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With Friends Like This Do We Need…?

Jun 26, 2010 4:08:50 PM - thesundayleader.lk

Even going back to the legendary times of Lanka’s Ravana abducting Sita from India, Sri Lanka had to be friends with the many kingdoms on the sub-continent, for the sake of peace and self preservation. Right through the times the theme has been peace and friendship with ‘India’ — in reality many south Indian kingdoms, if Lanka was to be left in peace.

Mahinda Rajapaksa and Manmohan Singh

At the beginning of Lanka’s history, the Bengali brigand Vijaya having seduced Lanka’s queen Kuveni, married her, annexed the kingdom, kicked out Queen Kuveni, and made a royal princess of South India his queen. History records that win or lose, Lanka’s foreign policy was peace with expansionists of the sub-continent to escape military interventions.

Making of India

We stress on different Indian fiefdoms rather than an Indian nation, because such a unified nation did not exist till the British put it together. Winston Churchill once remarked that ‘India is no more united than the equator’

India, however is united today, shaky as it may be and is a rising industrial and regional power. There is no point in going back to pre and post Vijayan times.

JRJ anti-Indian ?

Friendship with India has become a  mantra particularly after the 1987 Indian intervention. President J.R. Jayewardene now stands condemned for his anti-Indian, pro American policies by the ‘friendship with India’ lobby, but it has to be pointed out that Indo-Sri Lanka relations were at their best  after his 1977 sweeping victory.

Jayewardene and Moraji Desai, the then Indian prime minister who routed the ‘Empress of India’, Indira Gandhi even in her pocket borough, in Rae Barely, were great friends and had much in common. Desai had vowed that he would drive India’s ‘cow and calf’ (Indira and son Sanjay) out of politics and Jayewardene too pledged that he would do the same to ‘Lanka’s cow and calf’ (Sirima Bandaranaike and son Anura). The two leaders became great buddies, both being pro American and pro capitalist. It was only with the return of Indira that Indo-Lanka relations began to sour. Our so called historians best take another look at Jayewardene’s anti-Indianism.

After the Indian military intervention and return of Indian troops from Lanka, the cry of ‘friendship with India’ by Lanka was renewed with gusto. Sri Lankan leaders hurried to New Delhi at every given instance fearing that Colombo had annoyed Indian Brahmins in the South block. This kowtowing continues even after 23 years.

One way traffic

Recently, President Rajapaksa travelled to New Delhi to meet Indian leaders. It was his first visit to the Indian capital after being elected president for the second term and an Indo-Sri Lanka Declaration ensued. Rajapaksa’s visit was in order as it was a visit of a head of state to a neighbouring friendly state but how many times have an Indian head of state or prime minister visited Lanka in recent times? The last visit of Premier Manmohan Singh, we recall, was for the last SAARC summit held in Colombo but even then he spent only a few hours here!

Musical chairs

What exactly was achieved during President Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi?  Even regular Indian commentators have said that none of the gritty issues appear to have been examined in detail. For example the Indian Prime Minister had said that ‘a meaningful devolution package building upon the 13th   Amendment creates necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement’ while Rajapaksa had evaded the issue of the 13th Amendment  and reiterated his ‘determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all minorities that would act as catalyst to create necessary conditions in which all people could live in an atmosphere of peace, justice…’

This is playing a game of musical chairs and we have seen much of it in recent years.
It does appear that both sides are failing to come up with solutions to the nitty-gritty  problems that they face. This game ends with Lanka getting the flak for not coming up with a solution to address the grievances of the Tamils while also failing to satisfactorily settle the hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils. On top of it all comes the appointment of a  panel by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on alleged war crimes by security forces during the last phases of the terrorist war.

The most serious charge now being made against Sri Lanka are war crimes alleged to have been committed by our security forces but what is  our ‘good’ friend in New Delhi doing about it? When UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon made his first moves to have a  panel of experts appointed to investigate alleged war crimes, the Non Aligned countries at the UN had signed a letter against the move but India had refused to sign it. Later without Indian support the move collapsed with the Non Aligned countries agreeing that the Secretary General had powers to appoint such a panel.

Regional power’s role

Whatever role India is now playing on the issue, it is time to ask those advocates of ‘friendship with India’ what exactly is our much valued friend doing to help us?  The close and strategic relationship between India and America is well known. For reasons best known to Americans they are pressing very hard to make this country answer to charges of war crimes.  Even though India does not play an overt role of ‘big brother’ with Lanka, it is obvious that the United States recognises India as the regional power and let India have its way with Sri Lanka.

Does not our Big Brother ( President Rajapaksa during his Indian visit called India ‘Big Sister’) make moves to rescue Lanka? Let’s not forget that during the peace talks under Ranil Wickremesinghe most leading Western negotiators after negotiating in Sri Lanka, did journey to New Delhi for consultations with our Big Brother. America does not make any move on Sri Lanka without consulting New Delhi. Even in1987, when Lanka was being punished for pro Americanism, America stood aside and acknowledged India’s role as a regional power. Now the fruits of these pro Indian policies are being reaped  by America.

The entire war crimes inquiry against Sri Lanka is obviously done in consultation with our Big Brother/Big Sister. America would not dare interfere in India’s backyard today without permission. Thus, what’s the Big Brother/ Big Sister doing while little Lanka is to be caned? Simply let the impudent fellow stew in his own juice?