THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 A3
Posted on October 26th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Sri Lanka is important to India, because of its location and India is determined to bring Sri Lanka under its control. India set up consulates in Hambantota and Jaffna in 2010. India has a long-standing consulate in Kandy.

Critics wanted to know why does India want consulates in Jaffna and Hambantota. Consulates are established to look after nationals. India wants a consulate in Jaffna, mainly to station some RAW official there to monitor what is going on and to foment trouble in Jaffna to create another insurgency like last time, said one critic.

  India wants an office in Hambantota as a watch post for India to monitor what happened, said another. India should close its consulates in Jaffna and Hambantota. They are viewed as RAW stations set up to destabilize the country if necessary, said a third.

India is emphasizing the cultural links between Sri Lanka and India, particularly Buddhism. India’s using Buddhism to firm up ties with Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, said analysts. China and Pakistan have   started emphasizing their Buddhist past.

India has installed a 16-foot-tall statue of the Buddha at the entrance to the International Buddhist Museum complex at the Dalada Maligawa, Kandy. There is   an India Gallery in the Museum. It consist of eight major sections, including the origin of Buddhism in India, pilgrimage sites in India, symbolic representation of Buddha  in Buddhist  art in India and the  spread of Buddhism  from India.

India and Sri Lanka   signed an MOU in 2020 to establish  a training school for Dalada Maligawa at Pallekele, Kandy to provide training in Kandyan dance and drumming   as well as costumes, ornaments and musical instruments, lacquer painting, mahout training and sculpturing.

Delegation of Indian Buddhist met President Rajapakse in 2013. They want to install a statue of Ambedkar in Sri Lanka and set up an institute to commemorate him.

India is  drawing attention to two much admired Indians, who visited Sri Lanka, during the British administration. They are Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. Mahatma Gandhi had visited Matale, Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Bandarawela Hatton, Colombo, Galle, and Jaffna during his three week long visit in 1927. He had made over 35 speeches to Sri Lanka audience and also visited many schools including trinity, Dharmaraja, Zahira and Ananda,    Indian embassy said.

Therefore, a Mahatma Gandhi International Centre funded by India, was established in Matale in 2015. It had an auditorium, library, meditation centre and a conference hall. Before that, in 2014, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was installed in the city square at Point Pedro by the Urban Council of Point Pedro. It was unveiled by the consul for India.

Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Mahinda College, Galle, was unveiled on November 4, 2019. A photo exhibition of Mahatma Gandhi, organized by India’s Hambantota consulate was held at Mahinda College, Galle on the same day.  In 2020 the Consulate   organized a series of events in the Southern Province and Moneragala District to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. 

There are Gandhi statues elsewhere in the world too.  In 2016 a statue of Gandhi was set up in the University of Ghana. University of Ghana lecturers began a petition for its removal soon after. The petition said Gandhi was “racist” and African heroes should be put first. Gandhi looked down on the Africans. The statue was removed in 2018. Students at the university welcomed the decision to remove the statue.

Rabindranath Tagore came to Sri Lanka for several highly successful visits. India wants his name remembered by the present generations. In 2012, Indian Cultural Centre, Colombo conducted an essay competition for ‘A’ level and University students on ‘Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Lanka.’  India built the Rabindranath Tagore memorial auditorium at University of Ruhuna in 2018. 

Sri Lanka had been very impressed with Tagore’s dance drama, Shap Mochan when it was performed in Colombo in the 1940s.  A dance troupe from Shantiniketan performed Shap Mochan in Colombo in 2012. The audience was not impressed. The applause was weak.

North Indian and Carnatic music became an influence in Sri Lanka during British   rule. Sinhala musicians ran to Shantiniketan. They returned declaring that Indian music was ‘high’ culture while the local stuff was ‘low’ culture (‘cula sampradaya’). India has not made any such assertion, but it has supported the   study of Indian music in Sri Lanka.  

