by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
In writing many years ago about the Indo-Lankan Accord of 1987, the single most crucial element in bilateral relations since the independence of both countries, I made the following assessment -
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP
The full text of the Accord, revealed only after it had been signed, indicated that in order to win peace Jayawardene had gone far down the road he had tried to avoid. It had already been let slip the previous week that the President would have discretion to postpone the referendum whereby the east could break free from the north if the union proved unsatisfactory. Apart from this and an agreement to appoint an interim administration for the area (which would allow immediate power to the terrorist groups), there was also an appendix to the Accord that, in dealing with Indo-Lankan relations as apart from the internal conflict, made clear that Sri Lanka had formally accepted Indian suzerainty over the region.
In this appendix, which took the form of an exchange of letters of intent, Jayawardene agreed to ‘reach an early understanding about the relevance and employment of foreign military and intelligence personnel’, that ‘Trincomalee or any other ports in Sri Lanka will not be available for military use by any country in a manner prejudicial to India’s interests’, that ‘the work of restoring and operating the Trincomalee oil tank farm will be undertaken as a joint venture between India and Sri Lanka’ and that ‘Sri Lanka’s agreements with foreign broadcasting organizations will be reviewed to ensure that any facilities set up by them in Sri Lanka are used solely as public broadcasting facilities and not for any military or intelligence purposes’.
Perhaps there had been little gain to the country from Jayawardene’s manoeuvres over the past few years and the letters of intent did no more than enunciate what should have from the start been accepted as a cornerstone of any realistic foreign policy for a small country situated so helplessly at the tip of India. Yet that this should have been set down in writing was indeed a triumph for Gandhi.[i]
In an earlier version of this analysis, I had noted the type of manoeuvre Jayewardene had engaged in, viz ‘with regard to the Voice of America, Israeli agents, Pakistani military training, and the shadowy companies that had been chosen for the tank farm concession’[ii]. I had argued before that Jayawardene’s efforts to present himself as a knight on the side of the West in what turned out to be the dying years of the Cold War were potentially disastrous for Sri Lanka. So it proved, and in getting this reversed India engaged in a programme that sadly provided terrorist groups with support that facilitated their development into dangerous entities.
Such actions were regrettable, though I believe that, from the Sri Lankan side, the provocation we had offered was also serious and potentially dangerous, given the intensity with which the Cold War was fought in South Asia during the eighties. The Indian response therefore was understandable though, as always with such initiatives during the Cold War, its consequences were potentially even more dangerous. I believe it was incumbent on Sri Lanka thereafter to make this clear to India and request that, if good faith were maintained on our side, India owed it to us to ensure that the potentially dangerous consequences were averted.
I think this has been done. My argument here then is that, except for during the disastrous Jayewardene years, relations between India and Sri Lanka have been positive and productive, and both countries have indeed worked overtime since the dangers of those years to ensure that they were not repeated. However we have to bear in mind that there would obviously be individuals in both countries, official as well as unofficial, who are still affected by the memory of those years, and who would therefore advocate measures, whether in terms of what is seen as self-defence or otherwise, which would affect good relations. We need to be wary about such individuals, in particular because some of them are acting in good faith, and ensure that their recommendations are neither followed nor given prominence. I should note that India has generally been more efficient about this at the Centre, given the more adult approach of your media to reporting on political relations between the two countries.
It is important too to note that, though the Cold War is over, there are still international dimensions that need to be recognized. In the early nineties for instance, as I wrote at the time, there were fears that we were once more becoming victims of American worries about India –
‘It is worth noting however that, at the time the Tigers were resisting the Indian army with a vigour that had seemed inconceivable at the start of the operation, the rumour in Colombo was that the Central Intelligence Agency was behind them. This may not have been fair to the Americans, and it was certainly just as plausible that the Indians were encouraging the rumour as perhaps the best method of explaining the tremendous cleft that had appeared between them and the Tigers. For their part the Americans were at pains to explain that the Accord had not really affected them, and facilities had been made available to the VoA in an area north of Colombo on the same terms as before, which had in any case involved monitoring as required by the Sri Lankan government. At the same time it was clear that they were making a much more concerted effort to develop contacts with opposition groups, not only the SLFP, but also as it seemed the leftwing group led by Kumaranatunga.’
