YAHAPALANA AND INDIA Part 4
Posted on May 22nd, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

India   has regional ambitions and is alarmed by the arrival of China, the emerging superpower,    into what India considers to be India’s sphere of influence. China is entering the Indian Ocean with its OBOR. Also China says it is a part of South Asia, it shares borders with Pakistan, India and Nepal.

China has never been frightened of India. China sees India as a land of irreconcilable socio-religious cleavages, unstable polity and weak leadership. ‘TIME’ says China views India with disdain. China thinks India can be easily dissolved into its composite, regional parts.

In the last three decades, China has overtaken India in economic performance. The Indian economy is one fifth of China and the defence budget is way below.  In 2011, admirers said India has a superior economic model to China. Its companies are very strong, better managed than China’s.  It has Infosys, Tata and Wipro, which dominate the off shore IT service industry. India operates core manufacturing and service business in advanced economies and Indian managers can compete with foreign top CEOs in the most demanding markets.

One year later, in 2012, Murthy, Founder of Infosys, said that the world expected a lot of us, but we have fallen far short of the expectations. Earlier chief executives mentioned India once every three time China was mentioned, now if China is mentioned 30 times, India is not mentioned even once.

India is now   in danger of being outrun in its own neighborhood. China has undertaken large-scale port development projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka as part of its String of Pearls” strategy. These pearls are a necklace  of naval choke points around India.  The Indian Navy holds an edge at present but it may not for long, as China is rapidly developing its naval power, said retired Major General Karkar. Agni V is no surprise to China either. India has been working on developing this capacity for a number of decades. China possesses nuclear capability to target most Indian cities.

China is now militarily active in the Indian Ocean. China and Nepal began their first-ever joint military exercises in April 2017. The Chinese Minister of Defense was present as the inauguration. China is selling weapons to countries that surround India, Pakistan has recently purchased eight Chinese-made submarines, while Bangladesh bought two. These submarines will,  regulate India’s naval activities because the Indian Navy must have sufficient ships to maintain regular oversight over the locations and purposes of other countries submarines, said observers. India objected to Sri Lanka purchasing a Chinese built JY-11 3Dradar system in 2007,  on the grounds that it would ‘overarch’ into Indian air space.

India has decided to ‘oppose’ China. India boycotted China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) summit in Beijing in May 2017. India announced that it has “serious reservations” about China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan. India had earlier protested to Beijing over the USD 46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),  saying it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, India has prudently joined the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor.

India is  deeply concerned about China’s   cozy relationship with Sri Lanka. India fears that China will win over Sri Lanka   and therefore does not want Sri Lanka to have anything to do with China. India’s National Security Adviser,  Doval wanted all Chinese funded infrastructure projects stopped.  He had said so on several occasions to the former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.  India   says China is carrying out “military intervention in the guise of trade”.

India wanted  the Port City project   stopped.  A Chinese presence in Colombo port was a threat to India’s security.  India  also demanded that Sri Lanka take over Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT), a joint venture between China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited (CMPH) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). India is greatly alarmed by the current Yahapalana deal with China on the Hambantota Port. India   wants Sri Lanka to have full control of Hambantota port.

The two visits of Chinese submarines  to the Colombo harbor during the Rajapakse government  greatly upset India. The explanation that the submarines were on their way to the eastern Indian Ocean to join in anti piracy activity and were routine calls on Colombo did not improve matters.  There were diplomatic protests from India when  the first Chinese submarine  docked at the International Container Terminal in the Colombo Port in November 2014. India had not been notified. Indo Lanka agreement of 1987 had included a promise that Sri Lanka would not let foreign powers use its ports for military use in a way prejudicial to India.

Now another problem has arisen. India plans to sign a new FTA with Sri Lanka, known as the ECTA. But it appears that China is also going to sign a FTA with Sri Lanka . India wants to know the details of the  Chinese FTA. Chinese companies setting up manufacturing bases in Hambantota and Monaragala could use the Indian ECTA to push Chinese goods into India.

