Insofar as India Remains a ‘Useful Idiot,’ the Security of Both India and Sri Lanka Will be in Jeopardy.
Posted on December 7th, 2019

Kudaligamage Geethanjana

Rajapakses, Geopolitics, ‘Eurocentric Developmentalism,’ and the western hegemony 

(Part 21)

Indo Lanka Accord was an outcome of a brawl between old school politics of the cold-war mentality of Indira Gandhi and Junius Richard Jayawardene. This outdated agreement must be renegotiated or entirely repealed for the benefit of both nations.

Agey wayiraya” ඇගේ  වෛරය is a term not only related to the silver screen but also very much related to politics. There is a well-known piece of political advice shadowed through the ages, never ever to mess with a woman in power.” J.R. Jayawardene, the ‘old fox’ of Sri Lanka’s modern politics, dared to cross that figurative ‘Rubicon.’ And made not him, but us to pay dearly for his mischievous political conduct like a slippery ‘Anda’ ආඳා,’ fond of habituating in the muddied water of politics rather than the clear political atmosphere.

JRJ had ridiculed Indira Gandhi and her son in his 1977 election campaign. JRJ’s criticism of Gandhi was entirely unnecessary but premeditated political play for the entertainment of the western gallery. He was heavily investing in Western assistance for his development plans for Sri Lanka, therefore, he might have thought of repaying the west by means of becoming the pet of the west in South Asia. His criticism of Indira was not at all a gaff or a slip of the tongue. It was a calculated performance to win the hearts and minds of the western political establishment who hated Indira Gandhi due to her pro-Soviet policies at the time.

JRJ may have thought to entertain some of his fans in the west, especially in the USA to make them rally around his administration and to reap the benefits of being pro-western. It was a very dangerous but well thought political gamble. JR was no Sirisena or Mangala to make ridiculous statements not knowing their repercussions, but a well-experienced politician. It was pretty clear that he had envisioned to use our country’s strategic importance as a bargaining chip to make our country the darling of the western block and receive western assistance for the development of Sri Lanka in the same manner how Lee Kuan Yew had used Singapore located in close proximity to China. But Washington had different plans. So, the consequences of his political ‘Cabaret’ on his election campaign stage did not bring expected results; instead, asking even more from JRJ, Washington made JRJ to perform a ‘Lap Dance’ for India’s PM Rajive Gandhi, making JRJ’s entire gambit politically calamitous to Sri Lanka.

Indira Gandhi and JRJ were old school politicians who lived in a cold-war mentality. During their time, neo-liberalism was not as powerful political force as of today. What Indira and JRJ thought at the time were outdated to current conditions with the new realities of our time. Indira Gandhi and JRJ could not see through the contemporary politico-economic changes of the time and beyond- that were taking place in England under Thatcher, and in the US under Reagan. Global capitalism was restructuring itself during that time gradually straining post 2nd World War freedoms granted to the newly independent colonial world. The world was changing rapidly. JRJ came into power in 1977, by 1989, the collapse of the Berlin Wall marked the ending of cold-war creating an absolutely ‘free’ world, free to global capitalism to act free from the restraints of socialism. JRJ or Indira could not see any of this was coming. They could not envision the direction of global capitalism’s desire to change itself from its pretentious freedoms to its true nature, the complete global authoritarianism. They couldn’t foresee the new potentials of global capitalism and its re-masking itself with ‘neo-liberalism’ and globalization. In this trajectory of western global dominance, Sri Lanka became a victim, the sacrifice. 

Indira Gandhi or JRJ would never have thought that India would become a strategic partner of the US within the next 30 years in the Indian Ocean region under ‘pivot to Asia’ policy of the US. Although JRJ dreamed to be the ‘poodle’ of the USA in the Indian Ocean in 1977, by 2016 India not only had stolen JRJ’s dream of becoming USA’s poodle from him, but also she had demonstrated that she even can go further by becoming the prodigious example of the world political history by becoming ‘useful idiot’ of the US’s Indian Ocean policy.

