INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND YAHAPALANA Part 2
Posted on November 15th, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Yahapalana is linking heavily with the US and its satellite countries. India is today the main partner of the US in the Indian Ocean. Yahapalana is pursuing India and offering it ports, (Trincomalee) airports, (Mattala) oil tanks, (Trincomalee) and industries (shoes).  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe   said Apita indiyawath oney, Oi. Apita Indiyawa tharaha karaganna behe”.  We need India, men. We cannot antagonize them.

No one sees India as the leader of South Asia.  To start with, the disunited SAARC countries do not even like India.  Also, India is   a very young sovereign state. It was created in 1947.  Sri Lanka is much older. India will balkanize eventually and that will be the end of ‘India’. But India is very much present today and   USA is using India to challenge China. India is only too willing. It wants to be the regional power in the Indian Ocean. But when you Google ‘India and China’ the first thing that appears is information on India’s unsuccessful war with China and the current India-China border disputes. You also get unflattering headlines like ‘India is overtaking China as the biggest emitter of the deadly air pollutant sulphur dioxide’

Analysts invariably comment on China’s superiority over India. India is nowhere near the level of China, economically or politically, said analysts bluntly. In 2017 China is ranked 78 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index compared with 130 for India.  An analyst commented in 2015, ‘In the past decade, China has emerged as a top exporter of goods to the region, including to India. Around 2005, China overtook India as Bangladesh’s top trading partner. China displaced many Indian goods in Bangladesh, offering cheaper Chinese products (especially cotton and other fabrics central to the garment industry) without the visa, transport, and customs challenges that had limited trade between India and Bangladesh.

Eric Margolis writing in Huffington Post in 2010 remarked, inter alia, that India has grudgingly accepted China’s 1950 takeover of Tibet and has harbored   groups dedicated to liberating Tibet. India sees the growing array of Chinese bases in Tibet as an extreme danger, said Margolis. China’s air, missile and intelligence bases in Tibet look down on the vast plains of India. Tibet controls most of the headwaters of India’s great rivers. Delhi has long feared that China may one day dam and divert their waters to China’s dry western provinces, said Margolis.

Other serious potential flashpoints exist, continued Margolis. India’s old foe, Pakistan, with whom it has fought four wars, is China’s closet ally. Beijing arms Pakistan and has built up its nuclear arms program. An Indian-Pakistan war over divided Kashmir, or an Indian intervention in a fragmenting Pakistan or Afghanistan, could draw China into the fray.  A new port in western Pakistan at Gwadar will give China port rights on the Arabian Sea.

Margolis also looked at Burma. Burma (today Myanmar), on India’s troubled eastern flank,   rent by tribal uprisings, deeply worries Delhi. Strategic Burma is rapidly becoming an important forward Chinese base. A new road links China with Burma, and provides China’s navy a badly needed port on the Andaman Sea, and thus access to the Indian Ocean.
India believes China is trying to strategically encircle it. To the west, Pakistan, to the north, Tibet, to the east, Burma, to the south, Sri Lanka, concluded Margolis.

It is clear therefore that India on its own has no grand image. Therefore the group supporting USA is busy providing a grand image for India. India is seen by this group as the leader in the Bay of Bengal. India will overtake China eventually to become a great world power, said India’s supporters. We welcome India’s strengthened relationship with the United States and increased engagement in the broader Indo-Pacific India is an emerging great power and a natural leader in the Indian Ocean region and globally said Australia.  India has shown great potential to become the second largest economy in the world by 2050   said Ranil Wickremesinghe.

By 2030, China and India are likely to swap places, with India overtaking China, said Ganeshan Wignaraja. China and India have followed similarly impressive growth trajectories in recent decades. India is a late starter. India’s economic liberalization started a decade after China.  But India’s reforms have made great strides and have begun to catch up with China. India has boosted public investment in infrastructure and other areas.  India has a youthful population under 24 years compared to China, continued Wignaraja.

Indian exports are increasingly led by more-sophisticated, skill-intensive services such as information technology, business process outsourcing (BPO) and financial services. India’s success in IT is due to its widespread use of English, supplies of high-quality graduates from Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management, falling communications costs and returning non-resident Indian investors from Silicon Valley. Some of India’s states – Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu – are becoming manufacturing hubs and linking into global supply chains said Wignaraja.