Those worries it seems no longer exist, and Sri Lanka will no longer be a victim of – nor, as happened with Jayewardene, a willing foolish participant in – American/Indian rivalries. Yet, even while we see efforts in the so-called international media to draw attention to other rivalries, we should also be aware of continuing suspicions about India in other Western minds. My own view – and this was confirmed for me, albeit not scientifically, by the British coverage of the last Indian election, as well as visits by British diplomats from both Delhi and Colombo to Chennai at that time – is that the previous British government was worried about the emergence of India, and would have preferred a weak country under pressure from separatist elements. It also wanted to convince the Americans about its special knowledge of South Asia, and resented American efforts to establish direct links with areas in the sub-continent it had previously neglected. Interestingly enough, the attitude, in particular during the first few months of the Obama administration, reminded me of the manoeuvres undertaken in the run-up to Indian independence by the British to kill American support for Indian aspirations, as laid out graphically in recent books by Narendra Singh Sarila[iii] as well as by Jaswant Singh’s recent biography of Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Fortunately we now have a much more practical government in place in Britain, which realizes that it cannot continue to claim moral authority over the sub-continent, and is content to develop a much more adult and hence positive relationship with India, as well as with Sri Lanka. But I believe both India and Sri Lanka must continue vigilant about different tendencies, especially when they chime in with the predilections of our own officials, some of whom still believe in special relationships that privilege particular countries. This approach is not, I believe, generally intended to oppose national interests, but often it can, when positions are pushed to their limits and involve hostility to other countries.
Relations in the past
But before we look to the future, let us review relations in the past, and the generally positive tenor of interactions. In the first decade after independence there were some slight tensions, caused I believe largely by our own adherence to an Old Commonwealth model of independence, and suspicion on the part of at least one of our leaders of the emerging idea of Non-Alignment. I should note however that Nehru’s effortless superiority may also have contributed to a sense of resentment, as may be seen in the retort of Sir John Kotelawala when Nehru remonstrated with him for his unabashedly pro-Western speech at Bandung. Upbraided for not having consulted Nehru beforehand, Sir John responded that Nehru had not consulted him before his own much more significant speech.
Fortunately that situation changed with the election of Mr Bandaranaike whose approach to international relations was much more in line with Nehru’s. Personal affinities continued when Mrs Bandaranaike took over, and in time her own relations with Indira Gandhi took cooperation between the countries further. Thus we had Sri Lanka able to offer itself as a peace-maker during the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962, and also maintaining the trust of India despite providing refuelling facilities to Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan conflict, when India disallowed Pakistan flying over her territories to what was then East Pakistan, soon to become Bangladesh.
Those days saw too the Sirima-Shastri pact which provided a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of the then stateless labour which the British had brought over for their plantations, as well as a determination in favour of Sri Lanka of the status of Kachchativu, an island in the Palk Straits between the two countries. Underlying the generally benevolent Indian approach to Sri Lanka then was I believe total confidence that we would support Indian interests in any international forum.
All that changed with Jayewardene’s Cold War adventurism following his election to power with a massive majority in 1977. Relations were also soured by his personal attitude, beginning with his belief following Indira Gandhi’s defeat in the Indian general election at around the same time that both countries would be governed by pro-Western parties for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for him, while he was able to destroy democracy in Sri Lanka, with the tacit support of the West, India was more resilient, and its old freedom fighters, even if pro-Western, fundamentally more decent.
India continued then to have a vibrant parliamentary democracy and free elections, and Mrs Gandhi was soon back in power, her personal suspicions of Jayewardene fuelled by the various maneuvers noted above. Hence her government’s support for terrorist forces, an initiative that was given moral authority by the vicious attacks on Tamils and Tamil sentiments that elements in Jayewardene’s government engaged in, almost certainly with his support, in 1981 and 1983.