However cunning JRJ may be, he still couldn’t foresee that the Tamils could play ‘Judas’ sabotaging his election promise of taking us to the promised land through western aid. The west playing the judge Pontius Pilate, (the Roman governor of Judea,) asked the question from messiah JRJ: what’s the truth about racial politics in Sri Lanka?” Knowing that he was not telling the truth, just like what Mangala did at the UNO, JRJ also said what western administrations and India wanted to hear. With the outcome of the1983 communal riots, India, with full diplomatic and moral backing of the west, signed Indo Lanka Accord and sent IPKF to Sri Lanka. The real reason behind enforcing the Indo Lanka Accord was not the Tamil grievances but to bring JRJ’s Sri Lanka under the Indian sphere of influence because India thought JRJ was creating a security threat to India.   

Therefore, the Indo-Lanka accord must be considered as a document outdated to the current world conditions. It is a security threat to both India and Sri Lanka.   

Remembering and recollecting history to understand our challenges in the Indian Ocean

If we are to understand our challenges in the Indian Ocean, more than anything else, it is very much symbolic to defend the name of it. By saying in uncertain terms that you are not any Tom, Dick or Harry but Kunta Kinte, we must stress the fact that the Indian Ocean is the Indian ocean and not Indo Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Ocean is located beyond the narrow strait of Malacca. Therefore, when we participate in any international forums or signing agreements related to the Indian Ocean, we must stress the actual name of the ocean.

When two world powers, China and the USA competing with each other to have their physical presence in Sri Lanka, the island nation naturally inclined to asses both powers in relation to Sri Lanka’s own security concerns. Unfortunately, the findings are not pretty for the USA. For Sri Lankans, it is clear that the USA is not only desiring to have a foothold in Sri Lanka but also has other vendettas, vested interests and hidden agendas in the region and therefore manipulating the island’s internal issues to its advantage. For that reason, Sri Lankans feel the USA as a dishonest harbinger, that invites more problems than solutions to the current crisis, and has become even a part of the problem.

In contrast, Sri Lanka doesn’t find any evidence to prove that China has hidden agendas in the Tamil separatist struggle in Sri Lanka other than their desire to have a foothold on its soil. Assessing this situation, if Sri Lanka inclines to tilt toward China and embrace Chinese assistance for her development, would that be Sri Lanka’s fault or the failure of the USA’s foreign policy toward Sri Lanka? The USA doesn’t seem to care about the national security concerns of Sri Lanka and her unwavering commitment to preserving its unitary status.

Had the USA remained a neutral and honest partner in the national issue of the island, and if it really desired only to have a foothold, it would have been able to establish a physical presence in Sri Lanka on friendly terms way back in the late 70s or early 80s during the tenures of ambassadors William H. Wriggins or John H. Reed with a little bit of hullabaloo from the leftist parties of the island at the time. But strangely enough, the US didn’t pursue it. Not only that, in the mid-80s, Ambassador James W. Spain reaffirmed the official position of USA about Trincomalee harbor declaring that the USA had had no interest whatsoever, military or otherwise, in the Trincomalee harbor. (However, despite ambassador’s statement, people were suspicious and rumored about the Singaporean-American venture ‘Prima Sri Lanka’ wheat flour-mill that was established in the Trinco harbor-front as an America’s tacit way of entering into the Harbor)

Under tremendous pressure from the naked aggression of India, JRJ sought assistance from then US president Ronald Reagan, but just to learn that the Reagan administration already had trashed him altogether with the baby elephant that Pres. JRJ had gifted to Pres. Regan during his official visit to the USA. (This baby elephant had died in Diarrhea due to lack of attention.) Adding insult to the injury, giving a tenderfoot treatment to this senior-most politician in entire Asia at the time, Pres. Regan was audacious enough to advise JRJ to follow the dictates of India. It was clear that JRJ was hurt very badly by this surprising treatment. Later he had mentioned this to the visiting US diplomat Peter Galbraith.