However, China’s economic policies, investment climate and supply-side conditions remain more favorable than India’s, commented Wignaraja. Accordingly, China will continue to lead India in global supply chain trade for the foreseeable future. Firms operating in China enjoy a more competitive business environment than their counterparts in India, with more market-friendly rules for business start-ups, property registration, contract enforcement and bankruptcy, added Wignaraja.

China has today become the assembly hub of sophisticated global supply chain trade in technology intensive manufactures. China had ventured into research and development in the biotech and robotics sectors as well.  China and India are similar in terms of ports, but India lags behind China in railways and electricity supply, continued Wignaraja.

Moreover, China allocates significantly more resources than India to R&D and infrastructure. China spends as much as 2.1% of GDP on R&D while India spends 0.6%, China leads in education and training. In 2016 China had 4.7 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates while India had 2.6 million. India’s tertiary enrollment rate is 27% in 2015 compared with a rate of 43% in China, concluded Wignaraja.

India was the first port of call for President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Foreign ministers, Mangala Samaraweera and Ravi Karunanayake, when they took office. President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe visited India four times each. Over the past two and a half years, there were at least 10 high level visits between India and Sri Lanka, said analysts.

Tilak Marapana, Foreign Minister, visiting Modi in New Delhi, said “It is in the fitness of things that I should come here first to call on you. India is like our elder brother”. India firmly repudiated this. What exists now is mutual cooperation, not superiority, said India. India now wants to develop its relationship with Sri Lanka on a ‘one to one basis’,  with mutual respect and open hands, respecting the sovereignty and dignity of the two countries, said   India. We want to re-do what was missing in the last 27 years. We believe our relations are not simply based on economy but on the narrative of history and culture”.

Joint military exercises between India and Sri Lanka named ‘Mitra Shakti’ have been taking place annually since 2013. In October 2014 two Chinese submarines docked in Colombo harbor for bunkering and supplies. It triggered an immediate protest from India and a visit to Colombo by Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to register India’s objections. In May 2017, Sri Lanka rejected China’s request to dock one of its submarines in Colombo for supplies on the eve of the visit to Sri Lanka by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A few weeks after the 2015 presidential election, US president Barack Obama revealed the existence of a common US-India stand on Sri Lanka, observed Shamindra Ferdinando.  Analysts have point out that since January 2015; Colombo has been visited by several Indian and US naval vessels. Joint military exercises are currently at an unprecedented level. In January 2016, Indian navy’s single aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, accompanied by a destroyer made its maiden overseas port call to Colombo. Permitting a port visit by an Indian aircraft carrier but rejecting a request for a Chinese submarine  was a sign of alignment to India.

The government’s policy of permitting aircraft carriers of India and US into Colombo harbor whilst rejecting permission for a Chinese submarine in the long term will not help in its endeavors in walking the tight-rope of balancing relations between the three powers to Sri Lanka’s benefit. The refusal also does not compare well with a visit by a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, critics said.

When Yahapalana government took over in 2015, it had no intention of ever working with China. Yahapalana was planning to sever all relations with China, and was going to link exclusively with India and America.  Sri Lanka adopted a strong, bold anti-China posture with various spokesmen condemning China.

The government acted belligerently as if it could do away with all major Chinese investments, observed analysts. Yahapalana was going to suspend the USD 1.4 billion Colombo Port City project, Hambantota port and several other Chinese funded projects, said  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe  very confidently, to the media well before the 2015 election.

But China stood firm. These were international agreements signed by two heads of state, and they could not be easily repudiated. Sri Lanka must honor its contracts with China or pay China compensation ,said China. Yahapalana‘s western allies were not prepared to pay the compensation. Sri Lanka had no choice but to bow to  China. China made both the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka come to China for discussions. They went.

The fact that Yahapalana was going to sever all relations with China, but was prevented from doing so, was   quickly pushed under the carpet.  Yahapalana immediately started to sing a new song. Yahapalana said that they were maintaining relations with China voluntarily, as a part of an enlightened foreign policy. We want to get along with both China and India” said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

USA and its satellites joined in the Yahapalana song. It is natural for Sri Lanka to turn around and embrace China again said Voice of America, but Chinese projects are not useful for the people.  The new government is wooing China while keeping India on board said pro-US analysts. Everyone in New Delhi has realized that the new Colombo government isn’t going to abandon China just like that. It has certain big infrastructure investments. If China supports the development of Sri Lanka, then there is little motivation for Sri Lanka to refuse economic support from China, said Japan. Sri Lanka wants to accept China’s economic support to support its own development, Japan added.

