By Dr. Harinda Vidanage
The UN panel of experts, the EU condition GSP plus concessions drew a plethora of responses in Sri Lanka from politicians, policy makers, media personalities, eminent public figures. These international developments have been revisited in many newspaper articles with the arguments focusing on the threat to sovereignty of the country.
This article attempts to focus on the issue of developing and nurturing capacities of Sri Lankan from politicians to general citizens on the knowledge and the understanding of international politics to effect proper counter measures to international pressures and functions as early warning mechanisms.
The globalized world and the opening of transnational spaces for politics and political action have created various political concepts and institutions that have developed the ability to influence traditional international organizations such as the UN and EU. These organizations vary from international INGOs to political movement such as human rights movements. Thus this is a new field of politics which is eternally in flux and eternally rearticulating its spheres of operation. In other words it is opening up a new field which is a new type of battlefield.
The article emphasizes the need of Sri Lankanists who can comprehend the fast changing global system and the emergence of multitude of non state entities with power and influence to affect policy decisions of states and international organizations. The Diaspora aspect is a one such example that needs to be engaged strategically.
There are a multitude of articles and analysis of the Diaspora and some very informative, but the Diaspora factor remains an area where the state has still not grasped in total the new Tamil Diaspora configuration, its penetration in the international society and its presence among the non state global actors.
Currently the Tamil Diaspora is not a single homogenous political entity even the pro LTTE block is heavily divided in four to five groups which range from the overtly political group led by Rudrakumaran to the Paris based Tamil organizations which are actively collecting money and preparing the ideology of extreme violence to re start a new Eelam war.
Between this continuum, there is the anti Indian Tamil Diaspora lobby and a group which is working on anti Chinese operations trying to influence the international community and backing organizations which has a anti or non friendly agenda towards the Chinese.
Tamil Diaspora activists have understood the importance of being present or working in establishments which are of important internationally such as INGOS, offices of MPs, aid agencies , Human Rights agencies. The hard-line approach of the David Miliband the former Foreign Minister of Britain towards Sri Lanka was influenced by not one but four powerful Tamil Diasporans who had developed very close linkages. These linkages and penetrations need to be quickly grasped and responded.
Sri Lanka needs to find and train many more young diplomats, the media has a responsibility in developing more debates and forums where international and global politics is discussed beyond the realm of news. If not we will be left with a community that is recruited fight street battles or surround international organizations locally in the name of foreign policy and protection of sovereignty.
We cannot afford to fight a complex, advanced enemy from our comfort zones. The USA is following suit with attempts to bring in limitations to trade concessions the EU has already decided, this is clearly a strangulation strategy adopted by anti Lankan forces and executed through a combination of leverages of influence from nation states and international organizations.
Thus critical engagement with the West is imperative against cries for disconnection and distance. President Rajapaksa’s next term will see his vision and action of development given priority. The president’s pragmatism has been a key asset in the recent political and national victories. There is an element who wants to project the state as taking an anti western stance and the President as anti western. This conspiracy has to be defeated at all cost.
This article comes on a critical moment where Sri Lanka is looking forward for stability and development in a post war scenario and the anti Sri Lanka elements hell bent on self-entrapment in an international net which at one time Ranil Wickremesighe wanted deploy to trap the LTTE. Thus we are again at war but with an enemy who is far more difficult to locate and globally de-centered, to confront this new enemy we must enlist universal soldiers who are armed diplomatically and engaged patriotically.
(The Writer is Director, Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies)