Do we have a Foreign Policy?
Posted on December 24th, 2017

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

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, varies from era, leadership, international and geo – political considerations. Hon D S Senanayaka quite correctly continued the ‘Security Pact’ with Britain as a pro west strategy and Hon SWRD repealed it as a need of the era/hour as a leader of the socialist block then, when Madam B led the nonalignment movement as the leader of NAM and when MR during his regime handled ‘War Diplomacy’ with the excellent ‘War Minister’ until the war was won, all of which were needs of the era/hour extremely well handled diplomatically and strategically by those who were in power. JRJ mishandled foreign policy and diplomacy leading the way for 1987 infamous Indo Sri Lanka Accord under emergency and blood bath leaving provincial councils to the Nation, resulting inefficient and ineffectual white elephants. Diplomatic success is mainly depending on the management of internal/ external political and the global economic and political considerations. Heads of states formulate regulate and implement foreign policy which is not static depending on the political and economic climates of the day. Foreign Policy is a pre- requisite for the development and propriety of any nation being in the forefront of the global community representing the state. 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 Hi – tec” and transformations of the world politics 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. Current Good Governance Government is the most corrupt (fourth most corrupt) inefficient unpopular with lack of leadership or a vision but to their credit west is shielding and protecting the current regime for ousting MR which they considered nearly impossible and a victory to the west. Freedom of movement for MR in the west was restricted during his regime charging him a dictator with iron fist rule though his era country flourished and developed as a giant workshop/agricultural field despite accusations of violation of human rights whilst crediting for ending the 30 year miserable war. Nearing three years the Good Governance is still depending the mega projects launched by MR regime with no innovations on foreign policy or mega developments!.

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 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” whilst MR strictly followed SWRD/Sirimavo” policies. In the United States being a super power and the self-appointed world policeman, President formulates and implements foreign policies. In the United Kingdom it is the Prime minister who formulates and implements the foreign policy whilst EU has a common foreign policy binding 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 ministers/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 Donald Trump who emerged as a patriotic leader with a unique strategy based on experiences as a successful billionaire who is now entangled with North Korea and Jerusalem despite confrontations with media. In Sri Lanka it is doubtful who formulates and implements foreign policy today and whether we have a foreign policy or a doctrine/policy/strategy at all is in doubt as the President, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister do not appear to be consistent with foreign policy statements decisions taken pronouncements, including public speeches in Sri Lanka and international forums, where speeches considered to be a part of international law binding the parties under international law. Sri Lankan voting and stand taken in Jerusalem issue at the UN voting, Korean Issue, Tea/Asbestos issue with Russia appear to be mishandled with no unity or joint strategy of MS, RW and FM on these crucial issues.

Historical aspects and current trends of Sri Lankan foreign policy

Sri Lankan mature and historical foreign relations with other countries could be traced back to 3rd century BC when King Devenimpayatissa” who maintained 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 and all living beings. 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. As foreign policy is an extension of national Policy and National Interest, in the absence of a proper foreign policy and national interest it is doubtful how Sri Lanka will emerge victorious in international arena of political and economic diplomacy. Today diplomats appointed are of inferior quality and the foreign ministry appear to be limping with want of strategy diplomacy and leadership with the good news that there are still few experienced and learned officers available including the foreign secretary and few other postings. Foreign Ministry and policy needs full transformation and honest/vibrant leadership devoid of politics and those who moot Sri Lanka friendly foreign policy!

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!

Unable to live in isolation

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 the fault of unpatriotic leaders with lack of vision unlike in the USA where act of patriotism is in operation.

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 though it is the best policy for us. We have given us our rights away by the suicidal joint resolution” against our own cherished nation promising unlimited unattainable targets now demanded to be implemented by the UK Prime Minister as a matter of urgence. We had proud and past glory as a responsible powerful and popular member of the UN as the leader of non-aligned nations 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 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 in Sri Lanka with only basic education but full of patriotism, commitment intelligence and love for the country

( The writer is a Solicitor/Attorney-at-Law- former Sri Lankan Ambassador to UAE and Israel)

One Response to “Do we have a Foreign Policy?”

  1. Christie Says:

    “Non aligned lead by India” . Another Indian sucker. Read Ramayana first.

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