26 September, 2020

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Biswal’s Visit: A Different Agenda This Time?

By Bandu de Silva

Bandu de Silva

Bandu de Silva

So shattering all my expectations Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal met President Sirisena. That is something she could not achieve on her last visit because the then President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, for whatever reasons, thought of country’s honour and the position he held as Head of State albeit of a pea-nut country, as Rajiv Gandhi indicated to his close associates taking a pea-nut out of the plate in front of him. (This is not a yarn and was told me by a very close Indian friend who was in Rajiv’s inner circle).Simply put, Sri Lanka has accepted that pea-nut status in the international community this time by conceding a meeting for visitor Biswal with the country’s head of state, whom I argued, is no more than an official comparable to a “Desk Officer”, in any Foreign Office establishment or a Director for Asia in our own Foreign Office.

Whether or not they are decision makers is an open question. President Kennedy spoke of the Assistant Secretaries as those who catty out government’s decisions but State Secretary Kissinger addressing a new batch of recruits said they have a role to play in decision making.The latter is closer to the truth in any Foreign Office.

The new Sri Lankan government’s thinking may be different from that of an old codger like me who once dabbled in diplomacy who still believes that there should be no high and low (subordinate) status but equal status among states. Perhaps, the new government believes that even licking the feet of great powers would be ‘dai-ja-bu’, (in order) to quote a Japanese expression, if that serves a purpose. So to hell with Protocol and principles as I would still stress, if Sri Lanka could escape a strongly worded US sponsored resolution in Geneva this time. Not a bad idea if old world wisdom is accepted. Even our Sinhalese folk keep on asking “WANSE KABAL-GANNADA?”

Mangala and NishaComing to more detail, from TV photos of the meeting with President, it appeared that Foreign Ministerr Mangala Samaraweera was the kingpin behind the show. His non-adversarial but pacific approach to foreign policy has been critically examined by writers elsewhere. So the outcome was not surprising in respect of this visit. One redeeming factor, however, on the meeting with the President, to judge from photos, was that the occasion lacked the ostentation of a call on the head of state. It looked more or less like a tamasha or photo-carnival, anything but ostentatious as befitting a call on a head of state by a dignitary. In any case, the President is not the decision maker on foreign policy now and he could not be expected to talk out of turn on things that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet would collectively take. 

The question is then was the meeting with the President arranged by the Foreign Minister Samaraweera to please the insatiable wish of a US Assistant Secretary to satisfy her own ego on one hand, and to demonstrate how far the US has succeeded in bringing this country under its thumb starting with Defence Secretary Kerry’s visit?

Biswal has said nothing important publicly so far (up to the time of writing) except to compliment the new government on ‘re-establishing democracy’ and ‘paving the way for removal of corruption’. These may seem  loaded with meaning though not spelt out. The other point she made was to extend support to “Yahapalanaya”.What she meant by that has to be read with the other two observations to have any meaning. So for day one, that is all what we have. Whether or not she would meet the government’s ‘opponents’ (a term I owe to a former Swiss president ) in the north including the former LTTE leader’s wife Anandhi is not clear. If she does at this stage when TNA has not made up its mind on the response to be given to the new Ranil Wickrmesinghe government that could give the northern politicians the opportunity to push for an international investigation. That might be an issue that the US wishes to avoid at the present stage of entertaining new hopes of improved relations with the new government. If Biswal goes north this time too to engage with the Tamil politicians then that would be duplicity on her (read US’s parts.
These are some of my quick observations.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    2

    Dear Bandu,
    What dignity and honour are you talking about with regard to Mahinda Rajapaksa ?
    No wonder this country was kept at arm’s length by all but tin-pot dictatorships and China, if this was the attitude of our so-called diplomats.
    Given here are two occasions of Biswal or her boss John Kerry meeting heads of government, neither of them “peanut sized” :

    Print
    Nisha Biswal to meet PM in evening
    Diplomatic Affairs Editor
    banglanews24.com

    DHAKA: US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday evening.

