1 July, 2022

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All-Weather And Fair-Weather Friends

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Is Lanka important enough for international actors such as India, China, America, Britain, Japan and the QUAD to squabble over? The answer seems to be a surprising yes. In the case of India it is expected. Recall that America threatened nuclear war when Cuba stationed Soviet missiles, and now Russia is apoplectic at the thought of NATO getting its fingers around its neck (Georgia, Ukraine and Finland). No great or regional power will allow foreign bases near its land borders or its littoral waters.

India’s anxiety of British (post-Independence period), American (JR’s time) and more recently Chinese bases comes as no surprise. But such concerns do not easily passage to more distant China, America and Europe. Sri Lanka has little relevance to the Quad strategy of encircling China and is entirely irrelevant to NATO’s scheme to suffocate Russia. Furthermore the so-called Indian Ocean strategic zone is a myth. The explanation it follows is not strategic but partly political and partly psychological. The psychological facet is that though we know we are a bunch of s.o.bs, foreigners, poor sods, have affection for our island, and believe it or not, its undeserving dwellers. Let’s not spoil this advantage; let’s keep the charm of genuine non-alignment alive. Competition for mating-rights gets us, petrol, cooking-gas, milk-powder, pharmaceuticals and dhal. It will help if we slaughter fewer Tamils and refrain from locking up too many Muslims on trumped-up charges.

The political side is more complex. Sure, Lanka is no dream democracy. It is the site of public and state-terrorism, crass military-police human rights abuse at the instigation of the JR, R. Premadasa and Mahinda regimes and Gotabaya’s military. It has been a locale of brazen plunder by political leaders, not only in the Paksa years. Racism is widespread among the people, but then ethnic intolerance is a global pandemic. However, though I grant that in many ways Lanka is the depths there is another side; Lanka is one of few post-colonial outposts where constitutional governance, admittedly imperfect, survives. Our giant neighbour India is another. This is different from Burma, Pakistan, Cambodia, Thailand (never colonised) and 30+ countries across Africa. Constitutional governance endures in very few countries across that immense continent.

Here then is my hypothesis: India, the West and even the IMF, though they will be tough about economic reforms (IMF, West) and political changes (India), will not allow Lanka to collapse into anarchy and chaos. Ranil is a lucky bugger! The uncles and aunties crowding over Lanka’s crib will throw him a lifeline before we asphyxiate; the old fox will survive for now unless he does a bad balls-up. This is a different hypothesis from those who say that there is no international economic fix for democracy in Lanka. Maybe, but there is plaster and Band-Aid to avert anarchy and chaos. Of course our congenital problems will persist but sudden death will be averted for now. Can you imagine India, the IMF or even China standing by and doing bugger-all if Lanka sinks into chaotic bedlam? We do not deserve a reprieve, but political and psychological unknowns – I mean known unknowns, not unknown unknowns – will play out to RW’s profit. I am talking four months to one year.

The mid-term, beyond that depends on getting a decent economic recovery programme. Punishing corrupt Paksa Era leaders and trimming wealth inequality will go down well with the less well-off four-fifths, but that’s not a development programme for raising output, enhancing productivity and modernising state, society and system. Ranil’s Interim Administration even if it included competent people (which it does not) has no mandate for a three to five year national development programme. The alternate capitalist party the SJB has been outfoxed. The Left is in two segments: One is clueless with nothing to offer but anarchy, the other is preparing itself for when its day comes; it must strengthening itself in the domains in which it is weak. The urgent tasks are for Ranil to beg for alms more diligently, parliament to enact a tougher 21A and for Lanka to hold general elections soon. If Gota is kicked out pronto that will be a bonus. The people of India and indeed all our friends all over the world could, apart from unloading much needed emergency aid, by example and by precept encourage the maturing of social democratic understanding and intelligence in Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    4

    Dear Kumar,
    .
    The joyous surprise that you express is infectious! How you can respond so sincerely to developments, despite all the learning in your head, is amazing.
    .
    And it so spontaneously gushes out of you, and gets so memorably expressed. Yes, let us hope that all the optimism that you exude is justified, and let me hope that in the next five days, beginning about 3.15 am when this heart-warming outburst first appeared, leads to fruitful discussion.