Although we inclined to think that experienced politicians make political decisions objectively away from emotions, they too can become very subjective and emotional like any other person when they make political decisions, no matter whether those decisions are history-changing epochal decisions. JRJ, a well-known pro-American politician and the bearer of the nickname ‘YankyDickie, took a 180-degree turn and became a lap-dog of India overnight, not only because he had been forced by Washington but also he was unable to see the reason behind why the USA was forcing him to take the Indian advice. This is the reason why many reluctant to call JRJ a statesman. Driven by the emotional reactions due to his wounded heart, he reacted in vengeance. He may have thought to teach a lesson or two to Washington by becoming pro-Indian all of a sudden. But any statesman in his shoes under his circumstance would have resisted India since the Vadamarachchi operation was almost ending with a successful result. (But JRJ had lied to media about his military saying that his military leaders refused to take Jaffna due to high casualties.)

But JRJ’s emotions were justified by the behind the scene activities of Washington forcing JRJ to deal with India leaving JRJ without any other options. On February 05, 2017 writing to The Hindu, under the caption of I was forced into a deal with India, Jayawardene told US envoy” Amit Baruah says… that JRJ revealed that Sri Lanka was forced (by Washington) into making a deal with IndiaHe (JRJ) stressed that none of his outside friends (obviously referring the west) would help him, so he had no choice but to make a deal with India, the unclassified CIA document read…

…it appears that the Americans also played a behind the scene role in ensuring channels of communication between president Jayawardene and PM Gandhi… interestingly, a third CIA intelligence assessment of September 1986 stated that India was rapidly expanding” its armed forces to intervene in Sri Lanka…”

As I said earlier, it was well known that JRJ was pro-western in general and pro-American in particular. When analyzing JRJ’s important political decisions during the initial few years of his rule, such as inviting VOA to have its relay station in Chilow, one can argue that JRJ was really envisioning to go even further to accommodate American military presence in Sri Lanka to put Sri Lanka firmly and loyally within the western sphere of influence like Singapore or South Korea.

Given the overwhelming western enthusiasm and pledges for development aid soon after his election victory in 1977, JRJ’s thinking of exploiting our strategic location as a bargaining chip to impress the west in this cold war era was pretty predictable. From his point of view, it could have been viewed as a logical move. But considering US ambassador James W. Spain’s sudden public statement about Washington’s unwillingness to occupy Trinco in the 1980s, it could be conjectured that it was USA (not Sri Lanka) that demonstrated their unwillingness to establish a military base in SL at that time even if Sri Lanka was willing to accommodate one. 

Under this hypothesis and JRJ’s political history, I think JRJ purposely antagonized India to please the west especially the USA. And considering JRJ’s risky political maneuvers in the past, it is also logical to presume that he might have given sufficient window purposely for the UNP mobs in Colombo and inner cities to escalate communal riots in 1983 to inflict colossal damage to the country’s image. By doing so he might have calculated to provoke India, and in turn, give a reason to react militarily, thus he might have expected to create favorable conditions for him to gain the American sympathy and hence to keep the USA on his flank in the equation. This could be the last of all senseless politics of JRJ. Does JRJ capable of executing such a heinous criminal political treachery? Those who have lived under JRJ might give an answer in a single word. YES! As we have experienced in recent history, decent politics of the UNP died with Dudley Senanayake. All the rest of UNP politicians after him were criminals capable of doing unthinkable. There are only three political parties that had mastered political violence in Sri Lanka, the LTTE, JVP, and the UNP.

However, after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi continued Indira’s Sri Lankan policy of destabilization. JR may have expected a firm American reaction favorable to him. But Washington was not interested to swallow the bait of JRJ. But instead, they already had another bait put in position for JRJ and Indian foreign policy establishment. They both gulped the American bait gleefully without a second thought. 

