By Sharmini Serasinghe –
The Indian PM’s decision not to attend the summit in Colombo is being viewed as giving into the bullying tactics of Jayalalithaa’s Petticoat government. Just days before, Singh while addressing The Annual Conclave of Indian Ambassadors/High Commissioners abroad in New Delhi outlined what he believed to be the ‘Five Core Principals’ of India’s development-centric Foreign Policy.
Of the five principals, the most relevant to Indo-Sri Lanka relations at this juncture would be the Fourth- “”we recognize that the Indian sub-continent’s shared destiny requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity. Towards this end, we must strengthen regional institutional capability and capacity and invest in connectivity.”
A few days later, he did a volte farce by opting not to attend CHOGM in Colombo! So what happened to his “investment in regional connectivity”? The unspoken message that was ultimately sent by the Indian PM was that he couldn’t give a damn about “regional connectivity” when his own political interests were at stake.
The Indian media is understandably having a field day berating their PM for placing petty domestic political interests before the country’s greater interest vis-à-vis Foreign Policy. Regional analyst Ankit Panda points out, that the CHOGM 2013 debacle “will be remembered as a political fumble in India’s regional relations”.
Meanwhile President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivering a strong message to the Commonwealth members in his inaugural address stated “We must also collectively guard against bilateral agendas being introduced into the organisation disrupting Commonwealth traditions and consensus. The strength of the organisation lies in keeping the member countries helping each other in a spirit of partnership making the Commonwealth truly unique”. This was obviously a snide reference to India.
Dr. Singh caught between the devil and the deep-blue-sea may have inadvertently strengthened Rajapaksa’s hand vis-à-vis the 13th Amendment. He can now dilute it further or do away with it entirely.
One wonders if Rajapaksa in all his cunningness was secretly hoping that the Indian PM will keep away from CHOGM 2013!
The fallout of this whole issue will be India’s pet-concern; to ensure a fair deal for Sri Lanka’s Tamil community, ending up on the back-burner. After all it was the hard work put in by India that made the Northern Provincial Council elections a reality.
The worst off in this scenario is none other than the newly elected Chief Minister of the Northern Province C. V. Wigneswaran. He is now in a most unenviable position.
Meanwhile China must obviously be beaming with glee as it watches fragile Indo-Sri Lanka relations deteriorating even further!
*Sharmini Serasinghe was Director Communications of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) under Secretary Generals Dr. John Gooneratne and Jayantha Dhanapala. She counts over thirty years in journalism in both the print and electronic media.