  • 9
    1

    Dr Kumar David

    is missing the point.
    If the state does not treat it’s people well there is every possibility that neighbors, strangers, foreigners, … will grope the women folks.

    Please read:
    ‘It is my only hope’: Women forced to sell sex to survive as Sri Lanka’s turmoil escalates
    Former garment makers in Sri Lanka are having to take desperate measures to get through the economic crisis
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/05/28/made-clothes-ms-now-selling-body-make-ends-meet/

    Despite the pathetic condition of the country’s economy many dump crooks still want to be the rulers of this island, the crooked clan, Champika the racist, in the case of Udaya an Australian lady is after him for stolen millions, Wimal who is supposed to be in the prison but thanks to Ranil he is challenging him, ….

    Every politician and every functionary has become prostitute, serving foreigners and local wealthy and the powerful.

  • 9
    1

    KD , more than we are bankrupt, it’s the fact that we do NOT have people or political parties to guide with any possible recovery is just pathetic . Other than early Indian involvement due to proximity, shared culture and our self created racial/ religious conflicts , it’s Rajapaksas who invited Chinese for their self gain. We are of no interest or importance to anyone. It’s we who create our self importance. A country like Ukraine , Afghan are already forgotten. In our case it’s just India showing concern by way of providing relief.

    • 6
      8

      I wonder if MR was a toddler when the first Chinese involvement occurred, thanks to the Korean War, and of course the US.
      The relationship was warm even during UNP governments.
      JRJ brought in Japan (now our biggest lender state if one counts in the ADB) to check China.
      China helped out at a time when the West was playing cat and mouse with Sri Lanka in 2006-2007. It undertook a major project, initiated by CBK and re-started by MR, after the US and India refused to support it. China was not MR’s first choice.
      *
      BTW, India has the dubious distinction of being the only foreign country to invade Sri Lanka in modern times.
      Despite even more shared culture than us the Nepalis are far more distrustful of Indians than the Sinhalese.
      Wonder why.

      • 6
        0

        SJ, I don’t think many of us who felt angry about bombing and shelling by the Sri Lankan state from 1986 and its violence of 1977 and 1983, saw India’s coming in early June 1987 as an invasion. Of course the situation became much more ambivalent after the LTTE and the Indian army were at war in October 1987 and especially when the Government started supplying the LTTE with weapons. Sri Lanka had the distinction of being a fragmented nation within the UN system. Legal claims become weak when a government inflicts massive harm on selected groups among its own people.

        • 0
          2

          RH
          How “many of us” saw is not the point. How it happened is.
          It was seen as invasion in the South. JVP gave voice to that feeling.
          India impose an accord by which it also forced Sri Lanka to agree to four conditions that really concerned Indian ‘defence’ interests.
          There was absolutely no need for Indian troops to be here.
          An invasion is an invasion.

    • 6
      1

      The easiest fix ……… no one is talking about ……… get the loot back from the Rajapakses ………

  • 1
    0

    Unfortunately the picture at the top of my column conveys the opposite message from what the article itself says.
    Kumar David

    • 6
      0

      “Unfortunately the picture at the top of my column conveys the opposite message from what the article itself says”, not really, RW is all – weather friend of Rajapaksas and they in turn are all- fair friends of RW. (remember the constipational coup by conman Mara)

  • 3
    0

    International politics is fast changing with time. Instead of physically intervening , super powers are focusing more and more on dominance by way of trade,technology, IT, oil and other resources, supply logistics, space technology , crypto and other means. It’s just the regional powers who are concerned due to their own national security. Recent Ukraine conflicts is a prime examples how costly and unpredictable intervention can be. There is not much takers for an island thought to be strategically located and nothing mush to offer.

