Importance of India for Sri Lanka and the need for Sri Lanka to maintain friendly relations with India
The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is an inter twined historical bond. The underlying commonalities between the two nations and their geographical positioning, even after the historical geological drifts of which Sri Lanka is of miniscule part, have not changed the intrinsic relationship.
In the post Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) scenario, ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka have slow phased the official relationship between the two nations. Politically, it froze to an alarming scale during the outgoing autocratic confrontational familial rule of Mahendra Percy Rajapaksa. The bilateral relationship between the two nations dipped to the lowest, undermining the much needed regional cohesiveness for stability. The unstable outgoing Manmohan Singh government also contributed towards the strain, thus helping Mahinda Rajapaksa to go haywire without any fear of regional consequences.
For overtly anti-Tamil Mahinda Rajapaksa, China and Russia became the mollycoddling partners to circumvent the crucifixion of the Tamils and his local antagonists, thus violating the international norms and protocols the country subscribed to be a member state within the global village.
India has evolved from a dominant regional power to a non-interventionist state to progress with the fast changing international political order. Present day India is engaging in peaceful bilateral relationships with its neighbours to strengthen its regional stakes. Out went the global two super power cold war politics that turned into America’s outright superpower status. The globalisation process enabled China to stretch its dragon wings around the world and this has caused serious threat to the regional security, stability and authority in the South Asian region.
India’s historical rival Pakistan, which is plagued by never-ending internal strives, is a major threat to India’s internal and regional security and with the progressing economic dominance of China, India’s much gentle regional authority has come under serious testing time. This non-confrontational passive policy of India faced jolts from all fronts during Manmohan Singh’s premiership.
India is the seventh-largest country in the world with the total area of 3,166,414 square kilometres and is the regional power base of South Asia. Even the under 3% (65,610 square Kilometres) of its size Sri Lanka has made attempts to enter the nostril of the outsized India to cause irritating consequences for it. With the change of government under the leadership of the energetic Premier Narendra Modi, India is stretching its influence slowly to consolidate its regional stakes in a friendly manner. Infrastructural interconnects to tame the underdogs in the region in a subtle way is progressively changing the regional stake of India. The exit of irritant Mahinda Rajapaksa is a blessing in disguise for the whole world. Ever since his departure, the relationship between India and Sri Lanka has strengthened at a reasonable and non-confrontational space.
British Wartime Prime minister Winston Churchill’s once made an ill-tempered assertion: ‘I hate the Indians. They are a beasty people with a beasty religion’. His prognostication that after the British left the subcontinent, ‘India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages’; and further ‘an army of white janissaries, officered if necessary from Germany, will be hired to secure the armed ascendancy of the Hindu’ have been abysmally proved wrong. Instead, his sickening assertions of barbarism and embracing of Nazism has turned to be the ever progressing Islamic crusade that the world is experiencing today. British created Pakistan and it is one of the major hotbeds of instability in the world since its independence. This is increasingly turning into saffron dressed Buddhist cronyism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar that Winston Churchill could not envisage.
Nearly seventy years after independence, India is progressing fast, and the army of janissaries are still awaited and the armed ascendancy and the barbarism of the Hindutwas are just mere sour historical incidences in the historical annals of India. India remains an unnatural nation and, what’s more, an unlikely democracy that tailored its way through one of the biggest and tolerant democracies of the world. The progress of India did not have a shadow of influence from neighboring countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Post Indian beastliness expected from the Hindutwa’s was an evolution of a much needed democratic change that India successfully incorporated to strengthen to become a powerful secular nation.
The post 1977 anti-Tamil violence politics of Sri Lanka has overshadowed the Indo-Sri Lanka relationship. When the 1977 violence progressed into state sponsored major island-wide slaughter of the Tamils in 1983, India could not be the passive spectator. With the Indra Gandhi’s assertive and interventionist foreign policy, the military might of India taught many lessons for India and its neighbours. Fading of Nehru dynasty changed India’s foreign policy too. India has become one of the tolerant democracies to strengthen its inherent diversity with its multitudes of diverse communities, including that of its non-resident communities world over.
A country like Sri Lanka with its very few countable communities is still to reckon with the need to change in line with fast changing India. The present day Hindu-Buddhist, Sinhala-Tamilian culture is the historical influence of India. But unfortunately the earthly practices of tolerance, mutual respect and recognition is to still find its roots in Sri Lanka. Secularism is anathema for Sri Lanka. The federal state structures that played an important part for the cohesiveness of India is lethargy in Sri Lanka, thus it is unable to reconcile itself to become a respectable nation in the world.
India as a successful and tolerant democracy, and Sri Lanka at the cross roads to kick start its accountable democratic values must work towards promoting the principle of ‘India for Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka for India’. This must be stretched for the socio-economic benefit of both the countries.
The idea of the world’s biggest cross-bridge of the Eurotunnel emerged in 1802 and its construction only started in 1988 and opened in 1994. There was considerable pressure not to go on with this project. British political and press pressure over the compromising of national security stalled attempts to construct the tunnel.
It is the dream of the infamous Tamil Maha Kavi Bharathi (one of the vociferous poets advocating the end of the British Raj) that a bridge must be built to Sri Lanka from India. In his much acclaimed song ‘Sithnathiyin misai nilavilile’ he goes on reflect of his dream of ‘Singala theevinukkor paalam amaipom’ (build a bridge to the Sinhala Island) – a song that is equally powerful to that of India’s national anthem of Rabindranath Tagore: ‘Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaya Hey’. It is time India and Sri Lanka pursue the Sethu Samuthram Project to realise the dream of Maha Kavi Bharathi for the benefit of both the nations and the regional security of South Asia.
India’s strength in this modern globalised politics is to strengthen its relationship with its neighbours. Sri Lanka in one of the crucial countries that need strengthening of better relationship that should help the island come out of its ever progressing ghetto culture. India is doing the right thing by taking a much wanted humane approach than its rival China in its recent indulgences in Sri Lanka, by providing donor and soft loan funding. China’s high percentage heavy intervention is cynical that should be thwarted by proactive diplomatic efforts.
With the downfall of Rajapaksa regime, there are claims that China is involved in the destabilising campaign in Sri Lanka by financing the losers and certain media. Such covert operations of China must be roundly dealt with by sharp intelligence gathering and infusion of confidence to the government of Sri Lanka that wishes to change the post-independence traumatic political climate of the island.
*To be continued