For Washington, JRJ’s reaction was predictable. Hurt by American humiliation, (as Washington may have predicted) JRJ reacted in such a way expecting to pinch the American nerve by signing Indo-Lanka accord. By doing so he thought he also can take revenge from Washington by placing SL within the influence of the Soviet bloc, all of a sudden portraying himself as a cute panda of the Russian bear. But Washington was way beyond JRJ and India had already foreseen the collapse of the Soviet Union and had envisioned the impending unipolar world.

When you see this entire issue through this historical perspective, the Indo-Lanka Accord becomes an outcome of an outdated global condition. It was a product of the cold war. Today world realities are different. Today India is pro-American than Sri Lanka (at least until one of the parties shake the apple cart). It is time for Sri Lankan administration to renegotiate the Indo-Lanka Accord with India based on current geopolitics and the challenges of both nations due to the existing global conditions driven by the Neoliberal agenda of balkanizing entire region.

US passivity of Indian hostility toward JRJ was unusual and could be a part of the design

US Ambassador James W. Spain, an enthusiast of JRJ, was heading the American mission during this most volatile period of Sri Lankan history. During Indo-Lanka Accord, he was there and personally witnessed a Sri Lankan sailor attacking the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi when Mr. Gandhi was receiving the military guard of honor after signing the infamous Indo Lanka Accord.

However, the unusual passive position of the US mission in Colombo toward highhanded interventionism of the Indian government in 1987 (including the violation of SL air space and dropping humanitarian aid to North of the island) was pretty obvious and could be witnessed during and after the Indian mediation and in the aftermath of the Indo Lanka Accord. This passivity was so obvious as well as so mysterious that the then US ambassador, an experienced career diplomat James W. Spain must have received strict instructions from Washington to treat the then Indian High Commissioner Jyotindra Nath Dixit as if Dixit was the undeclared viceroy of Sri Lanka at the time. Ambassador Spain closely associated with Dixit during these turbulent times. Dixit also acted as if he was the clandestine ruler of the island. By passively approving Indian McCarthyism in this island nation, the USA not only signaled India a specific message of encouragement but also sent a trembling signal to JRJ’s administration not to shake the cart or make any stupid turn but to comply and obey Indian dictates. It was inexplicable to think why did the USA behave that way? The USA wouldn’t behave in that manner if Indian intervention was going against its interests in the region. So, it is clear that Indian intervention was exactly what Washington awaited and was pretty compatible with the grand strategy of the USA in the region.

I personally knew Ambassador Spain. He was a soft-spoken wonderful individual. I happened to paint his portrait after he got retired. Since he had chosen to live in Sri Lanka in his retirement life, he was living at Gall-Face Court at that time. I had to spend about a week with him until I finished the painting. Knowing the fact that Ambassador Spain had a lot of information about the ruling class of Colombo, and that he knew a lot of behind the curtain dealings and other details about Kolombian politics in relation to Indo-Lanka accord, I asked him to write a book about his experience as the US ambassador during that troubling time of Sri Lankan history which culminated inking  Indo-Lanka accord. (He was the author of a number of books and I created the cover page for one of them.) My request might be a very selfish and circuitous way to know the information that I was not privy to access. He said it was a good idea, but never said he would do it. A few years later he passed away in Chicago burying a compendium of secrets about USA-Sri Lanka relations during the time of Indo Lanka accord with him.