Jayewardene’s ridiculous efforts to put off the inevitable between 1983 and 1987 only saw the terrorists get stronger and his own reputation internationally plummet. Even though Mrs Thatcher continued to advocate support for Sri Lanka, for instance when Jayewardene sent his Foreign Minister to inquire whether he could invoke the 1947 Mutual Defence Treaty in case India invaded, British officials convinced her that this was not practical. By 1987, with his refusals to compromise having led to heightened terrorist activity, India was able to get a resolution passed against us at the UN Human Rights Committee (moved by Argentina, since Sri Lanka had been one of the few countries to back Britain over the Falklands War). Thus, it was with certainty that the world would not oppose her that India intervened during the 1987 Sri Lankan military offensive against the terrorists in the North.
Jayewardene finally realized the game was up, and compromised with his most effective enemy. Sadly, while this involved some conciliation of the terrorists, he took no steps to conciliate the Sinhala opposition in the form of Mrs Bandaranaike. The result was that violence within the country exploded. The Tigers were dissatisfied with the compromises offered and, though the Indians fought against them resolutely on Jayewardene’s behalf, they were able to take advantage of other internal problems in both countries, and survived to fight another day. Meanwhile there was even worse violence in the South, alleviated only after much bloodshed and after Jayewardene had at last been forced, by his own party as much as anyone else, to give up power.
The next decade and a half saw a bizarre tendency in Sri Lanka on the part of parties in opposition to treat the Tigers as much misunderstood little lambs. President Premadasa and President Kumaratunga both came into power in the conviction that they could negotiate peace with the Tigers and, though both were soon disabused, this approach did much to strengthen the credentials of the Tigers during this period. It also suggested to them that, however blatant their suppression of other Tamil voices, all would be forgiven them in the immense gullibility, or else political manoeuvring, of Sri Lankan politicians. Ranil Wickremesinghe indeed went further, and continued to play ball with the Tigers even when it was patently clear that they were abusing his Ceasefire Agreement to an appalling and incredibly dangerous degree.
During this period India behaved with forbearance, and in the first two cases was justified in the rapidity with which the two Presidents realized that they could rely on India much more than on the Tigers. It is a measure of President Premadasa’s immense capacity to learn that, though he had entered into power with a mindset of hostility towards India, he was soon able to mend fences, with the assistance of distinguished diplomats such as Neville Kanakaratne. The general professionalism of the Indian Foreign Ministry also contributed to this – and I believe contributed immeasurably to President Kumaratunga becoming confident enough in 2003 to check the indulgent excesses of the Wickremesinghe government, when he forgot as Prime Minister the constitutional authority of the elected President.
Cooperation in the current context
The election of President Rajapakse in 2005 saw a regime that began with a perspective that its predecessors had wasted valuable time in acquiring. Though he continued with the Ceasefire Agreement and tried to negotiate with the LTTE, he also realized the importance of strengthening his defences, spurred as he also was by the blatant violations of the CFA by the Tigers in the first couple of months after he took office. Helped by having a Presidential Secretary and a Secretary of Defence who had no financial or family connections with arms dealers, an unusual state of affairs for Sri Lankan officials, he was able to build up a confident and disciplined military. So too, when the negotiations began, the Sri Lankan government had no illusions about the bad faith of the Tigers, and they could stick to principles without succumbing to Tiger threats or blandishments. Efforts by the Tigers to sweep the issue of child soldiers under the carpet for instance were resisted firmly.
This was the more difficult because the Tigers had used the follies of the Wickremesinghe years, and the slipshod approaches of the Kumaratunga period that followed, to enhance their standing with the so-called international community. The UN for example had poured money into Tigerland with no supervision of what was done with it, while a few Western nations hankered after the happy days of Wickremesinghe when they were allowed to call the shots. The United States, I should note, was an exception to this since, though under severe pressure from the Tiger led diaspora and international agencies that saw themselves as arbiters of the destiny of smaller nations – the smaller the better, for their proconsular purposes – they understood the need to stand firm against terrorism.