    • 2
      6

      Opening paragraph of Executive summary of “Twenty-First Century Proxy Warfare”(https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/reports/twenty-first-century-proxy-warfare/)
      Proxy warfare will shape twenty-first century conflicts for the foreseeable future, but Cold War norms no longer apply. The rise of transnational social movements, diffusion of weapons of mass destruction, and remote targeting capabilities are making proxy forces more lethal and shifting the horizons of strategic surprise. Where Moscow and Washington once set the rules of the game, state and non-state sponsors of proxy forces are proliferating in today’s globalized markets for force erasing traditional frontlines, reshaping alliances, and transforming rivalries. Today, a complex mesh of partnerships among states, corporations, mercenaries, militias, and other “useful brigands” are radically changing how wars are fought and won.
      *
      You may like to revise your view slightly.
      Political power still grows out of the barrel of a gun”

    • 0
      0

      Opening paragraph of Executive summary of “Twenty-First Century Proxy Warfare”(https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/reports/twenty-first-century-proxy-warfare/)
      Proxy warfare will shape twenty-first century conflicts for the foreseeable future, but Cold War norms no longer apply. The rise of transnational social movements, diffusion of weapons of mass destruction, and remote targeting capabilities are making proxy forces more lethal and shifting the horizons of strategic surprise. Where Moscow and Washington once set the rules of the game, state and non-state sponsors of proxy forces are proliferating in today’s globalized markets for force erasing traditional frontlines, reshaping alliances, and transforming rivalries. Today, a complex mesh of partnerships among states, corporations, mercenaries, militias, and other “useful brigands” are radically changing how wars are fought and won.
      *
      You may like to revise your view slightly.
      Political power still “grows out of the barrel of a gun”

    • 0
      0

      Arrogance is bad and stupidity is too bad (a curse). In combination we are screwed. People can come up with endless research studies , analysis and discussions. But none can save us any more. Rest is nothing but stages of grief shock , denial , anger , bargain , depression and in this case, there will never be any closure. This was expected , surprise it took this long.

      • 2
        5

        “Arrogance is bad and stupidity is too bad”
        Very true of the US.
        One may wonder how they manage to elect one like Biden, if trump was not bad enough!

        • 0
          0

          You just confirmed what I said.

          • 0
            0

            Confirmed or supplemented?

            • 0
              0

              You sure confirmed. But your supplements helps those, who are still confused ” why Lanka is economically and intellectually bankrupt? “. Just like Rajapaksas amid crisis, fixing many things other than economy , you too are focused in seeing a better US and India. A true Silly Lankan.

              • 0
                0

                SJ, don’t tell me you’re “all-weather friend of Mao,s China and fair-weather friend of bankrupt Lanka:”.

                • 0
                  0

                  If you don’t want me to tell you, I will not tell you

                  • 0
                    0

                    You cannot face facts and resort to name calling.
                    Thank you for conceding the points made.

                  • 0
                    0

                    Are you confirming again ? I was hoping you are a “all – weather friend of Lanka and not China”. You cannot face facts ?? What is there to face , when there is none While the discussion is about Lanka, you just made some random comment about U.S and Biden. Then you wanted me to revise my own opinion by quoting News America on a highly subjective topic. (future interventions).

                    • 0
                      0

                      Here is a fact for you SJ, lets see how you face it. When suitable you quote News America, when not , you call it Western media hype. ( NY times, W.Post). Obviously Chinese have only one version, that is pro-government. Whereas western media are free to criticize and people like you quote, as per your convenience.

                    • 0
                      0

                      I had long given up on convincing you on anything. But my comment on Biden hit where it hurt.
                      Time you took some comprehension lessons.

        • 3
          0

          SJ,
          Good morning.
          Are you for a moment, indirectly loud and clearly stating, that 6.9 million managed to elect GR, if ‘Maithri’ who claims he set fire the parental Chena, in retaliation was not any bad???!!!!
          None of those!!! They were carried away with Pohottuwa propaganda and there are still some believe that the CBSL “Bond insider information”, scandal, influenced a SCANDALOUS CBSL robbery??!!
          NO!!
          THERE WAS NO ROBBERY! BUT THEY (Perpetual Treasuries, HAPPY WITH 9% INTEREST??!!
          Nothing is further from the truth than the ‘foolishness’, believing propaganda by R Bros Inc.??
          Or, the 6.9 million are ‘SUCKERS’ to believe the Liars, Looters and Robber Barons??!!
          Best judges are the 6.9 M and any other voters st the elections 2024 and Ladies and Gentlemen, vote very wisely