India  has  shown arrogance towards  Sri Lanka .Indian National Security adviser Doval had told Wijedasa Rajapakse in 2016, ‘Sri Lanka is a small country. You don’t need such development projects. At CHOGM in 2013 when bilateral talks were taking place between India and Sri Lanka, the  Indian delegates had suggested that Sri Lanka cancel the Tuesday night dinner scheduled for visiting official delegations, in order  to continue the talks with India. Sri Lanka had flatly refused to do so.

But now, in 2017, with China getting  a firm hold  in Sri Lanka , India  finds that it has to change its tune.   In addition to showing arrogance and asserting its superiority, India now  has to woo and placate Sri Lanka as well.  It is now singing a second song alongside the first.  The relationship between our two countries is more than 2500 years old, burbled India. There is a long legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic exchange. There is a common heritage.

Examples of cultural support  were provided. ‘We have participated in the setting up of the International Buddhist Museum in Kandy, following the setting up of a similar institution at Dalada Maligawa, and the restoration of the Thirukeeteswaram Temple in Mannar. The Kapilavastu Relics were brought to Sri Lanka in 2012 by the Indian government.’ Several wrong historical facts were added , that the ‘Lanka’ in the Ramayana is Sri Lanka    and  that Odissi and Udarata dance are similar.

India said, truthfully, ‘There are some concerns that China’s interest in the Indian Ocean would undermine our own historical links and cultural ties built over centuries. What we offer is not a roar of a super power but certainly something better than being one among the several jewels, pearls or otherwise of another country’s geopolitical miscalculations.’  India also added that in ancient times, relations with China have not been good. Cheng Ho had captured the Sinhala king and taken him to China. This was  immediately challenged by the Sri Lankan intelligentsia, who gave the correct interpretation.

The media observed that no Indian Prime Minister had visited Sri Lanka in the past 28 years. The last visit was in 1987. But the current  Indian Prime Minister Modi has visited twice , in March 2015  and  May 2017. The second visit has been described as ‘a charm offensive as New Delhi seeks to reassert its influence on the island amid signs of a Chinese comeback’.

‘Last time Modi visited Sri Lanka, he made a highly symbolic trip to the war-ravaged north in a demonstration of support for Sri Lanka’s mostly Hindu Tamil minority, who share close cultural and religious ties with counterparts living in southern India. This time, he will be guest of honor at a major Buddhist festival, a move seen as aimed at winning the support of the Sinhalese majority, many of who are suspicious of India, said the media before the second visit. For Modi to visit again so soon is clearly an expression of India’s concerns about China’s deepening economic roots in Sri Lanka and the potential strategic, even military, advantages this might ultimately bring, the media added.

As usual India blundered.  In his  Wesak speech Modi said that India’s and Sri Lanka’s ‘security is indivisible’ and this annoyed many people. After Modi came and went, Udaya Gammanpila observed that Modi had utilized  the international Vesak Day celebrations to deliver a political speech in which he stepped up pressure on Sri Lanka. Premier Modi’s assertion that Sri Lanka’s security couldn’t be separated from that of India wasn’t  acceptable. Further,  Modi had declared at Dickoya, Indian plans to  provide 10,000 housing units for plantation workers and the extension of the  ambulance service  presently confined to Western and Southern Provinces to  the rest of Sri Lanka . PM Modi acted as if he was addressing people of newly established Indian state in the presence of President Sirisena and PM Wickremasinghe, concluded Gammanpila.

India has now realized that it cannot go it alone in  the Indian Ocean. It needs support. It has now  linked with USA, though USA is on the decline. US President Trump and  India’s Prime Minister Modi  have resolved that the ‘US and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism.’  Trump  said the US considers India “a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world.”