    Biswal will arrive in Dhaka in the afternoon to participate in the two-day fourth annual partnership dialogue between Bangladesh and the United States (US), started in city on Thursday.

    Nisha Biswal will also hold meetings with foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and high-ups of the ministry at 12:00pm of Friday (May 1). She will also meet the civil society members.

    Sources said the visiting envoy would discuss about enduring political situation of the country.

    “Doha, August 03 (QNA) – HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met Monday with US Secretary of State John Kerry and his accompanying delegation, who are currently on a visit to the country.
    The GCC Foreign Minister are set to meet with Kerry later on today to The meeting between HH the Emir and Kerry dealt with a number of topics, starting with reviewing bilateral cooperation and the means to enhance them.”

    I don’t know about Mr.De Silva, but I think respect has to be earned.

    • 3
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      old codger

      Please note my comment below addressed to Old codger is meant for The very Old Codger Bandu de Silva.

  • 5
    1

    People like Mahatir Mohamad of Malaysia was known for treating people like the US Assistant Secretary with the contempt they deserve.

    They could do that because they had overwhelming support at home.

    Mahinda Rajapakse bravado worked well too earlier because he had full support at home at the beginning.

    Although things changed when it became clear he was thinking more of clinging to power than delivering on good governance. He forgot its educated people who give him the Armour when battling foreign enemy not some village Byya.

    • 0
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      MR’s supporters are people like Modawanse who called Banki Moon a pimp. We can judge people by the company they keep. Like Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, Maha Raja Chakravarti was floating above the clouds only to come crashing to the ground.

      One famous picture of Crown Prince Namal being embraced by Gaddafi

      What says Bandu about Protocol?

  • 3
    0

    The GOSL and the US have been engaged in a diplomatic dance ever since the passage of the first US resolution in 2012. The US has kept its cards very close to its chest, and the statements during this visit were no different. However, I sensed a very subtle escalation in the US position when listening to Mr. Malinowskis remarks. He said “As long as the GOSL keeps making courageous decisions, the US will stand by Sri Lankas side and provide the support that is needed…”. To me, this came across as a veiled threat: “We will stand by your side only as long as you do as we say”. That begs the question, what does not having the US “by your side” mean – what does that looks like in practical terms? I don’t think it means that they are going to pack up and go away; the US has made it very clear that they are in it “for the long haul”, as Ms. Biswals predecessor Mr. Robert Blake put it.

    • 0
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      They are in it for the long haul alright. Right now they are packing to move house from Diego Garcia to Sampur in Trinomial.The resettlement of the displaced taking place now are to be displaced again to make way for the US military.

      • 3
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        NAK

        “They are in it for the long haul alright. Right now they are packing to move house from Diego Garcia to Sampur in Trinomial.”

        Has US obtained authorization from Hindia for such move? I don’t think there is any cure for your paranoia.

        • 0
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          Hinda is already under the thumb of John Kerry.
          Not one word from MODI against drones flying over its skies, and
          US approves India’s nuclear deal with CIA men in Kalpakkam nuclear reactor.

  • 3
    2

    There is absolutely nothing wrong in President Maithree meeting the visiting diplomat whatever her level in the foreign ministry is.
    This level of officers feedback to their top only shapes up the relationship and policies between countries.

    We are small country and we cannot change same but with our good relationship at personal levels in rgevdiplomatic side would certainly boost our outlook and image which in turn benefit our country in the international level

    MR’s relationship with foreign missions were shaped by people like VassGoonewardena and what could you gave expected.

  • 2
    1

    Old codger

    “Biswal has said nothing important publicly so far (up to the time of writing) except to compliment the new government on ‘re-establishing democracy’ and ‘paving the way for removal of corruption’. “

    Though Biswal has said nothing important publicly so far she will discuss it with the Hindians in New Delhi. She will be in India tomorrow.

    Please keep in touch with Hindian Ram (The Hindu) who might be able to give you some tidbits on her meeting with Hindians.

    Though MR didn’t meet Biswal on her visit to this island in Feb 2014 his brother and clan’s treasurer Basil met her at his office. However you are reading too much into MR boycotting Biswal.