In 2020 India presented 104 Indian classical musical instruments such as Veena, Sitar, Tabla, Sarod and Tanpura received from the ICCR, New Delhi to several schools in the south. The schools were Richmond College, Siridhamma College, Anula Devi College from Galle and Beverly Tamil School, at Hulandawa, Tamil Maha Vidyalaya at Pitabeddara,   Handford Tamil Maha Vidyalaya, St. Matthew and Bilingual School, Deniyaya. India also gifted these musical instruments to the Faculty of Engineering, University of Ruhuna.

In 2013, an India corner” was started in Jaffna public library, with books on Indian cultural history, Tamil language. There are plans to set up a Jaffna Cultural centre on the lines of the Indian Cultural Center in Colombo, supported by the Indian Council for Cultural relations. This center will teach Hindi and Indian classical music and dance. A link between the Ramanathan academy of fine arts, and Kalakshetra Foundation in south India, was also planned.

India has taken a special interest in the North .India said in 2015 that it was going to develop Kankesanturai port. It had signed an agreement in 2011. India has built many houses in the north after the Eelam War. India has also focused on the estate sector.

 As at 2020, of 12 Health and medical care projects”, 6 were in the Northern Province, 2 in Eastern province and 1 in estate sector at Dickoya.   In  the  ”  Education research and training”   5 in estate sector, 4  in north,  2 in East 2 in west,  2 in south. In Transportation sector” 3 in north, 1 in east, 1 in south . (Daily News 15.8.20 p 6 India supplement)  

India wishes to be a strategic partner in Sri Lanka. India   decided to link Sri Lanka to India in terms of energy. India was to build 500 MW coal based thermal power plant at Sampur in Trincomalee as a joint venture with CEB. In 2008 there were plans for India’s state run Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) to set up a link for 1,000 mw between India and Sri Lanka, of which 30km will be under the sea. The undersea cable was prohibitively expensive and this was changed in 2019 to an overhead electricity link. The India-Sri Lanka transmission link was to run from Madurai to Anuradhapura.

India wants high visibility for its projects. India had agreed to refurbish the road between Anuradhapura and Trincomalee, in 2004. It was to be named the Rajiv Gandhi Amity Highway.

The most visible Indian intervention in our economy is Lanka IOC.   In 2003, Indian Oil Corporation was permitted to set up a subsidiary, Lanka IOC  to set up petrol stations all over the island. Distribution is through the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation pipelines. This was approved through a cabinet paper of 2002 without any competitive bidding, said critics. Though 70 million was promised, only USD 40 million has come in by 2016.

 Lanka IOC now has 202 petrol & diesel stations in Sri Lanka. Lanka IOC   received approximately USD 3.6 billion in sales   in 2002-2013. The profits went to India.  Lanka IOC also owns one-third share in Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited (CPSTL), a joint venture of Lanka IOC and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). 

IOC also runs 235 Lanka IOC Servo  shops and 24 lubricant distributors, offering a variety of lubricants and engine oil for motorcycles to ships. Servo lubricants are produced in Sri Lanka in its facility in Trincomalee.   Lanka IOC holds a 35% market share in the highly competitive bunkering fuels market. Lanka IOC has an oil terminal at Trincomalee, a lubricant blending plant of 18,000 tonnes per annum capacity and a state-of-the-art fuels & lubricants testing laboratory at Trincomalee. . India said in 2015 that it has plans to set up its first overseas petroleum hub in Sri Lanka.

Critics observed that half of the petroleum trade is now in the hands of   IOC, a partly state owned Indian company. If the entire trade had been in their hands, the war effort could have been throttled by India stopping the fuel supply to the military. It can cause problems to Sri Lanka in the future too.

India has many other business projects in Sri Lanka. Indian firms are managing Sri Lanka tea estates. Indian companies have their factories here. There is a beverage factory on 50 acre land in Gampaha importing fruit pulp and exporting juice. It is using about 50 million liters of ground water per annum, critics complained.

Indian assistance is heavily criticized. Several of the railways engines supplied by India have failed to operate after a few years, and the large extent of the railways line laid by India contractors showed defects, including concrete sleepers, said critics.