But even the United States had to speak with a characteristically Western forked tongue, and it was on its old friends in the Non-Aligned Movement, plus the former Socialist bloc, that Sri Lanka had to rely most heavily in this most momentous period in her recent history. India was foremost amongst these, and kept its position straight despite much more potentially significant pressures from politicians in Tamilnadu. The Indians made it clear that there should be no indulgence to the Tigers, but all efforts should be made to improve the position of the Tamils.
Since this was a perspective that Sri Lanka could understand – and which was indeed an obligation for Sri Lanka to adopt, given the treatment of the Tamils that had contributed to the intensity of Tamil emotions after 1983 – the Rajapakse government found it easy to work in coordination with India. The contribution India made then to the defeat of the Tigers was invaluable, and is not something Sri Lanka will forget. At the same time, given its problems about supplying arms, India did not stand in the way of acquisition of arms from elsewhere.
I would suggest indeed that the synergy that this process gave rise to would be a useful model for the future, as newly emerging economies strive to cooperate without falling into the trap of mutual hostility that would ultimately hold them all back. If I might be permitted a personal note, I have seen few sights as heartening as the polished understanding with which the Indian and Pakistani ambassadors worked together in Geneva to assist Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka in what was I think a turning point with regard to previous Western domination of moral discourse at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Our Ambassador had built up close ties with the groups I have mentioned above, with particular attention to the South Americans and the Africans, in addition to more traditional areas of support in Asia and amongst the Islamic nations. But his closest ties were with India and Pakistan, and he requested the ambassadors of those two countries to go with him into negotiations with the West. When he was inclined to compromise, he said, after a rapid exchange in a language no one else in the room understood – it was Urdu – his friends suggested he hold back.
It was that experience that convinced me that, with our own worst days I hope behind us, we should do more to strengthen SAARC and help to build confidence between India and Pakistan. Our commitment to both these countries is strong, as is our determination to defeat terrorism, which will be in the interests of stability for both countries. If there are elements in either which still believe rivalries between countries can justify working with forces that use terror, we with the bitter experiences we have gone through with the Tigers, as India has done too, should do all we can to change such mindsets – while also contributing to mechanisms that will strengthen economic and social cooperation so as to facilitate the South Asian region to take its deserved place as one of the more dynamic exponents of growth and development.
Reconciliation and the restoration of confidence
But all this is for the future. For the present, what needs to be done to ensure continuing cooperation of the sort that allowed us to overcome terrorism so effectively, while forestalling any backlash within India? In the first place, obviously, we need to continue with activities that will ensure the confidence of the Tamil people within Sri Lanka, but also outside. I refer here by the latter not only to people in Tamil Nadu, but also to the diaspora, some of whom were prepared to threaten the unity of India in addition to that of Sri Lanka, in seeking to deal with grievances real and imaginary.
In what are I think the most important respects, we have done a good job, and will obviously continue on that path. I mean here the programme of rapid resettlement, together with the rehabilitation of former combatants, most of whom we realize were relatively innocent victims of Tiger compulsions. The figures here speak for themselves, and we cannot stress enough how the myths of yesteryear, that we were keeping the displaced in long-term detention, that we were treating former cadres as prisoners, have been so conclusively exploded.
We made it clear that we could not return the displaced immediately, because of the landmines, because of the need for at least basic infrastructure to be in place before people could resume their lives, and because of security considerations. But we made a pledge, soon after the defeat of the Tigers, that the bulk of the returns would take place within six months, and we stuck by this, albeit with slight delays. We must appreciate in this regard the confidence India placed in us, and also the enormous assistance proffered for the purpose, in particular with regard to demining and the provision of shelter. In a sense that approach was an object lesson to those who were less anxious about the displaced than about scoring brownie points with pressure groups through vociferous criticisms of the Sri Lankan state.