  • 2
    14

    “It is the site of public and state-terrorism,…”

    Actually the world know Sinhale/Sri Lanka as the site of Tamil terrorists (LTTE) who were branded as the ‘DEADLIEST TERRORISTS’ in the world by FBI and Muslim terrorists who massacred Catholics worshipping in Churches on Easter Sunday. Also the world know Sinhale/Sri Lanka as the country that eliminated the ‘DEADLIEST TERRORISTS’ in the world liberating about 300,000 civilians kept as a human shield by Tamil terrorists.

  • 6
    5

    “Here then is my hypothesis: India, the West and even the IMF, though they will be tough about economic reforms (IMF, West) and political changes (India), will not allow Lanka to collapse into anarchy and chaos.”
    Very plausible, especially India. It would be much more expensive for them to feed hordes of starving economic refugees than to feed them in place at home. After all, SL is smaller than Kerala.
    Of course there will be a political price to pay. So why not go the whole hog and simply adopt the Indian Rupee as local currency? That will stop incompetent accountants and jumped-up drill sergeants from tinkering with the economy. We have proved ourselves incapable of running a modern state, and are busily moving even further backwards. The other day, there was the spectacle of Wijedasa Rajapakshe presenting the 21st Amendment to a set of ignorant Mahanayakas. Since when has this country been a theocracy?

  • 0
    0

    The SJB and JVP have their own special plans for the survival and uplift of the Nation. They will be astute enough to start with the basics. The economy is about tea, rubber, coconuts, tourism, M.E. maids, M.E. laborers, and other hard labor around the world. It is apparent that we have to stick with these and build up slowly again from these.

    It will take about 2 decades before Motherland is on par with the rest of Asia. No use crying over spilt milk. We have to work for the honor of our struggling people, not the honor of our big-shots and any kind of Lankan conceptual glory.

    Any party that takes over, will tax the wealthy, work with foreign lending bodies, and implement newer business ventures like climate-recovery and robotics ones.

    • 0
      0

      Each party will tax the wealthy in different percentages. Rajapaksa-party will tax about 10-20%, followed by SJB in the mid-range, and JVP will tax the highest at around 60-80%. Likewise, they will install their associated operational structures to make the country function again.

      International lenders will naturally want to lend to a party that can take care of its domestic debt first, and has the soundest operational structure. And that will be JVP-strongpoint.

      The Rajapaksa and Ranil party with their reluctance to tax themselves can never be trusted again. Their sudden desire to copy and install the socialist technique can also never be trusted, as such supra-capitalist ideologies emerging from our small Island can only be seen as Megalomania that has no cure. Foreign lenders will be very wary.

    • 0
      0

      ramona,
      it’s already happening:

      VAT to be increased from 8% to 12%
      Telecom Levy to be increased from 11.25% to 15%
      Reduction of Personal Income Tax relief from Rs. 3 Million to Rs. 1.8 Million
      Impose Withholding Tax (WHT) on service payments exceeding Rs. 100,000
      Corporate Income tax to be increased from 24% to 30%
      VAT registration threshold reduced from Rs. 300 Million to Rs. 120 Million

      • 1
        0

        fwzz,

        Won’t last under the Ranil-Gota admin. It will be a one-time tax collection for them. Very soon, those ingrained-in-money-making-old-fogies will be plotting up schemes to supra-capitalize on the collected taxes, away from the regulatory mechanisms of modern global capitalism. Thus untrusted, international lenders are patiently waiting for the ousting of our incumbent government before they install their honorable procedures that will make more money for them in the long run.

        Anyway, there’s not much money to collect from the ordinary economy as it is falling down rapidly. Money of the politicians, bootlickers, goons, and henchmen who have trillions stashed in offshore accounts, will not be able to be taxed however. The taxed polity will rise up against them- Aragalaya on steroids…….the true revolution will begin!

      • 1
        1

        Whom does VAT hit hardest as a fraction of real income?

