America Falls Into The Indian Pit In Sri Lanka
Posted on April 18th, 2011

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

 The East-West alliance that is designed to shape the global agenda in the 21st century was defined by Robert O. Blake Jr, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in his testimony given before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 5, 2011.

He said categorically that America and India have joined hands as “strategic partners” to manage the SAARC region and the world at large in joint operations at “multi-faceted” levels “”…” i.e., diplomatic, military, economic etc., “”‚ to “make the relationship between the two countries a defining partnership of the century ahead.”

Translated into simple terms this explicit definition has three basic objectives: 1) India and America feel the urgent necessity to consolidate their combined forces against perceived threats from China “”…” a nation destined to become the biggest power on Earth surpassing even that of America; 2) the need to flex their muscles jointly to protect and fix the global agenda according to their common interests and 3) dictate terms, impose punitive measures and generally ride rough shod over small neighbours, with stand over tactics, if they do not toe the Indo-American line.

No doubt the two together will be a powerful combination. Clarifying the mutually beneficial partnership Blake told the Congressmen that it is “a strategy of sustained, multi-faceted engagement with India.” He added that this “strategic partnership”¦.. contributes to stability and security in the United States, the South Asia region, and the world” and this “strong global strategic partnership, (was) highlighted by President Obama’s recent visit to Mumbai and New Delhi in November 2010.”

Obviously, the emerging global realities in the post Cold War period, particularly in the East, have brought these two powers together. The Cold War rivalries, when India was in the camp of USSR, are no longer valid. USSR crumbled with the fall of the Berlin Wall but old Cold War threats have been replaced by China, which is emerging as a power greater than USSR ever was. In addition to its military might, China has a decisive economic clout (it is even lending money to America) which the USSR didn’t, bogged down in its Communist ideology. Though America ran proxy wars as well as wars of their own in Afro-Asian region at the height of the Cold War, America was dependent on its European allies to counter the Communist bloc led by the USSR. India at that time was neither the formidable force that it is now nor was she in the Western bloc. Pretending to be neutral, India worked hand in glove with the USSR. Right now India has consented to become America’s willing and indispensable partner.

This Indo-American alliance draws the new contours of the power that has shifted from the West to the East. India stands as the only formidable force in the East which can be a counter to China.. A “strategic partnership” with India is a sine qua non for America. Blake highlights the need for this “strategic partnership” when he says: “With the fulcrum of geopolitics shifting quickly to Asia, India plays an increasingly critical role in our strategic thinking.” America has no option but to forge this alliance. The immovable reality of China has forced America to seek allies in the East.

India too is confronted with the grim realities posed by China looking down into the valley from the top of the Himalayan range. Sino-Indian relations have been running hot and cold. The sore point of China claiming Arunachal Pradesh in the east and other regions in the north of India continue to haunt India. So it is to the mutual advantage of both America and India to join hands and present a common front against China. Consequently, there is now in place an intertwining symbiotic relationship between America and India “”…” a relationship which never existed since India led the Non-alignment Movement.

America’s other two allies in the East “”…” Japan and Australia “”…” though valuable are not going to be as significant as India in any confrontation with China. As stated categorically by Blake, it is India that will play an “increasingly critical role in our (American) strategic thinking.” This also means that Pakistan will no longer be the “strategic partner” it was in the region at the height of the Cold War. It has been downgraded to a minor side-kick to be used as and when it is required to fight American battles in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

India now stands as the key ally manning the gateway to the East. India will be America’s indispensable guard of the great wall thrown round China, with Japan and Australia as the supporting partners. China has responded by building its own string of pearls connecting its vital sea route all the way to the eastern shore of Africa.

In this new scenario the big question is: what does this Indo-American alliance mean to the region, let alone the rest of the world? There is a saying in Africa which is relevant to the meeting of big giants in the West and the East. It says: whenever elephants get together or fight it is the ants that get crushed. In particular, India’s alliance with any big power has consequences for the region. For instance, when India was linked to the geopolitics of the Cold War era it had impacted heavily on Sri Lanka.

This was the time when India objected to the transfer of oil farms in Trincomalee and the establishment of a station for the Voice of America. Indira Gandhi feared that India’s dominance of the Indian Ocean, which she thought was her private swimming pool, was threatened by Sri Lanka drifting into the arms of the Americans.

It is ironic that when India was with the USSR, Sri Lanka was with America. And now when India has entered into a “strategic partnership” with America, Sri Lanka has been pushed, both by India and America, to drift away from its traditional moorings into the arms of the other camp, headed by China. America is concerned about the critical power play in the region and has decided that the best way to keep the region under its supervision is to bring India under its umbrella. America expects India to play the role of the policeman of the region and President Obama, during his visit, openly urged India to take over the leadership and do its duty, meaning, don’t let China take over South Asia.

