Will Modi choose Mahinda over Maithri as Ranil treads his way towards China’s OBOR?
Posted on May 14th, 2017

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON Courtesy  Ceylon Today

The Tamils of Indian origin of the hill-country, treated as the children of a lesser God, for many decades, finally were able to grab the attention of those in the North, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting them on Friday (12).

Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the estate sector and meet the communities and the political leadership whose roots are in India. Before Modi, it was Sri Jawaharlal Nehru who spent a two-week holiday in Nuwara Eliya with his wife Kamala and daughter Indira in 1931 interacting with estate workers.

Tamils of Indian origin who have contributed to the economy of this country for years through their blood and sweat, remain insignificant, though the politicians representing them have remained as the ‘king makers’ in Sri Lankan politics.

With Prime Minister Modi deciding to visit the plantation sector as a result of negotiations of their political leaders, one of the most common dilemmas faced by the estate workers got at least temporarily addressed.

Modi, despite the fact that it is always the Northern Tamils that calls for Indian intervention is solving their matters, seemed to have deviated from the practice to visit tea estate workers as he could relate to them much easier than to the other descendents.

He did not forget to mention his linkage when he addressed a packed, cheering crowd at Norwood in Hatton.

“You and I have something in common. As some of you may have heard, I have a special association with tea,” Indian Premier said referring to his earlier days where he helped his father at his small tea-shop as a chai (tea) boy.

People of the area mainly of Hatton, Dickoya and Norwood have had one life-threatening problem for many years that they wanted authorities to address. It was not about devolution of power or anything of the sort. They simply wanted the authorities to come-up with a solution to get rid of hornets’ nests and wasps’ nests, in order to protect their lives.

Even though they were ignored for years, Modi’s visit came as a blessing in disguise as authorities along with Police on orders by the IGP Pujith Jayasundara launched an operation last Sunday to remove hornets’ and wasps’ nests found in certain parts of the estates to prevent any possible attack on the visiting dignitary.

The security units assigned with the providing of security to the Indian Premier coordinated with the Hatton SPs office and obtained the assistance of the Organization for the Protection of Bees.

With the whirling created by several helicopters making their landings, the wasps who had built their nests on the tops of large trees might have been disturbed and aimed their attacks on the large crowds or even the Indian Prime Minister himself. This in return could have created a major embarrassment to the country.

Treading trails

Though the main focus of the visit of the Indian Prime Minister was to inaugurate UN Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo, the visit gave much hype as it took place during a time when the Sri Lankan Government, which in 2015 was described as coming to power as a result of an Indian (RAW) conspiracy, has strengthened its economic ties with China.

Not only that, PM Modi arrives at a time when the voices of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe no longer sync on economic matters. While President Sirisena reiterates no economic stronghold will be given to any foreign country, PM Wickremesinghe has already entered into a MoU with India on major economic development projects.

Since 2015, Maithri-Ranil Government has clearly said no to India’s much delayed Sampur Power Plant Project, demanding it be converted into an LNG plant and has put on hold the much hopeful economic and trade pact ETCA, while going ahead with Hambantota and Colombo Port development projects with China.

These, probably would have been in the back of the mind of the Indian Premier when he addressed the gathering at the BMICH kicking off UN Vesak Day celebrations.

“I believe we are at a moment of great opportunity in our ties with Sri Lanka: An opportunity to achieve a quantum jump in our partnership across different fields. And, for us, the most relevant benchmark for the success of our friendship is your progress and success. We are committed to the economic prosperity of our Sri Lankan brothers and sisters. We will continue to invest in driving positive change and economic growth to deepen our development cooperation. Our strength lies in sharing our knowledge, capacity and prosperity. In trade and investment, we are already significant partners. We believe that free flow of trade, investments, technology, and ideas across our borders will be to our mutual benefit. India’s rapid growth can bring dividends for the entire region, especially in Sri Lanka. In infrastructure and connectivity, transport and energy,we are poised to scale up our cooperation. Our development partnership stretches across nearly every sector of human activity such as agriculture, education, health, resettlement, transport, power, culture, water, shelter, sports, and human resources,” he opined.

Today, India’s development cooperation with Sri Lanka amounts to US Dollars 2.6 billion. And, its only aim is to support Sri Lanka in realizing a peaceful, prosperous and secure future for its people: Because, the economic and social well-being of the people of Sri Lanka is linked with that of 1.25 billion Indians. Because, whether it is on land or in the waters of the Indian Ocean, the security of our societies is indivisible, PM Modi added subtly.

Before Indian Prime Minister’s visit, Wimal Weerawansa who was sharing the same stage with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the May Day Rally at Galle Face Green demanded from the public to display black flags in protest against PM Modi.

While it is not clear as to how many heeded to his demand, it was clear that his political hero did not think twice about defying it, as Rajapaksa not only held unscheduled bilateral talks with the Indian Premier, but was also seen sharing cordialities with the government politicians when he attended official celebrations held at the BMICH.

What caught many eyes was, him politely greeting his predecessor Chandrika Kumaratunga and the latter returning the gesture.

