Posted on September 29th, 2017

Sarath Wijesinghe – Solicitor/Attorney-at-Law- former Ambassador to UAE and Israel

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy of a country is a set of rules that seems to outline the behaviour of a particular country and how it interacts/reacts with other countries and international organisations. This is mainly depending on internal/ external political and the global economic and political considerations. Always the head of the state formulates regulates and implements foreign policy which is not static depending on the political and economic climate of the day. Foreign Policy is a pre- requisite for the development and propriety of any nation. It has direct effects and impact on commercial and trade relations among member nations and the world in the fast developing world in the digital age and it is not possible to live in isolation with modern developments on H i- Tac” and transformation of the world and trade, economic and political realities of member countries struggling to beat each other. Today Commercial Diplomacy is in the top of the agenda and diplomats worldwide representing the countries have been directed to give priority to commerce/trade and business over traditional duties as ambassadors.

Foreign Policies worldwide

Indian foreign policy is somewhat static, stable non-aligned, firm full of patriotism, and selfish towards the nation. In India governments may change but not the foreign policy as the administrative machinery traditionally protects and interests in the interest of the nation. India is extremely successful in managing her foreign policy and the foreign office is manned by committed and patriotic experts. In Sri Lanka always U N P governments tend to be pro – west and SLFP was non-aligned and friendly with all and angry with none. In the United States the President formulates and implements foreign polices – a world power and self- appointed world policeman. In the United Kingdom it is the Prime minister who formulates and implements the foreign policy and EU has a common foreign policy for the member states. In USSR it is the President who is responsible for the foreign policy national security and economic prosperity. Formulation of the foreign policy is the job of the head of the state assisted by able foreign secretaries (UK) and secretaries of state (USA). Foreign policy Doctrine” is the policy statement on foreign affairs. Nixon’s doctrine on the war of Vietnam, Bushes statement on Middle East with Tony Blair both of whom were responsible to the destruction of Middle East in the guise of weapons of mass destruction” were the visions and doctrines in place then. Obamas doctrine based on Human Rights was different from his successor who is now entangled with a pseudo war with North Korea. In Sri Lanka it is doubtful who formulates and implements foreign policy today and whether we have a foreign policy or a doctrine at all as the President, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister do not appear to be consistent with foreign policy statements and pronouncements, including public speeches in Sri Lanka international forums, where speeches considered to be a part of international law binding the parties under international law.

Historical aspects of Sri Lankan foreign policy

Sri Lankan foreign relations with other countries could be traced back to 3rd century BC when King Devenimpayatissa” who had close friendship with the unseen neighbour, Emperor Asoka who sent his son and daughter as emissaries to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka 245 BC which is the commencement of the Sri Lankan culture today based on and benefiting from glorious Mayurian” Civilization and Buddhism based on

nonviolence and loving kindness ( mettha”) towards the world. Friendships among close friends were equal close and interconnected to friendship culture religion and developments of all countries culturally and economically irrespective the size and the population economically diplomatically beneficial to all parties. There is ample historical evidence of Sri Lanka having diplomatic and personal relations with China, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Maldives Islands, Thailand, Pakistan -formally known as Gandara” in Pali” with most countries mentioned being once Buddhist countries. These are classic examples of our long cherished and correct foreign policy in practice from the time immoral. Friendship with China was historical with cultural religious and commercial bonds bonded through the famous Silk Route.

Foreign Policy is an extension of National Policy and National Interest

Diplomacy is dealing with other states on trade, war, economy, customs, environment, human rights, strategic advantages and many other areas. Today countries give highest priority to economy, trade, investments, and business resulting in an amalgamation of economic and traditional diplomacy in the interaction of any nation’s foreign policy/ politics based on national interest. Economic diplomacy is a form of diplomacy to utilize the full spectrum of economic facts and realities in a state to achieve success in intern goals in foreign policy which is an extension of the national policy and interest of the nation. States today are in the microscopic eye of the embassies stationed in the host country, when the international media transmits news to the world in few seconds with the click of a button. Therefore member states of small nations should be careful in dealing in and out of the territory on international affairs are to be taken carefully within and outside the state by the leaders and the governance to commend respect of the world. Attitudes and conduct on the international brotherhood is carefully scrutinized and the happening in the state today are in the international domain in seconds with disastrous/immediate effects, thereby the undemocratic conduct and the unrest due to want of democracy and break down in law and order in the democratic institutions and human rights have a direct impact on the economy and foreign relations of countries and international organisations such as the World Bank, indirectly controlling the local economy. NGO ‘esm is dominating in Sri Lanka with adverse effects on foreign policy and economy. Postponement of elections and denial of the right of franchise, massive bribery and corruption of the legislature and executive with mega scams (Bond/Highways/corruption by parliamentarians on car permits and bribery etc.) have negative effects on the economy and the foreign relations of our cherished and reputed nation. Persecuting and suppression opponents on political grounds, students, working class steam rolling the weak, nominal, tamed and appointed opposition are not parts of democracy endorsed by the world community and the international organisations deciding the fate of our unstable and dependent/debt economy in the microscopic eye on international relations. It is still not too late for the governance to turn to the right direction!

Current world issues today and our strategy/s and the position/s taken by the Sri Lanka” , in world affairs on Myanmar” North Korea” Syria” and Middle East”.