    Please find out from Basil what was the real reason as to why Biswal didn’t (or refused to) meet him?

    • 0
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      Her third visit to the country within the year plus one from Kerry. Are they in love with us or what? Are we so important,this peanut? They want some thing from us work out yourself what that is.

      • 3
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        NAK

        “They want some thing from us work out yourself what that is.”

        What do you have that the US desperately wants to have?

        Let me think, floating armoury, a good place for rendition flights, endless supply of experts on enhanced interrogation techniques, white van anonymous courier services, ……

  • 4
    0

    Rajapakse did not meet Biswal because the proof of war crimes was overwhelming and like a typical coward he scrounged from meeting anyone who knows nothing but the truth.
    Sri Lanka “peanut country” stated by Rajeev. That is a matter of expression, since we are, in comparison, a small country. You would have still found fault if he had called us pumpkin.
    Whether Biswal is a desk officer or even a desk clerk, the rank doesn’t matter, what matters is the competency, professionalism and performance of that person. Can you say the same about our group of foreign service shameless mutts such as GL, Sajin, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Mohan Pieris (who even lied at the UN stating Ekneligoda is living)?
    “thinking may be different from that of an old codger like me who once dabbled in diplomacy”…. Buddha stated nothing is permanent. Yesterday Russia and China were closed countries, today they are worse form of capitalism one can think including levels of prostitution. In the same manner, diplomacy also has changed. An “old codger” like you may be a worse disaster to our Mahinda’s group of mutts who made a muck of Sri Lanka to the international community and UN. Who knows?
    If Biswal meeting MS is “US has succeeded in bringing this country under its thumb” then what would you say of MS going all the way up to Premadasa Stadium to the feet of Sangakara and offering him the post of UK ambassador on a platter and Sangakara refusing it. MS has become a punk to Cricket or even to Sangakara? It is fellows like you who have been an absolute zero, just rumbling absolute rubbish, over issues that one is ignorant or rather have a twisted understanding of it to satisfy ones own mind set.

    • 0
      2

      Once the American’s get what they want, you’ll only be left to eat your overwhelming evidence.

      • 2
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        NAK

        “Once the American’s get what they want, you’ll only be left to eat your overwhelming evidence.”

        Last time around Hindia used Tamils to get rid of USA from the shores of this island. Next time it would be Sinhalese youth who will have to fight the American if and when NAK’s paranoia come true.

        • 0
          1

          The US interest in the Palk strait, and its strategic interests in India means that its hand will be heaviest on the Tamils. They drove us Muslims out of the North. Soon the North and also SL will be like Haitii with Sirisena as Papa Doc.
          Yankee Dickey’s nephew has done it.

          • 3
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            Bodin

            I don’t mind you typing what you want to type here, however my only request is can you sit down and think through what you want to say.

  • 1
    0

    Mr. Malinowskis remarks. He said “As long as the GOSL keeps making courageous decisions, the US will stand by Sri Lankas side and provide the support that is needed…”.

    So what does it mean …. DO AS WE SAY BUT DON’T DO WHAT WE DO”…….

    As for the Gramaya, meeting BISWAL is like magic and the UNP is sending the Gramaya into the Seventh Heaven and will tell him, DO AS WE SAY AND DO NOT TELL US WHAT WHAT TO DO.

    These meeting are arranged for him to adorn them on the walls of his house in village and nothing more.
    A PUPPET ON A STRING.

  • 1
    0

    US backs Sri Lanka’s domestic probe – Mirror.lk

    Interesting

  • 1
    1

    Hey Bandu De Silva :- in he absence of Mervyn; why dont you offer to marry her.

  • 1
    1

    Did not hear this kind of diplomatic drivel when we were under Chinas thumb with a program to build nuclear weapons running…

  • 0
    1

    The US has been ‘re-establishing democracy’ in the MIddle East, with all too evident success.

    The Bond Scam must not be mistaken for corruption, when led by an ivy league conman.

