15 October, 2018

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India’s Renewed Interest In Mahinda

By Mahinda Pathirana

Mahinda Pathirana

The timing of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s recent visit to India on an invitation by ruling BJP politician and Modi confidante Dr Subramanium Swamy would have taken many interested parties both here and overseas by surprise. Mr Rajapaksa had never been depicted a darling of South Asia’s emerging super power. At least since the year 2009, Indians had always painted him with a Chinese Dragon in the background. India’s perception of Rajapaksa as one of China’s allies, along with Pakistan in the South Asian region perhaps, allegedly went as far as helping Sri Lanka’s then opposition unseat Mahinda Rajapaksa from power in 2015. In the eve of his defeat to Maithripala Sirisena, the so called common candidate, Mr Rajapaksa himself subscribed to this school of thinking and publicly accused India’s intelligence arm, RAW of conspiring against him. India’s main concern was China’s booming investment in the strategically important infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. Hambantota port project of 1.6 Billion USD was one of the focal points. Despite former government’s repeated assurances to its historical neighbour on the Hambantota port project as a commercial investment, all went unheeded. Political opponents of Rajapaksas back here fuelled the widely held international perceptions, by recklessly demonising Chinese investment as an attempt to colonize Sri Lanka by China. (Interesting that only last week that PM Ranil Wickremesinghe rejected his own almost five year long unfounded charge of Chinese Debt Trap narrative during a tour of Vietnam and China had welcomed this). To worsen the already raging fire of Mahinda bringing in China’s military might to the doorstep of India, the news of two Chinese submarines docking at Colombo port went viral within the diplomatic circles. Parties with vested interests, who were hell-bent on using ‘’Chinese colonization of Sri Lanka” as an excuse to wage war against Mr Rajapaksa proved correct! Rest is history. 

More than three years on, it seems now that all those who took part in the defeat of Rajapaksas find themselves in a sort of self-realization. Locally, people sealed their utter displeasure with the ruling coalition in the February 10th local government elections. The newly created Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), actively supported by former President defeated in no uncertain terms by now fragmented so called Yahapalana crusaders all put together wining over 70% of local government Bodies Island wide.

Has the disillusionment with the No-Action-Talk-Only (NATO, as some social media activists redefined the acronym) government reached offshore by now? On the 11th of this month, Mr Rajapaksa visited India to take part in a seminar organized by a movement called Virat Hindustan Sangam. This organization is headed by Dr Subramanium Swamy of Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP). But, from the very outset that the news of former President attending the conference coming to light, it was more than what is publicly said and scheduled. There were speculations in many quarters over why Mahinda, once branded as anti-Indian and China friendly, was hand-picked to deliver a lecture on a theme titled “India-Relations relations; the way forward”. Couldn’t they find somebody else from the ruling coalition to talk on this topic back in Sri Lanka?  

Dr Swamy was a friend of Sri Lanka and, indeed a friend of Mr Mahinda in particular no doubt. Hailing from none other than India’s Tamil Nadu state, the nerve centre of ethnic Tamil politics, Dr Swamy has visited the country many times and registered his open disgust with the LTTE those days. But, this line of this reasoning, i.e. Dr Swamy’s friendship and his loyalty to this country, cannot adequately explain what unfolded during Mahinda’s visit. As mentioned above, Mahinda had spoken on “India-Relations relations; the way forward” in this seminar. Isn’t the topic itself interesting?

Just being a former president and a Member of Parliament here in Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa was treated like a head of state during this tour. First, he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his official residence. The photos of the encounter, flashed on social media carried a clear narrative. Both Mr Modi and former leader of Sri Lanka seemed to have found themselves very comfortable in each other’s company. It appeared that Mr Modi had something important to share with Mr Rajapaksa. This writer is reliably aware of the fact that Mr Modi requested Mahinda Rajapaksa not to go for early presidential polls back in 2014. Just months into power, Mr Modi had wanted to take stock of the situation and then decide. Had he already sensed a conspiracy to overthrow the war-winning, abled leader of the tiny, yet important nation? Mr Rajapaksa did not heed Mr Modi’s advice. Unwilling to backtrack on his own words, he decided to proceed as planned. There were valid reasons to do so. On the one hand, he wanted to show his people’s mandate of approval to western world and ease the pressure on a country, just coming out of a 30 year long bloody war and, on the other hand, complete what he started in terms of development with a fresh mandate and take the nation beyond the height that nobody will ever bring it down again. 

History is that unheeding Modi’s friendly advice to Mahinda was costly. Yet, even after the defeat of Mr Rajapaksa, it seemed that Mr Modi did not entirely drop the idea of resurrecting the brave man who took immense pain and pressure to eradicate brutal terrorism that threatened not only the integrity of Sri Lanka, but also that of India and the region. He had since chosen to keep in touch with him. It is well-known that, during Mr Modi’s recent visit to Sri Lanka, he insisted on meeting Mr Mahinda in private. He did so. 