        • 0
          0

          SJ,

          All the middle-eastern workers who slaved in the Middle East.

  • 5
    7

    India, China, America, Britain, Japan and the QUAD ?
    Why QUAD in a list countries?
    Is the author reluctant to name Australia after the elections?
    I doubt elections changing very much anywhere until the US changes its attitude.

  • 6
    0

    As an Indian, I have to say the author sounds too optimistic

    The rest of world is awash in its own troubles right now , with skyrocketing oil prices, galloping inflation even in developed countries, rising prices of fertilizers due to ukraine-russia conflict

    Apologies it it sounds harsh, but Sri lanka is too small (and too insignificant strategically) for any countries, except India to bother much about. Even for India, it is more of a liability (for eg:,if China sets up military bases on the island, possible flood of economic refugees in coming months) than an asset.

    • 13
      2

      Even in India, there is increasing fatigue about endless pleas for aid (the SL govt is now asking for another 500M$ fuel credit line, on top of existing loans)

      Everyone here knows that these “credit-lines” are effectively “donations”, not loans, as Sri Lanka won’t have the ability to pay (even willingness is doubtful) for a long,long time

      It’ll eventually becomes politically/economically unsustainable for the Indian govt to keep bailing out SL. People here will ask why our govt. is sending (effectively) “free” petrol/diesel to Colombo, at a time when Indian citizens themselves are paying record high prices for fuel

      In my opinion, there is still sympathy among Indians for the suffering people of SL (though none for the utterly incompetent Lankan govt, especially your president)

      In the coming months, food donations might keep trickling in, but there will be increasing reluctance to keep dispatching free (a loan given to a bankrupt borrower is at best a donation) fuel

      As someone who bears goodwill to SL, I hope the new govt there can manage to get aid from Japan/China (neither have helped significantly recently, as far as I know) to avert the worst of the deepening crisis

    • 2
      5

      S
      Do you seriously believe that China will waste money on a military base here?
      The US started with the “String of Pearls” fairy tale. That proved wrong.
      A scheme to safeguard against likely US naval blockade of shipping vessels was wisely integrated with the B&R initiative, which most of Asia (sadly not India) is enthusiastic about it. Africa is joining in and so is South America, along with a few West European countries so far.
      China needs reliable trading posts here not to compete with India but to defend against US aggression at sea.
      If China wants to attack India it has stronger air and land options. Also boundary disputes are on land and not in the waters of this island. China has more to lose by spending on a naval base that cannot withstand an Indian naval assault.
      *
      India should wake up to the reality that it belongs to Asia and needs friends in Asia who are not clients of US imperialism..

  • 4
    6

    There are events that dodge simple explanations.
    “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has directed officials to discuss with China to reactivate its offer to provide emergency diesel supplies, a senior official said.
    The directive came after revelations that Sri Lanka had not responded to an offer made by China to provide stocks of diesel for emergency use. The offer was made before Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took office, the official said.” (Sunday Times, 29th May)
    *
    Many funny things have happened since Basil returned from his ‘other home country’.
    They need explaining too.
    *
    RW is reluctantly crawling back to China.
    Hopefully, unlike with India, there may be no price tag, for Chinese diplomacy is a teeny weeny bit more cultured than that of its two rivals.

  • 7
    5

    If history is any guide ………… what we need is a good ol’ old-fashioned blood bath.

    Get the guillotines out ……… Storm the Versailles …….. the Winter Palace …….

    Do a Gaddafi on Ranil ………. up the gaboozel ……. he’ll die happy …..

    • 4
      0

      It might satiate people’s anger for a few days, but what happens then? Remember Libya degenerated into civil war (that’s still going on a decade later) after Gaddafi’s downfall. Libyans have become refugees nowadays, losing whatever little they had

      Getting rid of the current lot won’t solve the dollar/fuel/food shortages. Rather, foreign nations (including India) won’t want to send aid/sink their money into further loans into an unstable,anarchic country.

      • 6
        2

        With or without the current lot …….. can things get any worse?