 In 1968 India offered a loan of Rs 100 million for purchase of equipment used in government departments.  The items had to be of Indian manufacture.  The government department prepared a shopping list, said Neil Perera of the Department of Government Electrical Undertakings, which were of international standard. The Indians refuse to provide these they instead offered items which they could not sell in the international market.   The departments   which accepted these, such as telecommunications faced difficulties. The Telecommunications switchboard in the head office of the DGEU went out of order within a short period of installation. 

Sri Lanka does not want too close a link to India. There was strong objection to a highway link between India and Sri Lanka. Un-ESCAP had proposed a Trans Asian Highway to link 27 countries. India and Sri Lanka are signatories to the highway. There was a proposal to extend the UN-ESCAP Asian Highway   into Sri Lanka,  with a bridge linking Rameswaram and Talaimannarand roads branching to Trincomalee and Hambantota.  Such a link with Tamilnadu is dangerous, said critics.

The railway line constructed by the Indian thorough Mannar Island does not end at the Talaimannar station but goes beyond and has been raised to marry with a possible future bridge head at Talaimannar.  The railway should have been terminated on the main land. This would have left the sea open to Sri Lanka naval movement from north to south and easy movement for other seagoing craft as well. The introduction of a rail bridge between the mainland and the island of Mannar would block this, said Ashely de Vos. 

Land Bridge with India might lead to the introduction of a special type of malaria mosquito into Sri Lanka, observed Kamini Mendis. So far it has not come here.  What keeps it away is the ocean. So land bridge will help it come here.  We have eradicated malaria here.    In 2014, it was announced that the India Sri Lanka road rail network had been stopped.

India became the first country, since independence, to interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. India decided to foster, train and promote Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka with retired generals training the LTTE, the government of India providing funding and bases in India, said critics. India supported the   break up of Sri Lanka. india wanted the North east merger even more than the Tamils. The purpose was to create a client state in North and east, said diplomat Bandu de Silva. K. Godage agreed. He noted that India supported the establishment of a North east Provincial Council and continued to insist that   we merge the north and east provinces.

The parippu drop in Jaffna violating Sri Lanka air space is still recalled with deep feeling. The Indo-Lanka accoard is resented. The rifle but attack on Rajiv Gandhi by naval rating at the honor guard, symbolized the deep resentment of a sovereign nation at the humiliation cause to them. India had forfeited the respect and confidence of Sri Lanka, observed Gamini Gunawardene.

There is considerable anti-India feeling in Sri Lanka. China gave the Conference hall and the Convention center, Japan gave Sri Jayewardenepura hospital and the Dental faculty in Peradeniya.  What India has given, Sri Lanka public asked.

Indian fishermen are fishing in Sri Lanka water with impunity but When Sri Lanka fishermen are arrested by Indian coast guards, they are treated harshly.   One set arrested after straying into Indian waters was ordered to kneel on a heavy iron plate which dad heated due to the sun. We were beaten up by the coast guards and offered rice with dhal and were force to pick out the worms off the plates of rice before we ate. There were more worms than rice.

 We were kept in prison in Hyderabad for two and half month and were released only after paying Rs 75,000 each. We did not receive any support from the government and had to manage our affairs on our own. But in contrast Indian fisherman are seen poaching in our water freely and when they are arrested they are provided with the best possible treatment and released a few weeks later. When we overpowered some Indian fisherman and handed them over to the authorities they were released, without any punishment.

The International Indian Film academy awards were held in Colombo in 2010.  USA holds it Oscars and Britain it Bafta in their own countries, but India hold its festival in different capitals. This is an attention getting device. IIFA has resulted in vast tourist publicity for Sri Lanka which no advertising campaign could have bought. Event had an 80 million audience. IIFA is organized to promote Indian cinema all round the world, said India. 

Sri Lanka was not thrilled. They complained about the cost. In other countries India spends, here, critics allege that Sri Lanka had provided the money. IIFA organizers were invited to lunch by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Those supporting stated that Sri Lanka had got a tremendous advertising boost from the event.