    Biswal may be of Indian descent, but as a Desk Officer of the US State Dept, she can demand the white man’s prerogative from the old colonials. MR refused to entertain the UK Colonial Secy and his French counterpart in 2009, among others including those ‘independent documentary’ makers from Ch. 4. Too big for his boots, eh…. ?

    • 2
      1

      Ramuuuuuuuuu

      “MR refused to entertain the UK Colonial Secy and his French counterpart in 2009, among others including those ‘independent documentary’ makers from Ch. 4. Too big for his boots, eh…. ?”

      He did invite David Cameron the colonial master to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2013 a colonial legacy and entertained him lavishly.

      Bell Pottinger UK was hired by Mahinda for reputation laundering.

      Mahinda met US state Dept. Assist. Secretary Robert Blake in early 2011 in Texas.

      Mahinda being a vile man needed vile men to deal with his problems.

      By now you would have learnt that they have caught MR by his b***s, he cannot wriggle out unless he begs for mercy.

      As a little islander you cannot see beyond your nose, which is understandable.

      • 0
        1

        How silly can you get.

        Cameron is the most important Head of State in the Commonwealth, and protocol demands his attendance at CHOGM. He was NOT singled out to be entertained by the government. In fact he was reminded that he lived in a glass house.

        Bell Pottinger is a private company, not a government entity.

        MR’s Texas visit was a private one allegedly to seek medical attention in a hospital, NOT as the Head of State.

  • 3
    2

    /////”The new Sri Lankan government’s thinking may be different from that of an old codger like me who once DABBLED in diplomacy who still believes that there should be no high and low (subordinate) status but equal status among states”///

    You Very Old Codger,
    Because you have DABBLED the Diplomacy through seeing the status co in Emissaries that is not the correct way, first you must understand that, before writing your confession of past misdeeds!

    ////One redeeming factor, however, on the meeting with the President, to judge from photos, was that the occasion LACKED THE OSTENTATION of a call on the head of state. It looked more or less like a tamasha or photo-carnival, anything BUT OSTENTATIOUS as befitting a call on a head of state by a dignitary///
    You Very Old Codger you saw the photos of the real occasion correctly, and you couldn’t hide the facts being an old diplomat and confessed again “LACKED THE OSTENTATION” but truly impressive for its simplicity……….anything BUT OSTENTATIOUS but nothing pretentious in befitting a call by the Emissary!!

    Its time to see a doctor for your Senile Amnesia!

    • 0
      0

      Mr. Bandu de Silva may or may not be aware US Boxer Evander Hollyfield
      called on President Rajapakse (2012?) in a track-suit. Not much ostentation or protocol there. Once the indignity was discovered, rather late, a hurried 2nd visit was arranged with Hollyfield in business suit with the necessary photo-op adjustments. The electronic media apparently was instructed to show the latter event.

      Backlash

  • 0
    1

    Did Bandu de Silva make noises when Robert Blake was received by President Rajapakse – more than once? Is de Silva peeved only because Biswal is of Indian origin – now that we know he dislikes most things Indian. I recall de Silva reminding us that W T Jayasinghe felt offended Dixit was reaching President Jayawardena direct. To rub it in, de Silva then pointed out Dixit should go through the Desk Officer in charge of India at the SL Foreign Ministry. But no one stopped Dixit and he knew who was who among our own Foreign Ministry wallas. How’s all this for sheer anti-Indian prejudice and pettiness – although de Silva vehemently protests he is not?

    BTW, the simpleton village pumpkin Sirisena does need some counselling on diplomatic appointments. Lest he offers Lasith Malinga our Ambassador’s post in Washington.

    Backlash

  • 0
    1

    Bandu de Silva:
    As a seasoned diplomat — as you keep telling us — tell us how just MEETING some one by itself makes SL a pea nut? I should think that NOT meeting a visitor would make us churlish, rude and even make people believe that we do have something to hide and about which we are ashamed — indeed making us peanuts in diplomatic and social graces.
    Do enlighten us.

  • 0
    1

    Are we not a penut contry with a criminal record?

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