On taking office, Trump had   called New Delhi before calling Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo or any of the European capitals. Modi is listed as one of the  TIME’s 100 most influential people for 2017 and his name appears on the cover of the magazine too. The five Indian-American Congress members in the USA were nominated to influential Congressional panels. There are huge US investments in India.

This India-US link is nothing new. Indian Prime Minister Nehru had written to USA and UK during the India-China war of 1962, asking for   military assistance. Nehru asked for 350 combat aircraft with crews, almost a separate air force of its own.   US President Kennedy had planned to give India a USD 500 million military aid package which included an US-India air defense progamme and aid to developing armed divisions for the Himalayas.  The India-USA link did not end there. It is now known  that USA  was involved in the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.

There are several military agreements between India and USA  today. India and USA have agreed to give access to each other’s military bases. They can make changes to each other’s facilities in a way that it allows for easier conduct of military exercises and cooperation pertaining to geospatial intelligence requiring sharing information on maps and satellite imaging for defence purposes. There is a special unit in Pentagon for India, and   Indian Defence minister Parrikar had visited Washington six times in 2016 to discuss matters. There are also agreements on nuclear facilities and joint naval exercise with US.

There have been hiccups. USA said in 2010 that India will be a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and  beyond, once its military capabilities are increased. India can do so in cooperation with USA.  But India at that time, said  it does not want this role. USA ignored this.

India will play a critical role in resolving global challenges, said John Kerry at  the Indian institute of Technology, Delhi in 2016. US Pacific Command chief  visited India in 2016  and spoke of a quadrilateral security dialogue between India, Japan, Australia and USA. But India  refused  this too. India  also  rejected a US proposal for joint patrolling of Asia-Pacific region to counter China.  India will participate in joint naval exercises, that is all.

But in April 2017, Gen H.R. McMaster, US National Security advisor visited India, emphasized the importance of US-India strategic relationship and reaffirmed India’s designation as a major defence partner. Prime Minister Modi spoke of the importance attached by both sides to the strategic partnership and to stepping up India-US engagements across the board.

All these developments point to ominous prospects for the future of the South Asian region, said Kamal Wickremasinghe , with India propping up the declining economic power of America, possibly with the help of UK and other European countries,.  Facing them will be Pakistan, backed by the growing economic might and the strength of union between China and Russia.

4 Responses to “YAHAPALANA AND INDIA Part 4”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    And Japan.

    I can’t understand why JAPAN wants to get into this dirt. Now I see JAPAN as another TAMIL ELAM supporter despite NOT having ANY Tamil Madu diaspora.

    During Run-nil’s previous term JAPAN promised $4 billion to SL IF we have permanent peace with TERRORISTS!!

    Then there is LTTE sympathiser YASHUSHI AKASHI!!

    What is going on????

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    SL is fast becoming another SYRIA – a superpower and lesser power PLAYGROUND.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    In addition to all the detailed information given by Kamalika, INDIA has signed 10 Border Peace Agreements with China. Also, INDIA’s main Trade Partners are China & USA, in that order. It appears that INDIA has covered her bases.

    If INDIA wants some of Lanka’s friendship, Lanka ought to be allowed to cancel the 13-A which was forced under Duress (therefore illegal), on the JRJ govt in 1987, even though it was done with US knowledge (per article here).

    As INDIA trained the LTTE in Tamil Nadu : How does INDIA propose to pay off the damage done by the terrorist LTTE, the near 30 yrs of death & desruction, loss of funds, property & reputation, in Lanka ?
    How do the Tamil Leaders of Lanka propose to undo the same damage to Lanka ?
    We suggest that true PATRIOTISM to Lanka by Tamils of Lanka may pay off part of the damage.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    At present, what seems also very important in Lanka to INDIA appears to be Lanka’s PORTS.

    The fact that about 80% of INDIA’s heavier container goods are being accommodated for transport through the Lanka Ports as the INDIAN sea ports waters are too shallow with the exception of the Andra Port, is proof positive that Lanka PORTS are important to INDIA …..

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