We have indeed gone further, because we are well on the way to developing the infrastructure in the North so as to promote equitable development. We showed how this could be done in the East through concerted effort, and we have made up in a short time for some at least of the neglect the distant areas of our country suffered from in the half century after independence, neglect that contributed to youth insurrections in both the North and the South.
More however remains to be done in terms of equitable human resources development. We need to fast forward educational reforms so that the talents and energies of the people in the North can contribute on an equal basis to development and prosperity. I have long advocated this, but my concerns in this regard have been increased by recent discussions with the Tamil diaspora in London, who indicated how educational discrimination in the seventies, justified as it was on racist grounds by Cyril Mathew and his ilk, contributed to bitterness. Fortunately educational reform is one of the most important objectives of the government.
But in addition to promoting excellence at higher levels on an equitable basis, to match our well recognized excellence in basic education, we must also think of innovative ways of ensuring that our young people can learn together and develop social links. We must get rid of the system of educational segregation we have allowed to build up over the years, where students are locked into Sinhala or Tamil or Muslim schools, caged in monolingualism, unable except in urban centres to engage in extra-curricular activities together. Sports and cultural activities together must be promoted, and also working together in social service projects as well as nation building activities such as cadetting.
That last field suggests another area in which we should take swift action, so as to increase the proportion of the minorities in our security forces as well as in the public sector in general. Already commissioning of Tamil policemen, which we began even while the conflict continued, is proceeding apace, and we must extend this on a proactive basis to the military. Similarly with the public service, where we also need to promote bilingualism. This government took the plunge in making bilingualism compulsory for new recruits, but we also need to ensure that those previously in service too respond positively to the new ethos.
We need too to restore confidence in governmental systems by promoting not only transparency and accountability, but also responsiveness and efficiency. In this regard I believe we can learn much from India, for instance with regard to Freedom of Information as well as the enforcement of Public Policy. This must be extended to the judiciary, not just in terms of the enforcement of rights, but more importantly in ensuring that justice is not delayed, that citizens who have recourse to the Courts do not suffer from judicial process taking precedence over justice. This I believe is an area in which India too needs to pursue reforms, and perhaps we could work together to promote this, to overcome the delays caused by the adversarial system we inherited from the British, so as to promote instead citizen centred justice for the SAARC region as a whole. Better training for the judiciary so as to focus attention on their responsibility to the citizenry is essential, while we also need to find different mechanisms to ensure swift restorative justice for those who suffered during the conflict.
Collaboration in education and training
But, in addition to these areas where we should work together for conceptual change, there are obviously more practical ways of improving things. In particular I believe we can profitably follow Indian examples with regard to providing a range of options in higher and vocational education. Replicating something like the IITs for instance in previously deprived regions would help with promoting the excellence we need while also showing our commitment to equity.
I was thus delighted recently to hear that our Ministry of Youth Affairs has been in contact with an Indian Non-Governmental Organization that has developed a heartening model for Vocational Training. In Sri Lanka we had concentrated too much in this regard on technical training that came close to being academic, with long courses that made no provision for the varied needs of the workplace. Aide et Action, as the Organization is called (actually of French origin, but it has developed a decentralized system of management that gives priority to local expertise), has instituted short carefully targeted courses that also develop soft skills. I was pleasantly surprised, having attended a couple of their events in India over the last year, to see the confidence of the youngsters who had benefited from their training, the skills bestowed on girls who were breaking into non-traditional occupations whilst also able to stand up for themselves in the workplace as well as at home, the capacity for self-expression and analysis.
This sort of model can benefit us tremendously, especially in the context of the single parent families that will be one of the lasting legacies of the conflict we have gone through. It was encouraging therefore that the Ministry now in charge of Vocational Training had registered the possible impact of such work, and has encouraged an expansion of Aide et Action’s work in Sri Lanka.
But in addition to assistance and example, we need too to promote contacts, to ensure that trade develops as a strong two way traffic between our countries. In this regard I believe we should move swiftly to ratifying CEPA, albeit with the institution of safeguards in areas in which problems might arise. At the same time we should also strengthen our capacity to respond to problems.
