WHITHER SRI LANKA vis-a-vis INDIA?
Posted on March 28th, 2016

By India-Watcher

The recent unheralded entry of the Indian High Commissioner into the raucous and increasingly heated political debate raging now in Sri Lanka about the benefits of the ETCA to our country, and also his simultaneous and uncalled for outburst in a public forum, replete with derogatory personal remarks against the respected former Foreign Minister, who has ably represented Sri Lanka over the last two decades, demands explanations as to its genesis, timing, need for it, as well his and India’s motivation; especially since it does not appear from the public record that our government deemed it appropriate to call for the High Commissioner’s explanation a la  President Premadasa in the Chilicot affaire, when we had a more united and self-confident regime which spoke with one strong voice and retaliated swiftly at the first whiff of British political interference.

It was reported on 16 March that the Joint Opposition claimed that the High Commissioner had “clearly lost sight of his official mandate in Sri Lanka…and questioned whether his public utterances were at all consistent with the proper role of a diplomat and the basics of protocol…being seen as a partisan political actor involving himself in public political debate on contentious domestic issues”.

Also, a large number of respected university academics have recently  “registered their vehement protest against the High Commissioner for overstepping the limits of diplomatic propriety, and urged the Government to declare him persona non grata”. They denounced his conduct as preposterous. The issue arises whether India recently extending short-term bridging finance of over $1 billion to fill our near empty treasury has silenced the powers that be! However, for some inexplicable reason the whole incident seems to have missed official attention, but the regional significance of the event should not be discounted.

Since the current incident is fairly uncommon in the annals of our own or even global diplomatic history, it is both fitting and important to probe the context in which such deviant and undiplomatic conduct can be expected from a very senior High Commissioner who obviously knew the established rules of diplomatic conduct in the accredited country only too well. And in referring to the former Minister’s religious practices, the offensive intrusion into his personal life clearly descended beyond the pale!

First, India-watchers will remember that whenever in our recent history, the local milieu appeared divided or confused, India always took the low road and openly displayed its dominant position over this small island country. While there were many such instances during our armed conflict with terrorism, from the ”parippu” drop to openly consorting with the terrorists, the latest was the reported vetoing of Sri Lanka’s plans to purchase fighter planes from another neighbour, who was very helpful in our civil war effort. Did we then instantly concede our sovereignty to India? Also, SAARC becomes irrelevant when Indian interests collide with those of any other neighbouring country!

Second, history shows that in times of some confusion here, Indian diplomats emerge who wield the full weight of a nuclear-armed sub-continent of 1.5 billion people, no longer non-aligned in its foreign policy, but kow-towing to the West, mainly for security reasons. The mid-1980s come to mind and the prophetic “Sri Lanka is our backyard to do what we like” Dixit philosophy, which has just been demonstrated in full flight by another ‘Viceroy’ type, with at least the implicit authorization of New Delhi! Otherwise, this incident would not have happened.

Third, it is common knowledge that Indian diplomats (as well as their top bureaucrats) are finely trained and groomed for overseas assignments, that their ingrained discipline will not certainly allow this sort of conduct to occur vis-a-vis India’s closest neighbour or anywhere else, unless it is directed from or endorsed by their political superiors in New Delhi. Any similar unauthorized deviation from established policy would have been swiftly penalized – and that has also not happened.

Fourth, it is of course now confirmed history that India has even done much worse to completely derail Sri Lanka’s development in the past thirty some years. The Indian publication India Today itself carried graphic photos taken in India during the armed conflict with the LTTE terrorists, which documented and made abundantly clear the true story of financing, training, refuge and encouragement given by the then Prime Minister of India herself, ably supported by RAW (Indian Intelligence), to convert a rag-tag band of a few troublemakers into a fully-fledged terrorist fighting force which conquered our territory, assassinated the country’s leaders and laid havoc to the country and its people during a three decade civil war. Unfortunately, all this scheming also led to her own son’s untimely death, and changed the course of India’s history!

Only a few days ago, a perceptive contemporary analyst of the war scene referred in another newspaper to “India’s despicable role in sponsoring terrorism here”. He goes on to add that a very senior Indian diplomat then based here regularly consorted with the terrorist leader during the conflict, and turned around “in 2013 and called for an investigation into alleged atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan military during the final phase of the Vanni offensive….Having funded half a dozen terrorist groups, India finally established the TNA (now leading the Opposition!) to protect the then EPRLF provincial administration….India could never absolve itself of destabilizing a friendly country”.