Few current issues on the table today for Sri Lanka are the issues on Myanmar, North Korea, harassment of Muslims by the West with deaths of millions in Middle East and Africa including the war in Syria and continuation of the traditional cold war of main two powers and the issues close to us in the SAARC region that has an ripple effect on Sri Lanka. No country can live in isolation and happenings around the globe have direct bearings on any state depending on the power/strength of the economy, leader, foreign policy and strategic and political/economic dimensions of the member nation. In Sri Lanka who takes decisions on economy, governance and especially foreign policy is in doubt. Different versions echoed by leaders in the highest international forum” and highest international gatherings in Sri Lankan and world over which amounts to a part of international law with no consistency and one word. Indian ocean has transformed to be most strategic, vulnerable and important oceans in the world when Sri Lanka positions strategically on the silk route turning to be one road one belt basis in the mildest of power struggle of the emerging world political/economic/naval powers aiming at small nations with weak unpatriotic leaders with no vision for their country as vultures. Sri Lanka has come to a stage to sell/lease family silver for day to day expenses due to

mismanagement and disapprobation of the state wealth by that in power of all political parties. Issue in Myanmar is akin to the Stateless Indian issue continued on for decades and settled by Sirima Sharathie” agreement and a time bomb to be settled as a matter of urgency sympathetically and based on international humanitarian norms and practices. Calamity in Myanmar is also created by the British brining Rongans” for labour to a country (Ares full of natural resources with an attraction of the world powers) sandwiched and threatened with controversial boarders from China, India, Bangladesh, and threatened by and from foreign powers for the natural resources throughout the county including the area in dispute with gas/mineral and many other resources. Historically Buddhists have not shed a single drop of blood for the propagation of Buddhism and if there are excesses’ on ethnic Muslims it is a serious matter to be inquired into in all dimensions and give solutions based on international human rights law and practices. Syria, Iraqi, Afghanistan were stable and rich Islam countries destroyed by the west for oil and expansionism for power. North Korean issue is a threat to world peace and any farther development/ s in the wrong directions are to be vetted. China warns on the complicated Korean issue and the threats of the Korean leader and American President of destroying North Korea sends shock waves to the international community.

Mock Trial in Geneva, and Myanmar refugee crisis in Sri Lanka, are disturbing issues on foreign policy and positive signs of the management of the foreign policy today.

Mock trial in Geneva by a section of the Diaspora with Sri Lankan President as the accused and the other anti Sri Lankan activism, are worrying incidents and should condemned by the world community. The Myanmar refugee crisis and diaspora anti- Sri Lanka activism are in the boiling point are matters for serious consideration but the steps taken to clamp down by Sri Lankan governance on the uprising will make the international community happy. Though Sri Lanka has not signed the 1951Convention of refugees west may try to convince on Sri Lanka to accept these unfortunate militant Rohyangaya” Refugees based on Art 14 of the UNHCER Convention and moral commitment for sheltering large number of Sri Lankan Refugees in western countries. Fact that 100,000 Rohyangaya” refugees have fled to Malaysia and many to India shows the gravity of the issue and threat to Sri Lank as a soft target.

Way forward

Sri Lanka is in a crisis situation politically, economically and internationally and this is the time she requires a correct, coherent, stable, and Sri Lanka friendly foreign policy” and not on a policy based on any ism” or out-dated and unsuitable foreign ideology or directions form any group or a camp in the world. Are we still nonaligned is in doubt. We have given us our rights away by the suicidal joint resolution” against our own cherished nation promising sun and moon to an unreliable and partial world body which declining popularity as the failed League of Nations”- the world body replaced by the United Nations. We had proud and past glory as a responsible powerful and popular member of the UN as the leader of non-aligned nations with first class international civil servants of the calibre of Shirly Amarasinghe, Professor Gunapala Mallasekara and other world renewed Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the calibre of Laxman Kadiragramer, raised the stature of Sri Lanka with the help of the foreign service manned by expert personal of the calibre of Dr Vernan Mendis and other public servants then. Today though standards are downgraded due to the substandard nature of the corrupt politicians of all corrupt political parties, there are committed, educated, knowledgeable Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka and oversees ready to serve the motherland on invitation. It is opportune to get their services at this hour as the Foreign Ministry and the Diplomatic community is not up to the expected slandered/s to rub shoulders with the international brotherhood. We should learn from our neighbour India, Latin America, USA, USSR and Israel who manages the foreign ministries and policy to their progress and the development. It is the leader of the country who formulates directs and manages the foreign policy as a matter of priority and conventions and no others will only carry out orders and instructions of the leader of the Nation in the driving seat. Hon D S Senanayaka and Madam Bandaraneika as two best foreign Ministers ever in Sri Lanka in two different periods managed the foreign policy extremely successfully with no second to any foreign minister ever in Sri Lanka with only basic education but full of patriotism, commitment intelligence and love for the country!

Writer Sarath Wijesinghe takes responsibility on the contents could be contacted on sarath7@ Hotmail.co.uk and the readers are cordially invited to the public seminar on the topic- Do we need a Foreign Policy- at the Organization of Professionals off Reid Avenue on 2dn Oct from 6.00 to 9.00 addressed by Dr Palitha Kohona, Dr Dayan Jayatilaka, Manhara de Silva PC Mohan Samaranayaka and Sarath Wijesinghe )


  1. SA Kumar Says:

    DO WE HAVE A FOREIGN POLICY- When You let rule foreigner why you need foreign policy ???
    Give We-Tamil to what we want We will kick them out like what we done to IPKF than we will sort out together our Mulli Vaikkal unfinish account !!!

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