In this regard I should note that we are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer genius of the Indian bureaucracy. When it comes to negotiations, Indian administrators tend to be single-minded and ruthless in the pursuit of their national goals. Our administrators unfortunately belong to a softer and more amenable tradition, and in the last few years they have not been getting the high level training that will enable them to deal effectively with their Indian counterparts. Language skills can also sometimes be a problem, if not at the highest levels. In that respect I believe we will benefit much from participating in some of your training programmes for administrators, just as we have benefited from sharing in your military training programmes. The difference is that our military personnel used these skills in cooperation with yours to overcome terrorism, whereas if our administrators make proper use of the training your high flying institutes provide, one result will be negotiations on an equal basis, so that we might ensure that the fine print of any trade agreements we sign benefits us as much as it does you.
But in the long run it will I think benefit India as much as us if we brought our Administrative Service back to the level at which it used to function in the past, in the days for instance when personnel from South Asia played such an influential role in world bodies. Now, as you know, we find these bodies dominated by Westerners, and also Westerners, as one distinguished Indian diplomat pointed out to me, who come from what might be termed Non-Governmental backgrounds, to which they usually return if they cannot feed for ever on the clover that the United Nations provides.
The result is that they think governments are basically incompetent if not actually evil, and it is their business to set up rival authorities, of essentially unaccountable individuals such as they once were and hope to be again. Unfortunately they do not realize – at least, I hope they do not, though some are undoubtedly shrewd, and know on which side their bread is buttered – that the Non-Governmental Organizations they privilege are funded by individuals, and often by governments, with particular political aims.
If we are to ensure that multilateral organizations go back then to serving the needs of member countries, and their elected governments, we need to work together more coherently to promote a less alien mindset. I believe that the presence of India of the Un Security Council, I hope soon on a permanent basis, will contribute to this, but it will also be helpful if SAARC as a body, through experienced and articulate Civil Servants, works towards ensuring greater equity and more attention to international perspectives in what is now almost frivolously termed the ‘international community’.
Promoting exchanges and professional support
The ability to deal on equal terms with the world at large demands better English, which is an area we have neglected appallingly in the last few decades. In the old days I fear we had a very superior attitude to Indian English, and indeed we still find people in Sri Lanka who believe that only Colombo, apart from one or two denizens of Mayfair, now uses correctly the language of Shakespeare. Such people also look down on the Indian education system in comparison with ours, and talk loftily of our high literacy rates in comparison with the rest of the sub-continent.
Certainly we have much to be proud of with regard to basic education, but we seem since independence to have lagged further and further behind you with regard to promoting excellence. We killed diversity, we killed initiative. Contrariwise, you developed not only institutions such as the IITs, but also world class universities as well as research centres of accomplished professionalism, on a par with the best in the rest of the world.
We have begun now to understand this, and I am pleased that we are relying on India for support for the new Spoken English initiative. Ten years ago the Ministry of Education wanted to promote cooperation with the Centre in Hyderabad, but this died away with the advent of Ranil Wickremesinghe to power, and it was not revived until a couple of years ago.
But in addition to that, we should learn too from you about the promotion of English medium education for not just the privileged, about the programmes you are developing for public-private partnerships in education, about the development of educational materials suitable for and accessible by the majority of our youngsters. When your Foreign Secretary was High Commissioner in Sri Lanka we tried to work together to promote cooperation in educational publishing, but the traditionalists in our Ministry of Education killed that project, and indeed ensured that the wonderful primary English readers that alone we obtained for distribution to students were not used effectively. I have recently come across them locked up in cupboards in rural primary schools, killed stone dead.