Having said that let me broaden the horizon by bringing in other pictures of Mahinda’s India tour. Keep aside Mr Narendra Modi meeting MR, why did, all of the sudden, leaders of India’s main opposition party choose to meet former leader of Sri Lanka. Among the high profile delegation that cordially shook hand with Mr Rajapaksha were Rahul Gandhi, the leader of Congress, Dr Manmohan Singh, former prime minister and congress strongman and other party stalemate. They know Mahinda very well. During the war against terror, they worked very closely in a mechanism called Troika headed by Mr Basil Rajapaksa on the part of Sri Lanka. It was thanks to this unprecedented diplomatic formula that Sri Lanka did not experience a second round of air-drop of Parippu (Dhal) from Indian planes. Anyway, had the congress leaders not renewed their interest in Mahinda, they could easily have avoided the former Sri Lankan leader. Body language of the congress leaders was also very positive in these encounters. 

Most important thing that we can discern out of these two meetings is that Indian leaders from across the political divide put their party differences aside for a short of time and took interest in the common goal of meeting Mahinda. 

Most viable explanation to India’s renewed enthusiasm in Mahinda could potentially be traced back to the fact that India learned the second lesson by allegedly having a hand in taking Rajapaksa administration down. Lesson number one was nurturing Tamil separatist groups in Sri Lanka in 80s and facing the humiliation at the hand of the same terror groups by getting one of their own leaders killed. India’s motive to help unseat Mahinda from power was to fight back Chinese influence in Sri Lanka and ‘regain’ the control of the ‘lost’ neighbour. They might have expected a turnaround in relations from the Sirisena-Wickramesinghe government. One of the major concerns of India was the Chinese funding the Hambantota port. In reality, there was nothing for India to worry about. It was fully under government control and the loan was being paid without any issue. There was no any possibility of the strategically important port going to China or the same being used as military asset. Nor China demanded anything of that sort. But, with the new government coming into power, nothing of the sort materialized on the ground. What followed was indeed deterioration in the situation. Let alone Sirisena-Wickramesinghe address India’s China concern in Sri Lanka, they decided to give whole sale the sensitive port to China on a 99-year long lease agreement. Another controversial investment was Chinese reclaiming a port city in Colombo. India opposed this too. They might have expected the current regime to stop that as well. Irony is that Sirisena-Wickramesinghe government changed the port city deal after a temporary halt to the project and gave China even a bigger amount of the reclaimed land. 

Above all, most important lesson that India learned this time was igniting a renewal of formerly held mistrust of people of Sri Lanka with India. By helping Mahinda administration defeat terror, India was slowly regaining people’s recognition and appreciation. But, the alleged complicity in bringing current regime to power, they lost it again and anti-Indian sentiment went high among the majority Sinhalese. This is very damaging for India in the long run. 

All this and current regime’s growing unpopularity among the all sections of the society across party and ethnic divides might definitely have forced India a fresh thinking on Sri Lanka. Looking back at their past own mistakes vis-a-vis Sri Lanka and drafting a new way forward might be in the making. Inviting Mahinda Rajapaksha to India and treating him similar to a head of state and a friend of India might be first step in this new direction. Let me conclude this piece by paraphrasing one of Mahinda’s replies to an Indian journalist who asked him whether he has changed since his defeat: No. I am same Mahinda. You have changed. I always stood by interests of my country. Analogically, it is similar to Buddha asking Angulimala to stop while the former has already stopped and Angulimala, being unaware of this, asking Buddha to stop. Self-realization for some takes time. India is no exception.                

*Mahinda Pathirana, Senior Lecturer, Sabaragamuwa University

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Some time in the future the idiots in the MS/RW Government will be accused of handing Sri Lankan territory to China, an act with no precedent. Instead of continuing to pay exorbitant interest and blaming MR for it, they have chosen to make matters worse both for the nation and for themselves.

    • 2
      0

      Delhi’s interest in MR follows it buddy Washington DC’s renewed commitment to US Citizen Gotabaya for next Prez!

      And so the foreign hands that run Lankas Fake news industry, as well as, economic, foreign and defense sectors, play their games, while Lankan citizens are like tiny spiders caught in the great games of the big players in this Indian Ocean Hub of Modayas!

  • 13
    4

    You are just an arse licker of MR, Mr. Pathirana. . Being a lecturer in a university does not make you brilliant.

    • 3
      6

      Somapala is it hard to accept the reality with evidence? Are you so naive? If so get some one to explain the article to you in sudde sinhala. What if someone calls you an arse licker for Ranil?