        Getting rid of the current lot will at least get rid of the people responsible for the mess …… they can’t do any more damage ……

        They are utterly incapable of solving anything

        Getting back the loot stolen by the Rajapakses will fix the mess in a jiffy …….. that the fix no one is game to talk about ……. everyone wants to look aside and pretend it never happened ………….

        After the revolution France recovered ………. so will Lanka ……..

      • 3
        2

        shan,

        Libya did not have the well-established political parties like the JVP and SJB to take over. It will be a smooth transition for us.

      • 3
        5

        Shan
        Libya had the most stable economy with a good social welfare system in northern Africa. He was targetted by the US from the day he assumed power. The US tried to kill him a early as in the 1980s.
        Who cares about stability as long as oil and gas flow out of Libya.
        *
        Do not worry about Mother India, she has extracted her pound of flesh in advance. Have you wondered why the operators of the IMF are eager to dump money here?

    • 7
      0

      nimal fernando

      “If history is any guide ………… what we need is a good ol’ old-fashioned blood bath.”

      By any chance you are being the main agent of Norinco and other merchants of death?
      Man you just want to see rivers of blood, like VP, Gota, Vijeyweera, Shavendra, … Kamala, …

  • 0
    2

    ………..If Gota is kicked out pronto that will be a bonus………….
    This then is the Key. No one can disagree.
    This would kickstart what Srilanka needs at this moment, with the help of the International community…………..

    Sinhala Man.
    Had you known Prof.David in your days at Peradeniya you would be as nonplussed as
    I am about how he charges his Batteries
    AC or DC?….

    • 5
      1

      Plato

      “how he charges his Batteries”

      He loves Durian.

  • 3
    2

    I wonder if anyone can enlighten me. Is there an economic problem in SL ???

    I do not mean to be insensitive. I have on very this site argued that I have seen an old woman and also a boy who was sick in Colombo for want of money haven emptied his purse for his mother’s cancer treatment. I am well aware of the suffering of the poor, and also know that some say there is no problem !

    My point is that “economic problems” by definition are caused due to change in markets,resourecs ,natural disasters and macro economic factors etc. The Sri lankan problem is cheating and mismanagement at best that is not properly addressed or but covered up powerful people and their beneficiaries/supporters. International bilateral international organizations give loans subject to conditions promoting growth in a clean lasses-faire economic model as far as possible. Apart from ideological differences is there a reason for the “no questions asked loan” model to be preferred.? Do we talk of Western Hit man and Chinese debt trap to justify personal interests because we are comfortable.The IMFor WB dont want to be cheated with nations it is geopolitics.

  • 7
    0

    SJ,
    Good morning.
    Are you for a moment, indirectly loud and clearly stating, that 6.9 million managed to elect GR, if ‘Maithri’ who claims he set fire the parental Chena, in retaliation was not any bad???!!!!
    None of those!!! They were carried away with Pohottuwa propaganda and there are still some believe that the CBSL “Bond insider information”, scandal, influenced a SCANDALOUS CBSL robbery??!!
    NO!!
    THERE WAS NO ROBBERY! BUT THEY (Perpetual Treasuries, HAPPY WITH 9% INTEREST??!!
    Nothing is further from the truth than the ‘foolishness’, believing propaganda by R Bros Inc.??
    Or, the 6.9 million are ‘SUCKERS’ to believe the Liars, Looters and Robber Barons??!!
    Best judges are the 6.9 M and any other voters st the elections 2024 and Ladies and Gentlemen, vote very wisely

    • 0
      5

      M
      “… indirectly loud and clearly stating”
      That seems a novel technique. Tell me some more about it.
      *
      You are cursing all and sundry. As the message addresses me, as the content has nothing to do with my views, at least tell me what you are ranting about.
      *
      If you are simply crying out for help, I may be able to arrange something.

  • 1
    0

    SJ
    Quite right checking facts is crucial and what is being delayed.like in the song I dont know why !

    To make it simple and not complicated it is a clean justice system. The lenders know the problem too and are now insisting on the rule of law. It is we who want the money and I think the delay will catch up.

    Till then best take a break !!

    • 0
      0

      F
      I endorse the suggestion.

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