When we recall this volatile period of history, it is pretty clear that the US foreign policy establishment had taken India for a ride (big time). It was a very clever strategy from the US’s part, that had planned and estimated every bit of detail to trap India to do exactly what Washington had anticipated. Washington had laid the trap and projected India to react in a particular way, and India reacted exactly the way that the US had expected like a ‘useful idiot.’ The US at that time tacitly purveyed all sorts of trickeries and signaled the Indians that the USA was fully in compliance with India’s regional superpower position and had no intention to upset or interfere in the sphere of India’s influence. Stupid Indians have swallowed it hook, line and sinker without question. By that way US got India to do the bidding on its behalf for the long-term US strategies in the region. In other words, Washington made the stupid cats in Delhi to pull the jack seeds out of the fire on its behalf. Indian cats in Delhi happily did it with pride. This strengthened the position of LTTE and India and helped them to push the separatist agenda to the very brink of dividing Sri Lanka. What a superb crafty fiat of diplomacy of Washington? It will take another 100 more years for the Indians to accomplish such a mastery level of diplomacy that Washington had applied to trap India. Kautilya (c. 350–283 BC), the master of diplomacy and crafty politics must have been reborn in foggy-bottom this time to teach a lesson to the naughty Indians.

When it comes to Sri Lanka, Indian stupidity had no limit. It was not India that buckled US calculations amassed for 50 years of diplomatic hard work but it was by two upset jockeys hailed from a southern village of the jungle, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya – by unexpectedly defeating the pet of the west, the LTTE. This unpredicted turn of events messed entire US plans and pushed the design for another 20 years into the backseat.

If the USA had only an honest desire to have a foothold in Sri Lanka, it would have been a much easier problem for Sri Lanka to resolve it, and the USA might have gotten it with a little bit of shouting and yelling from the left, and considerable acceptance from the general public during JRJ’s administration. (of course, JRJ’s pro-US policy was the main reason for then Indian PM Indira Gandhi to fund, train and arm separatists in Sri Lanka, but if the USA firmly stood behind JRJ without playing double games and without speaking from both ends, JRJ would have approved a US base in Sri Lanka at that time. Don’t forget, JRJ was enjoying 5/6 of parliamentary majority)

JRJ was a great politician but not a good statesman. He was an old-fashioned politician; therefore, he could never understand the emerging realities of global politics that was developing since Reaganism in the US and Thatcherism in the UK. If he could see through the reason why he had been abandoned by Washington at the very crucial hour of need, he could have analyzed the reason behind it. I even suspect 1983 black July’ also could have been a staged event by some faction to advance their separatist agendas. Whoever triggered it, the Black July had trapped JRJ without having an escape route.

Thirty years ago, global politics was different from that of today and with the presence of the Soviet Union playing a bigger role in global politics, it was multi-polar in character. Then, on the other hand, China and India were not as significant economic powers as of today. If the USA had a military position in Sri Lanka at that time, that situation would have been similar to that of USA-Singapore, USA-Malaysia type of economic-military partnership. It is baffling as to why the USA never pursued to achieve that goal when it was a much easier task then? Isn’t that because the USA’s grand strategy assigned to the South Asian region was much larger than merely having a foothold in Sri Lanka? This is the area of India’s complete witlessness exposes. India behaves overconfidently about its regional position and strategic partnership with the USA. What they haven’t taken into notice is that the USA can pull a new enemy from anywhere at any time out of the hat as it wishes. Today’s strategic partner of the USA could be a potential enemy tomorrow. For the American foreign policy establishment, it is simple as such. What happened to Pakistan, former USA’s regional strategic partner? They used Pakistan when India was in the Soviet sphere of influence and abandoned it after Soviet Union was collapsed. Now they are pitting India against China.

Militarily speaking, India is just a paper tiger. The incompetence and inefficiency of the Indian military were exposed big time during its deployment in Sri Lanka. Washington knows this. China knows it. The Indian union never had confronted a formidable enemy in her entire post-independence history. India still has to go through the acid-test of the nation’s patriotism of its artificial union. Germany has proved it, China has proved it and even another one, the greatest of the loose unions in human history, the Soviet Union had proved it. But can India prove that her entire population is willing to sacrifice their lives to safeguard the Indian union? The only occasion when India briefly engaged a formidable enemy was the Sino-Indian war in 1967. She lost it embracingly. Under this condition, if India ever had to confront a western military, likes of the US military in the Indian Ocean, oh…the only conclusion I can come to is…sorry about them. God Shiva must save India since I doubt if the Indian military can save it.