      • 4
        2

        I have nothing to do with Ranil or any other idiot. Any body with substance upstairs know that this meeting was arranged by Mara’s dear friend Swamy. Anyhow it looks like you are in the queue to lick the arse of Mara behind Mr. Pathirana. Good Luck and Enjoy.

        • 1
          0

          How amusing? when someone else expresses a view opposed to your own you are ready to brand them as a*** lickers. In the same vein your comments on the article shows your allegiance to Ranil & Co. Do not deny. It is in your blood for such comments with sheer denial despite clear evidence. I am not a simpleton like you Somapala. It makes no difference when people agree or disagree without being labelled as lackeys of a political leader. The guy you worship is an utter failure. Even the Indian Govt realised their mistake. RW got the Indian backing with RAW stating lies, but when they came to power they had to pacify the west (who were his pay masters) he cancelled projects commenced by the previous Govt hoping to get more help from the west. When they did not come his way he had no option but to go back to China to agree to worse agreements. Cancelling projects though vindictiveness does not help any one. It was not RW’S money they belong to people and must take a good look to improve them rather than making knee jerk decisions. This was their downfall and results could be seen up and down the country. I am not for MR coming to power but a change of policy is essential to meet our needs. If you are unable to see this you must be in a parallel world. Good luck mate. Keep dreaming and deny reality. May be you are able to buy a cheap car now.

      • 1
        1

        The little bother Indian and big brother US game in Sri Lanka with Mahinda Jarapassa and Bonds scam Ranil is:
        Heads I win, Tails you loose! Bondscam Ranil and MR’s joint corruption racket is brokered in India and US.
        Big Bro. US and Little bro. India have their bases covered with the current UNP-SLFP-PP national govt. corruption racket (along with useless TNA) – against China.
        Sri Lankans need to look to someone who is uncorrupt like Naga Koddtuwakku to be next leader.
        The fact is that the US-Japan owned ADB, WB and IMF with Singapore FTA and Not China have put Lanka in Debt trap and are now crashing the rupee so that they cab buy land and asset strip Sri Lanka cheaply.

  • 9
    3

    Mahinda did not change. His focus is his family kingdom. He will do anything to come back to power. China has already established very well in Srilanka and no one can escape from China’s trap. For Mahinda he will promise anything to India, Earlier he promised to India to eliminate LTTE for Rajiv Gandhi Family (Sonia). He Massacred over 100,000 Tamils and over 30000 Sinhalese for that. He used China’s weapon (chemical and cluster bombs). India did not object China’s weapons. It was purely on personal grudge between LTTE and Sonia. Mahinda cannot do anything with China even if he promise India. Once he got the power he will say bye to India but he is now ready to pay big lumpsum to some Indians including Swamy and Modi because Modi is not going to be in power next time.

    • 0
      0

      Ajith appears to fret in his pants with this new development.
      India’s survival & internal peace is dependent on Sri Lanka with a leader with a firm grip and not with wobbly hands.

  • 6
    2

    All what MR wants is to come to power at any cost; MR is like Danald Trupm..he is addicted to power; power is like drug ..
    Once you tasted you cannot give up?
    There is nothing special about his visit to India that this fact .
    Geopolitics of indo- china is neither a big issue for him nor for his family

  • 3
    1

    Mahinda Pathirana’s assessment of Subramanian Swamy is not quite correct. Swamy smelt BJP victory, folded his own one-person party and joined BJP. He immediately said, “To solve India’s problems disenfranchise non-Hindus”. Modi saw the carpetbagger in Swamy and has used Swamy as the Wimal.
    .
    The credit for the 2015 elections must go to the voters. Please do not credit India or anyone else..

    .
    MR has been watching how Modi shed his pariah status. How is Modi able to evade his Hindu extremist past?
    Modi wonders how MR got out of the UNHRC radar and in spite of being in the opposition, respectify the culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity.
    The rest of Pathirana’s speculations are wild.

  • 5
    2

    Mr Subramaniam Swamy has been very close to Rajapaksa clan and has been against the Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka and indifferent to their sufferings.
    Why is he promoting the corrupt former Leader

    • 5
      1

      Subramania Swamy states he is a Tamil but everything he does or utters is very anti Tamil not only against the Sri Lankan Tamils but even the people of Tamil Nadu, despite identifying himself as a Tamil. He openly sides with Karnataka against Tamils Nadu in the Kaveri issue and other matters. He is ardently Hinduvata, but married a Parsi and one of his daughters is married to a Muslim , the son of the former Indian foreign minister. He has Muslims grand children but posts anti Muslim articles . He is a joke and very dangerous and opportunistic with a big ego. Will do anything for his own advancement. A Tamil who hates Tamil , as he considers himself above the rest of the Tamils. An Aryan Brahmin. Many say his ancestors like certain sects of present day Tamil Brahmins arrived in the Tamil country from the north and central parts of the country, during the Vijaya Nagar rule and got culturally assimilated as Tamils. These people are different from the majority of the Tamil Brahmins who have been in the Tamil country for thousands of years. They mainly belong to a sect called Vadama( Iyers) or Vagagalai( Iyengars) and many of them not all , despite calling themselves Tamils, have no affinity to vast majority of the Tamils , unless you are a Brahmin or a Brahmin from their Sect. Despite calling or identifying themselves as Tamil many of their actions are against ordinary Tamils, as they are fairly recently assimilated into the Tamil identity and still hark back to their original northern identity. This person is one of them. A Tamil who hates Tamils . A Muslim hater who has Muslim grand children. A charlatan