Despite giving invaluable assistance to the terrorists and sustaining the terrorist war, without making amends, India then collaborated with the West, the so-called vaunted ‘international community’, which also lacks ‘clean hands’, in hauling up Sri Lanka before the UNHRC, where the civil war’s victor is being now charged with human rights violations! The charge is so limited in time that the IPKF’s own destructive anti-civilian campaign in Sri Lanka’s north is exempt from inquiry! It is appropriate to mention here that India has itself nursed a festering wound in Kashmir from it’s independence with numerous casualties, having reneged on an agreement to call a referendum; has been accused of tolerating the mass massacre of Muslim nationals in Gujarat early in this century, and of Naxalite terrorists for decades! Global morality dictates different norms for the elephant as compared with the mouse!

So, the historical context was clearly not a bed of roses for the two neighbours to lie in! The terrorists returned India’s favours by assassinating her elected Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi! From about that time, bilateral  relations have waxed and waned depending on who was in power in the two capitals, but sporadic and planned Indian interference in Sri Lanka’s business has always been par for the course.

Every single open and public incursion related above impinges on Sri Lanka’s state sovereignty, and is very significant since they collectively set the stage for the most unequal relationship between a nuclear-armed sub-continent of over one billion people and a tiny island democracy, which has at times been compelled in the past to survive as an “independent” country only at India’s dispensation.

In conclusion, the High Commissioner’s recent speech, ongoing trade and economic negotiations, the suspected infiltration of illegal Indian residents, the large Indian business presence symbolized by IOC and now the ambulance service, and the Mody proposal for a tunnel-bridge between the two countries, already publicly supported by ADB, provokes this writer to venture a prediction after a prolonged association with India and these bilateral issues, that the very long-range perspective plan being relentlessly pursued in New Delhi, into which every single Indian move fits in, may one day come to pass, to indeed geographically unite these two neighboring countries first, as a prelude to a later permanent ‘arrangement’, (following the Sikkim and Bhutan precedents?) since there does not seem to be any open outrage or violent opposition in our country to India’s past and current moves in that direction. Throughout history, the strong have overwhelmed the weak, and we can only read the tea leaves, and wait for Sri Lanka to wake up before it is too late!

3 Responses to “WHITHER SRI LANKA vis-a-vis INDIA?”

  1. LANKAPUTHRA Says:

    The author should focus a little fact. What if Pakistan didn’t have the BOMB? Ha! by now SL will be a sub-state of Tamil Nadu.

  2. nilwala Says:

    Excellent analysis by India Watcher on ‘India vis-a-vis Sri Lank’a and the sneaky animosity shown to Sri Lanka by the “big brother” neighbour, over so many recent decades, not to speak of the plunderous incursions throughout History. In recent times, what India has burdened Sri Lanka with through its support of the LTTE should be publicized through the writings of Indians themselves such as the India Today articles re Indira Gandhi’s training of the Tigers.

    When will Sri Lankans awake to what is going on together with quite a bit of traitorous help from some of the Yahapalanas?? Isn’t it time that Bilateral Agreements were debated and voted on in Parliament TO OBTAIN A 2/3 MAJORITY BEFORE they are signed?

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Good article here. We note that INDIA & TAMIL NADU especially tend to be ignored by Sri Lankans – presumably because the problems they create are too vast to handle ?

    AGREE with Nilwala’s comment.

    One query :

    How will the new arrangement in Parliament turning it into Constitional Assembly (4th April), affect any 2/3rds Vote to protect the country from foreign interference etc. ?

    ———-

    Because of Tamil Caste Wars in the North, the Cold War, and INDIA’s backing and training of the LTTE, Lanka is now left to ‘gaze into tea leaves’ (as the author says here), to read the future. I might add that the political infighting is also at its worst right now, with CBK back in Lanka to ‘claim her heritage’ to the SLFP, and oust all other able leaders.

    – It is in INDIA’s interests to have a balanced and independent Lanka.
    – Lanka has been loyal to INDIA but now the ‘divide & rule’ folk are set to take over ?
    – EX-COLONISTS seem all set to take the back door to INDIA – it is in INDIA’s interests to help Lanka recover her balance in every way possible with local internal strength, not through borrowed personnel and borrowed $s.
    – Repeating the Dixit type approach is a no-no – did not work then and will not work now. Einstein said that repeating the same experiment and expecting a different result is called ‘insanity’.

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