You have built up a wonderful tradition in your country of book production and distribution, and I must confess to having benefited from it tremendously since yours are the only publishers who pay me royalties, unlike their Sri Lankan counterparts. But because book distributors in Sri Lanka still continue to privilege Western publishers, we do not find enough of your highly suitable and highly affordable books in our markets. I would suggest then concerted action to develop joint publishing ventures so that Indian firms with the right expertise work together with Sri Lankans to adapt books for our market. Such partnerships could also set up distribution mechanisms that will penetrate the rural and regional markets that are now so sadly neglected. Regrettably, instead of looking on our annual highly successful book fair as a spur to provide similar access to books year round throughout the country, we rather rest on our laurels and wait another twelve months to offer children in the regions access again to these invaluable resources.
In similar vein I would hope that, when you set up consulates in two more cities, you also inaugurate cultural centres on the lines of the immensely successful centre you have developed over the last decade in Colombo. Twenty years ago it was only the British Council that offered regular small scale cultural programmes, with some supplementation by a couple of the Europeans, so it is heartening now that India and the United States have developed even more active centres. But no one has really thought about the rest of the country, though I gather the Americans are moving now in that direction, in partnership with the university sector. It would therefore be wonderful if India, perhaps in collaboration with some of the others, took the initiative to develop mechanisms whereby our population at large could share, through weekly videos, in the art and culture of other nations.
Another area in which innovations might serve to develop lasting links is that of student exchanges. Europe has managed to develop greater mutual understanding through encouraging students to spend time in other countries to follow courses for which credits can be transferred. We should encourage twinning between at least some universities to develop such programmes. At another level we should promote school visits, sports fixtures being an obvious rationale for such, but there could be others, including cultural performances which would include training and familiarization elements.
I should note that, in addition to such exchanges serving to build up links, they would also be immensely productive from an educational standpoint. Having to interact in a common language, and share ideas and experiences, would benefit students from both countries – and we should also, I think, plan exchanges that involve other countries in the SAARC region.
At higher levels, I must admit, we would need more concerted guidance from India. As indicated earlier, we have failed signally in developing research outfits. I hope then for instance that at least now the collaboration the late Lakshman Kadirgamar instituted between the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies and think-tanks in Delhi can lead to productive research and writing. In a different dimension, we need too to write up – for I believe this could also be useful for other countries floundering in their efforts to contain terrorism, in part because they are not taking the care we did with regard to the civilians in the midst of whom terrorists necessarily function – our successes against the Tigers in the last few years. I used in the past to bewail the fact that we had not learned from our mistakes, that we had not written about the debacles we suffered in the nineties, whereas Indian military men had produced several books from which future generations could benefit about their dealings with the Tigers following the Indo-Lankan Accord. Now, since we have been successful, we have no excuse not to write up what happened, but I think we will benefit from collaboration since our writing skills may need support, in addition to analysis in terms of wider perspectives.
But there are other areas too in which we must do better if our decision makers are to have at hand the guidance they need with regard to social and economic and political issues. I have raised in the relevant Parliamentary Consultative Committee the lack of research organizations devoted to the social sciences – always excepting the good work done in one particular area by the Institute of Policy Studies – and I hope we will get your support to develop our own expertise in these areas.
In that sense I hope this seminar, which the Asian Institute of Transport Development has organized at such an appropriate time, will be the precursor to more and better collaboration between India and Sri Lanka, to develop better mutual understanding as well as personal relations. The development of a proper model in this regard will also I hope help us in our efforts to improve and build on cooperation between all the countries in the SAARC region.
(Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP At the Indo-Sri Lankan Dialogue Indian International Centre, New Delhi 21-22 October 2010)
[i] Declining Sri Lanka, Foundation Books, Delhi, 2007, 114-5
[ii] Sri Lanka in Crisis, 1977-88: J R Jayewardene and the erosion of democracy, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo 1991, 136
[iii] Ibid, 161
[iv] ‘The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition’ …….See for instance Sarila’s account of the removal of Colonel Louis Johnson, Roosevelt’s original envoy, who seemed sympathetic to Congress – which led Churchill to wire to Harry Hopkins, perhaps Roosevelt’s most influential adviser, that ‘We do not at all relish the prospect of Johnson’s return to India. The Viceroy is much perturbed at the prospect.’