The public seemed to have swallowed this, but analysts have not. Sri Lanka now is busily balancing its relations with India and China, they said.  The need to balance relations with China, India and USA was an unexpected one, and one which Yahapalana of course cannot manage. Sri Lanka should not depend mainly on Chinese development assistance, which is dangerous, because Sri Lanka would not be able to craft a balanced foreign policy with India and the West, said Razeen Sally. The China factor could lead to serious problems with India for Sri Lanka, said the pro-India group. When China is building a port in Sri Lanka and their submarines visit Sri Lanka, these moves create new difficulties with India.

Japan, India and the US are worried that China will use its foothold in Sri Lanka to establish a military base. They realize that China could use Hambantota for its military ships. The Hambantota agreement is a commercial one, not government to government one Yahapalana assured. Also, China has no exclusive right to the harbor. Hambantota Port would not be turned into a military base said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Only Sri Lanka’s armed forces are allowed to carry out military activities in ports and airports.

The public may have forgotten the fact that Yahapalana could not push out China, but China has not forgotten. China does not like Yahapalana and does not bother to hide the fact. China has no intention of withdrawing from Sri Lanka.

Sichuan University, one of the 10 top universities in China, sent a delegation to Sri Lanka in April 2017. Pathfinder Foundation   met them to discuss how Sichuan University could help Sri Lanka universities. A team from Pathfinder Foundation paid a return visit. Vice President Prof. Yan Shijin  in his discussion with the visiting Pathfinder team,  emphasized the importance of heightening China-Sri Lanka relations, Sri Lanka’s role in the Belt and Road Initiative and the desire of Sichuan University  to help Sri Lankan students seeking higher education in China.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy ship Qi Ji Guang arrived at the Port of Colombo on a goodwill visit  in November, 2017.Sri Lanka Navy welcomed the visiting ship in accordance with naval traditions. A host of officials from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka and Chinese nationals living in Sri Lanka were present on the harbor premises to welcome the ship. During their five-day official visit, the crew members of Qi Ji Guang are scheduled to participate in a number of training exercises and sporting events organized by the Sri Lanka Navy with a view to sharing professional expertise and strengthen friendship. The vessel which is carrying a crew of 549 is 163.5 m in length and 22.2 m in width. It has a displacement of 10,907 tons, said the press release.

 

One Response to “INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND YAHAPALANA Part 2”

  1. Senerath Says:

    Govt’s inaction in fighting corruption UNP WC wants a sub-committee to look into issue

    By Gagani Weerakoon

    A comprehensive report submitted to the Working Committee of the United National Party (UNP), on the progress made by law enforcement authorities in handling fraud and corruption cases, has concluded that shortcomings on the part of the Attorney General’s Department have resulted in creating a public outcry against the Government’s inaction in fighting corruption.

    The report submitted by Minister of Law and Order, Sagala Ratnayaka has pointed out that even though 370 cases have been recorded as having been forwarded to the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) thus far, prosecution has been started only with regard to 13 cases.

    Out of the 370 cases, 73 have been forwarded by the FCID to various other institutions for investigation and another 92 have been sent to the Attorney General to file cases, UNP sources said.

    The Working Committee was also informed that the investigations regarding the controversial murder cases of ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen and journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda were in the final stages.

    “The investigations of these cases are in the final stages. However, proceeding with further actions have come to a standstill as a result of salient evidence regarding these cases stagnating in government institutions,” Minister Ratnayaka was quoted as saying.

    When he pointed out that the delays were not committed by the Police, but by the Attorney General’s Department, Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera had concurred and shared similar sentiments.

    Minister Ratnayaka has said that even though it is true that the Attorney General’s Department is short-staffed, it is even difficult to have faith in the officials who are currently available.

    The UNP Working Committee has also passed a resolution to appoint a sub committee comprising Minister Ratnayaka, Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorale, Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera, State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe, Chairman of Litro Gas Lanka Limited Nissanka Nanayakkara and two others to report on the progress of the investigations and legal action taken with regard to cases of fraud and corruption.

    Meanwhile, the UNP Working Committee has proposed to appoint three Judges to the High Courts taking up fraud related cases, to take necessary measures where appeals could be directly filed in the Supreme Court against High Court rulings and to set up a special unit under the direct purview of the Attorney General to file cases against fraud and corruption.

    They decided to take this course of action after considering the fact that one case takes at least 10 years to be finalized in High Court and appeals made to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court take an average of seven years to be settled.

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