils AND local governments!! If one is not bad enough, two would be worse!

    It is EITHER / OR. NOT every model in the world.

    We need what SUITS SL, not south African, Pakistan or Endian, etc. Why can’t our thick politicians understand that?

    Just SCRAP 13 amendment and lets have something that SUITS SL for christ’s sake.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Frankly, we DON’T NEED Provincial Councils.

    Just empower the people in local government. That is ENOUGH. We don’t need outside models for that!!

    IF moving forward with Endia means we put up with USELESS Provincial Councils, why do we need Endia? A GOOD FRIEND respects your wishes. Only a DICTATOR imposes things.

    Lets move BACKWARDS with mother Endia, back to the days of Emperor Asoka, Nehru who accepted us for what we were, NEVER imposed their government models on us!

  3. lingamAndy Says:

    Just SCRAP 13 amendment and lets have something that SUITS SL for christ’s sake.- Fully aggred with as Only Siuts SL is Two country namely Bhudissist Sinhala lanka & Saiva Thamil Eelam ! you paranki muddal !

  4. Ben Silva Says:

    I agree that we need to move forward with India and assure India that we are a friendly country. We also need to have closer links with non Tamils and inform Indians that Tamil invaders have caused much destruction in Lanka. At the same time we have to boost our defence so that we can handle any foreign aggression. We need to have links with Pakistan, China and other foreign countries. We had experience with the Portugese, Dutch, British. We do not want to replace the British with Indians. Further, we need to question if it is correct to believe in Indian myths blindly and seek extinction and give up desires. I do not think any one in their right mind want to have such depressed beliefs. Even Indians do not believe in such ideas anymore. We need to learn to be efficient and be able to compete with any one. We cannot do that if we have a depressed mind set, wanting to give up desires and seeking extinction (Nirvana).

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Agree with Lorenzo : “We don’t need PCs”.

    Use the District as the Unit of Governance plus a top class SLAS and Gramiya Councils and any other grass roots organizations.
    This is more than enough for a small country like Sri Lanka. Indian sub-states are almost all larger than the whole of Lanka and it is therefore absurd to apply the Indian model of governance in Lanka.

    The 13-A including the PCs is the Indian model of governance hurriedly imposed on Sri Lanka during Cold War tensions. That the ltte rode on the back of the Cold War to fight the Tamil Caste Wars is evident to all now.

    India must ‘release’ Sri Lanka from the imposed 13-A for several reasons, the most obvious being that the Cold War is over.

  6. Christie Says:

    Only a fool like the writer and all that who worship Idia will beleive in India. India or Indianstrust them at your peril. Not the Prime Ministers of India are safe when it comes to Indian Intelligence Sewrvice.

    Rjiv was blown off by iuts own terrorist outfit. Shastri had a suspicious deat in Ukraine.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Ben,

    Buddhists do have aspirations and desires. Among the Buddhists, it is just that there is some sense of balance between rampant materialism and spiritual pursuits. Generally, among the Buddhists, a sense of reality pervades approaches to daily living. The Buddha laid down the householders path quite clearly. There is nothing about ‘giving up desires’ in those suggestions. On the contrary, good guidance is given in the Teachings on how to live in peace and happiness. Peace is Happiness, in the truest sense.

    The Buddha taught how to pursue Happiness (ultimate goal of ‘desires’), without harming oneself or others.

    That India ‘lost’ Buddhism was due to repeated invasions. Invaders not welcome in any peace loving country – one can lose the core teaching of any religion due to invaders.

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