Though he was in office as the Prime Minister under President Kumaratunga, it was only not known to children in the kindergarten or primary grades that the two do not see eye to eye no matter where they come across each other. Also, Kumaratunga played a major role in bringing President Sirisena into power against Rajapaksas. It was not many days ago that she even criticized Rajapaksa for having a massive security contingent and justified the government’s move to prune it saying “when he was in power, he reduced mine”.

Let bygones be bygones

If there were any misunderstandings or heartache as baggage, both Prime Minister Modi and former President Rajapaksa set them aside when the duo came together for bilateral talks, which was out of PM Modi’s schedule.

Rajapaksa had sought a meeting with the visiting Indian leader and much to the surprise of many in the local political arena PM Modi allowed it despite having a tight schedule.

The very friendly and cordial thirty-minute meeting, according to sources, was started with Rajapaksa asking Modi whether he was too tired, like any host would ask a guest who travelled far.

The icebreaking remark came from Modi with a smile “When I see you, tiredness vanishes!” Following the meeting which was mostly on Rajapaksa emphasizing on strengthening economic ties between the two countries he tweeted “As always, a cordial meeting with PM Narendra Modi yesterday: Happy to see him in Sri Lanka for International Vesak day celebrations.”

Modi in return has assured Rajapaksa that India will not launch any project which is harmful to Sri Lanka.

According to a source present at the meeting, Modi had also inquired from Rajapaksa, about the controversies surrounding the China-executed projects such as Hambantota port.

While noting that the terms of the agreement on the port are still being negotiated Rajapaksa had also said he prefers it if the Chinese would wait for some time.

Rajapaksa is also expected to call on Modi in India in future during his visit to Thirupathi or Bodh Gaya as the Indian Premier asked him as to what kept him from coming for talks as promised back in 2015.

However, this meeting has alerted many powerful government ranks as it displayed the need by both Modi and Rajapaksa to keep close ties.

Others who were present at the meeting were Gotabaya Rajapaksa, India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Ranil off to China

Soon after Indian Prime Minister Modi left the country Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, too, left for China and was received at the Capital International Airport in Beijing yesterday.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe went to attend China’s high-profile One Belt and One Route (OBOR) summit beginning today (14).

He is expected to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Xiang on a host of bilateral issues.

Wickremesinghe’s Beijing visit is of significance as India has chosen to stay away from the summit, citing sovereignty concerns related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The summit is being organized by China to showcase its multi-billion dollar Silk Road initiative of which the US$ 50 billion CPEC connecting China’s Xinjiang with Balochistan through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a part.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 unveiled an ambitious economic and foreign policy – the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and ’21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ with the intention of reviving an ancient network of silk, land and ocean trade routes of centuries past.

It is expected to instigate an infrastructure building boom across Central Asia up to Europe to help boost trade and improve transport logistics. The land-based projects are in the belt. Various economic corridors are on the cards too, including, with Pakistan, Mongolia and Bangladesh.

One Response to “Will Modi choose Mahinda over Maithri as Ranil treads his way towards China’s OBOR?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Modi is not everything and he is yet another anti-Sri Lankan Indian leader.

    Modi should be out of his mind to trust Mahinda and everything indicates to that.

    It was not only Mahinda that Modi had an unscheduled meeting with. He also met TNA leaders in an unplanned meeting. So Mahinda is not special. The contents of the meeting are more telling. Modi had asked Mahinda about “China’s take” on events taking place. This clearly shows Modi still associates Mahinda with China. Ajit Doval also participated at the meeting which is another giveaway that Modi was behind Mahinda’s ouster via Ajit. To add insult to the injury, Modi renewed his invitation to Mahinda to visit India knowing very well Mahinda will not receive VIP reception in India as he is no longer a VIP outside Sri Lanka (Mahinda appropriately didn’t visit India after leaving high office).

    Unlike Mahinda in 2014, Ranil and Sirisena didn’t allow a Chinese submarine. A very bad decision but Modi and India are ecstatic.

    Ranil going to China (Ranil is the Lankan leader with the highest number of China visits) doesn’t affect Modi/India’s love for Ranil. He brought China to Hambantota in October 2003 in Beijing. India still put its weight behind him. Even USA and Japan participate in OBOR summit now underway in China! India understands the need for all its neighbors to participate in it.

    Modi’s choice is not between Sirisena and Mahinda; it is between Sirisena and Ranil. It will be a difficult choice but most likely Modi will pick Ranil to be the next president. Tamils with whom Modi said he shares many religious, traditional and other affinities also endorse Ranil over Sirisena.

    Mahinda did 5 strategic blunders since November 2014 – holding presidential election 2 years early, not contesting alone at the 2015 general election, not resigning from the SLFP, protesting the Hambantota deal with China and meeting Modi. I wish he hadn’t.

    I foresee a new political party contesting the next presidential and parliamentary elections led by medical, IT, business professionals and 2009 uniformed now retired military leaders and CPC/CEB and other key trade unionists. It will contest directly against the JO on a transparent patriotic platform. JVP may join in. Unless Wimal and Udaya join this party, their political future will be in jeopardy and they will continue to look like jesters.

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