India’s   activities in Sri Lanka are watched closely.  A Ramayana Trail” has been concocted to drag Buddhist Sri Lanka into the heart of Hindu mythology, making Sri Lanka a geographic extension of India. Indian money is funding Ramayana temples in Sri Lanka and Indian officials are coming as pilgrims.

There are four Ravana destinations in Sri Lanka, Ravana’s palace, Ashok Vatika, Hanuman’s entry point  at Nagadipa, Donara where Rama first attacked Ravana, and Yudaganawa the main battle ground. Ashok   Vatik and Donara are imaginary places. Yudaganawa is important in Sinhala history. India has offered many crores to build a Sita Devi temple at Divirumpola.  The object is to subvert Sri Lanka history.

Lanka IOC also controls the oil tank farm in Trincomalee, formerly owned and operated by CPC. This has 99 tanks, made of the best Manchester steel, each with a capacity of 12,000 kilolitres. Currently, only 15 of these tanks are operational. This was was handed over to India instead of to the highest bidder. Why was it not left in the hands of the Sri Lanka navy asked critics. There is now a call to take it back.

India loyalists think that India must be the dominant power in South Asia because of its size.  That Sri Lanka must recognize this. India is Sri Lanka closest neighbor. When Sri Lanka looks upwards all it sees is India. Col Hariharan of India said that India dominates the  south Asian region physically and economically.  India’s geographic location enables it to be a dominant power in the Indian Ocean region.  Sri Lanka does not agree.

Sri Lanka’s location  to India is viewed critically. One reader  said personally my wish is that we were not 20 but 200 miles away from India”.  Sri Lanka is under threat from the Kundukkulam and Kalpakkam nuclear complexes in south India. The southerly monsoon and wind will  bring any unwanted emissions for these installations towards Sri Lanka, said analysts in 2011. 

The Sethusamudran canal, initially causd much concern in Sri Lanka . It was then found that  this would not be a threat to the ports of Colombo. The canal will only cater to vessel of less than 10 m draft and feeder vessels from  the Indian east coast could use the path to come to Colombo on a shorter route. India will incur huge costs in dredging and also in maintenance of the canal. In 2010, India stopped work on Sethusamnudran canal due to its difficulty of dredging.

Sri Lanka observed happily that Sri Lanka   has   one important economic advantage over India. Sri Lanka’s ports are superior to those of India. India’s attempt to substitute Indian ports for Colombo failed. India now recognizes Colombo to be the regional transportation hub.  Sri Lanka’s location gives it its port a natural advantage. Colombo port enjoys a better reputation in international shipping than the ports in South India. Turn over time for ships in Colombo is much less.  70% of the volume handled by the Colombo port is trans shipment of goods imported by India and this could be increased because Indian ports don’t have adequate depth. 

India is considered arrogant. At CHOGM when bilateral talks were taking place between India and Sri Lanka, Indian delegates had suggested that Sri Lanka cancel the Tuesday night dinner scheduled for visiting official delegations to continue the talks. Sri Lanka had flatly refused to do so.

India is concerned about China’s influence in Sri Lanka. In 2007 India objected to Sri Lanka purchasing Chinese built JY-11 3Dradar system, because it would ‘overarch’ into Indian air space. . India gave the radar instead, but this was not effective and eventually Colombo acquired the Chinese radar. Delhi also complained about Chinese submarines in Colombo Harbor in 2014. India said it had not been notified.

Since you cannot invade a country with an army, efforts are being made to invade through infrastructure and technological advancement,” admitted India. India has to use its cultural and historical ties in the region to build personal ties with countries like Sri Lanka, to prevent them from drifting towards China. As a result, areas of soft power such as the Buddhist circuit between India and Sri Lanka, are being emphasized.    ( continued)

One Response to “THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 A3”

  1. Sarath W Says:

    Instead of setting up these consulates in Sri Lanka, India should use that money to build some public toilets all over India.

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