So, India must understand the fact that as far as it plays the same ugly game of 13th amendment with Sri Lanka, she digs her own grave much deeper inch by inch. India must reevaluate her Sri Lanka policy since Indira Gandhi was a cold-war hoax, therefore must acknowledge that the Indo-Lanka accord, the end result of her SL policy, was a security blunder that threatens both countries.

For Sri Lanka’s weakness, it has an ethnic minority that can be useful for any potential enemy of India that is aspiring to balkanize it. Because India is the home for 70 million Tamils. Sri Lanka sees the USA’s Sri Lankan policy as an existential threat. Any analytical mind would conclude that the USA’s policies eventually threaten the unitary status of the country. From Sri Lankan point of view, SL is baffled to answer the question ‘why?’ Why the USA cannot get out of the ethnic issue of the island and sincerely seek help from Sri Lanka to strengthen its economic-military strategy in the region? The answer to this question is the location where we can find the kernel of the problem. The entire purpose of the west getting a foothold in Sri Lanka is unchanged since the Portuguese; it is to hold sway over the whole of India” Actually Sri Lanka would have been a much safer place without India, or if India was a subcontinent full of small nations. Sri Lanka has been victimized because of India. If India wasn’t there next to us, the Sinhala majority population would never be treated like this by the west.

It was not the sympathy of Jews that the USA supports Israel unconditionally, but the USA’s desire to dominate oil fields of the region. The USA needs Israel to exist in the region to achieve that end. Israel knows this and Americans know it. In Sri Lanka, it is not the sympathy of Tamils that drives the USA’s foreign policy establishment to diplomatically and morally support the Tamil cause, but the Tamils are the best tool to balkanize India. We know it, Tamils know it and the USA also knows that we know it. But India is indifferent about it. Washington knows once the Tamil separate state is created in NE of the island, it won’t rest there until the division of Tamil Nadu is achieved in India. And then, it will never take long to bring a domino effect in this artificially created Indian union for many other Indian states to break away from it. To achieve that goal, a separate state in Sri Lanka is a fundamental necessity. For that reason, American policy planners consider the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka as a foreign policy asset and a useful strategic tool than the friendship of the majority Sinhalese. This is the bitter truth of the USA Sri Lanka relations.

However, as far as Sri Lanka holds its position of resistance, India will stay together. (I know some of the Lankaweb forum members had said earlier that divided India is good for its neighbors. That’s true. But unfortunately, the road to the division of India has been fallen across our home country, that is how it has been strategized by the west. For that reason, we like it or not, when we protect our unitary state, eventually India will be saved. It might be bad news for some in the west but can’t help. Change your strategy, we will support you to divide India if India behaves and treats us the same way. If the USA could dismantle the mammoth superpower Soviet Union, India must realize that dismantling India is just a cakewalk for the west.

Given that the origin of Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka was India’s making, conveniently and convincingly Sri Lanka can claim that they are fighting to save India from the stupid Indians. That is the rib-tickling irony of Indian politics. Sri Lanka is fighting India’s war while India is in a deep slumber enjoying the strategic partnership with the USA. India has cunningly dislocated their fight of Tamil Separatism into Sri Lanka. Until we firmly address this existential threat and remove the reason for the recurrence of this problem, external interference in the country and Tamil separatism will stay in Sri Lanka. I am sure Pres. Gotabhaya will have the courage to take the bold decision to solve this problem once and for all. That is the reason why we must advocate relocating our capital to Trincomalee as a part of the strategy. Pres. Gotabhaya also needs to convince the Indian establishment to stop insisting on the full implementation of the 13th amendment. And he must renegotiate it or abrogate it entirely ASAP, not only for the sake of the unity of Sri Lanka but also for the unity of INDIA.      

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