  • 3
    3

    What is the position you are looking for HEad of the Deaprtment or Dean or above ?. You are not responsible except in Sri lankla like countries.

  • 3
    1

    India still has not learnt the Sinhalese mindset . JR Jayawardene tricked Baby naïve Rajiv to do his dirty war in the north and east ,in 1987 and finally dishonoured the agreement. Rajapakse did the same in 2009 in order to defeat the Tamils , commit genocide on them and this also suited Italian Sonia to take her Mafia style revenge on the LTTE , what happened to the hapless Tamil population did not matter. In true Italian style she wanted revenge. Many anti Tamils, like the Malayali mafia, in the RAW and foreign office also facilitated this. Then you get Tamils who are anti Tamil like Subramania Swamy, Hindu Jam, Mani Chingkara Iyer , the late Cho Kundichamy, who think they are above the rest of the Tamils and want revenge on them , for real and perceived injustices that the Dravidian parties did to the Tamil Brahmins, in Tamil Nadu. They seem to have forgotten Jayalalitha was a Tamil Brahmin and one of them. They cannot take revenge on the Indian Tamil population who are powerful , so the hapless Sri Lankan Tamil population , that is not even anti Brahmin , or interested in Dravidian politics and nothing to with their real or imagined predicament, but fighting for their just rights in their own land, will do. Rajapakse will again use these Indian wankers , by deftly playing clever politics with Indian anti Tamils and then once he gets what he wants. will drop India and run to China. Indians still do not get is most Sinhalese are anti Indian and anti Hindu to the core. They just get taken up with the false smiles and greetings and do not realise that the Sinhalese are just using them and not they using the Sinhalese.

  • 0
    0

    You call this a spin????? One dosent need university education for such a shoddy job. Dude it is ok if you cannot bowl a dosara or googly. At least you can stay in line to attack the wicket. Yours is a WIDE
    and NO ball , miles away from the pitch. Get some advise from DJ or Rajeeva who have been doing this for living.No surprises here, people didnt bother reading or writing a comment.India is up to its own game/puzzle where Lanka is just a piece.They just use and abuse as they did with Maldives.

  • 0
    0

    The gradually emerging China-India (currently) low intensity battle – mainly for control of the sea waters around Sri Lanka and India – will in due course inflict tragic consequences – to several high profile Lankan politicians. Crafty and venal politicians here can play India against China and vice-versa now and then. But the die is cast. Neither India or China are going to give up on Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future. Both will, at various times and in different degrees, back their chosen favourites here. Quislings, if you prefer. The end result is Sri Lanka is risking the recent Beirut dilemma. That 15th century history where Chinese Admiral Zheng De came here with his large fleet and involuntarily took King Alakeswara to the land of the dragons – will probably repeat itself.

    Many well informed academics predict Sri Lanka’s goose is well and nicely cooked. The Rajapakses and such lackeys and their immediate families will doubtlessly benefit. Over 20 million slogan-screaming lotus-eaters – voters, if you must – will be in the streets for long. That is where they belong in this charade what goes as Democracy. The ultra-modern Colombo Capital City with its zooming aluminium-steel high rises are for the Chinese, Indians and those “investors” with cold cash.
    The Yakkos will have to get back to the pre-1515 history of the island as dispensables. That fate might not include the Tamil part of the North-East that, arguably, will regain its historical reality to independent rule – rudely denied by Portugese, Dutch and the British for nearly 5 centuries.

    Vanangamudi

  • 0
    0

    I hasten to add the Chinese Admiral who kidnapped Lankan King Vira Alakeshwara is also referred sometimes as Cheng Ho or Zheng He. Pronunciation complications – maybe. BTW, for those Sinhala extremist die-hards denying the existence of Tamil Kings ruling the island then, does this very Tamil sounding name alter your equation of thought? Incidentally, the media reported recently a delegation lead by senior TNA man Sampanthan had a long chat with the Chinese Ambassador. One wonders if the Chinese, very pragmatic and down to earth guys, are taking a new look at things. The Chinese Envoy might as well ask Prof. Pathmanathan for Tea???

    Vanangamudi

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