Sri Lanka is sitting right in the middle of these two power blocs. America is acutely aware of the strategic value of Sri Lanka. Blake put it succinctly when he told the Congressmen: “Positioned directly on the shipping routes that carry petroleum products and other trade from the Gulf to East Asia, Sri Lanka remains of strategic interest to the US. An important contributor to global peacekeeping operations, Sri Lanka stands poised to be a capable and willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism, trafficking and piracy, and thereby help to ensure the maritime security of the region.”

The strategic importance of Sri Lanka, particularly in the current Sino-Indian contest for supremacy in the region, could not have been expressed better. However, it must be stated that the strategic strength of Sri Lanka to power players in the Indian Ocean rim was stated earlier in the Kerry Report presented to the Congress. But Blake has emphasised it more clearly and analytically. So, as stated by Blake, if “Sri Lanka stands poised to be a capable and willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism, trafficking and piracy, and thereby help to ensure the maritime security of the region” what should be the prudent and productive strategy of America to take Sri Lanka along with the Indo-American alliance without forcing her to compromise her sovereignty, territorial integrity and the repeated will of the people to be left alone to solve their own problems the way they want without external interventions?

It is obvious: the war-weary Sri Lankans recoil in horror when they see O. Blake “giving oxygen” (Margaret Thatcher referring to BBC giving space to the Irish terrorists) to the functionaries of the defunct Tamil Tiger terrorists. Diplomats are supposed to send the right signals to influence and win friends which will help them to achieve their goals. So when O. Blake is playing footsy with the Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (PTGTE), and Global Tamil Form (GTF) how can he hope to win the confidence of Sri Lanka? When PTGTE launched a nominal state in Philadelphia, under the very noses of the Obama administration, does he expect the Sri Lankans to kiss the seats of his pants in gratitude?

Isn’t he deliberately adopting provocative tactics to push Sri Lanka away from the Indo-American alliance? Is American foreign policy designed to win over Sri Lanka which, according to him is a “willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism, trafficking and piracy, and thereby help to ensure the maritime security of the region” or is America preparing to aid and abet PTGTE and GTF which are vowed enemies of the Sri Lankan state? As he ever sat down to consider how his talks with PTGTE and GTF will help to make Sri Lanka a “willing partner to effectively combat violent extremism”¦etc” when he willingly talks to the rag-tag remnants of the violent extremists banned by his own government?

Does America prefer to prop up a bogus state in Philadelphia or does it prefer to deepen the ties with Sri Lanka which is located in a critical junction of the sea lanes between the West and the East? Isn’t America pushing Sri Lanka deliberately away from its sphere of influence by entertaining PTGTE and GTF?

Is he that blind that he can’t read the signs of the times? He is openly playing footsy with the anti-Sri Lankan forces like the way India did during Indira Gandhi’s time. But did those short-sighted policies take India anywhere? Isn’t Blake meddling in domestic politics knowing that giving oxygen to the PTGTE and GTF can only destabilise Sri Lanka? How does he propose to achieve his objective of restoring peace, reconciliation and progress in the region by talking functionaries of Tamil terrorists still bent on dividing Sri Lanka?

India tried these tricks before. India (1) armed, trained and financed the Tamil terrorists, (2) then forced its way in with the IPKF and (3) finally pushed the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement down the throat of Sri Lanka which led to the 13th Amendment. What did India and the Jaffna Tamils gain by going down this misguided track? The failure of all three tactics proves that America is doomed to fail if they decide to go down the Indian path.

Besides, India’s military intervention and subsequent negotiated settlements with the blessings of the international community too failed. Where does this leave Blake’s goody-goody talks with the PTGTE or GTF? With all the chicanery that he can muster Blake can never convince the vast majority of Sri Lankans that his talks with Tamil separatists are for the good of the nation’s peace, stability and reconciliation. On the contrary, PTGTE and GTF will consider their talks as a recognition of their international status and rights.

Blake has raised the fears of the Sri Lankans once again. Rightly or wrongly, he is seen as stoking the dying embers of divisive politics until they burst into another north-south conflagration.

The immorality of big power politics is exemplified in their games played in Sri Lanka: they first ignite and fan the flames of violence by encouraging terrorists or their agents to go for divisive politics and when violations of international humanitarian law occur they wash their hands off and blame the consequences on the state left to bear the burden of violence unleashed by the big powers. India did it once and now America is doing it all over again.

One Response to “America Falls Into The Indian Pit In Sri Lanka”

  1. gdesilva Says:

    I only hope that sanity will prevail in India and that they will realise that US will be their ‘friends’ only till they can stand up to the Chinese or to do things to slow their economic dominance – the US will love and leave India as soon as they get what they wanted just like what the Britts did just over 60 years ago. How long will the Asian nations take to realise that colonial masters are just playing one against the other for their own benefit?

    On the other hand this could be the US strategy to get their dirty hands in the Indian administrations and political scene so that they can pull the rug underneath at the opportune moment and facilitate the break up of India. US may be using China as a bogey man towards this end.

    Either way, the morale of the story is do not trust the Western colonial masters – they have one, and only one, aim – to make money at the expense of everyone else.

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