By Kalyananda Godage –
Diplomacy is all about persuasion. The thrust of our diplomacy in terms of our national interests should, without doubt, be directed at winning over the western countries, their close friends and India.
At a time when the country needs the best of efforts to counter the huge propaganda campaign mounted against the country, we appear to be going out of our way to make enemies of friends, particularly the powerful countries whose friendship we do most badly need in this new ‘war’ against the pro-LTTE Diaspora and their foreign friends.
Need for big powers
We need the big powers of the modern world more than they need us. We also need them for the following reasons; we need their support and understanding, in the first instance to rein in the Tamil Diaspora which, it is reported, helped the LTTE to the tune of US$ 300 million during the separatist war, no terrorist group in the world other than perhaps the al Qaeda and the Hamas enjoyed greater support. Even though the war is over the LTTE supporters who have entrenched themselves in the countries of the West and have secured citizenship, influence politicians and political parties and still continue their campaign against this country using the millions they continue to collect from their people. The only way to counter them is to win over these western countries. It should be remembered that Lakshman Kadirgamar, with the assistance of career Foreign Service officers serving in these countries at the time, got the West to proscribe the LTTE.
We also need the West for it is in those markets that we sell our tea and garments (we should be able to get back the GSP Plus concession if we handle them correctly), the West is not only where the markets exist but also the source of capital (the World Bank and the IMF are virtually controlled by them) and technology, besides of course the influence they wield in the affairs of the world; we should also not forget from where the tourists come. We certainly need them more than they need us, we must face the fact that this country has become worthless among countries of the international community; the influence we wield is near zero. If this situation is not bad enough we appear to be unnecessarily antagonizing India as well, which we can ill afford to do.
India’s confrontation with US
We need to take note of the fact of India’s foreign policy shift; the relationship with the US has been consolidated by a new defence relationship. The nuclear cooperation deal heralded the shift. The nuclear powered US Aircraft carrier Nimitz docked into the Chennai harbour not so long ago; such a symbol of US military power in Indian waters would have been unthinkable a few years ago. This is indicative of a strategic alliance between the two countries. The one time US Under-Secretary of State, Burns, described the relationship as a “Global partnership”! The Indo-US relationship has undergone a sea change and we need to take account of this.
We do need to enter into a new Treaty of Peace Friendship and Cooperation with India; since the world has changed dramatically from what it was in 1987 we need to replace the Indo Lanka Agreement which, after twenty five years, and non-performance being the order of the day, is now passé.
The perception of many knowledgeable people in this country is that our attitude towards the west has not been helpful and needs to be changed in our own interest. Why do we say “in our own interest”? Besides the imperative need to cultivate close relations because of the fact that markets for our products are in the west, in recent times we have seen the crack down on LTTE leaders and their operations from the US, through Europe to Australia, this must be appreciated by the government. The LTTE was penalized globally and that crippling of the LTTE in the ‘west’ had in no small measure assisted the government to succeed in this war against the LTTE here at home. Let us for a moment pause to think of what the consequences would have been had the LTTE been able to secure ‘Surface to Air’ missiles. The US has charged five including a leader of the LTTE in the US in this regard. We need also to recall that in another operation the authorities had tracked suspects from Baltimore on the east coast to the South Pacific (Guam) and arrested six for attempting to export arms to the Tigers. The US authorities also arrested Karunakaran the chief of LTTE operations in the US. The arrests in France and elsewhere have been as significant for they caused irreparable damage to the LTTE and it efforts to prosecute the war in Sri Lanka. The government should show its appreciation of these efforts and reach out to the west and convince them that it is seeking to win back the hearts and minds of the Tamil people and bring them into the mainstream and that they would also have a say in deciding on the future of this country which belongs to us all. The government must without any further delay come up with credible constitutional proposals, even implement the 13th Amendment without land and police powers. Let us also have second chamber; If the proposals are fair and just the international community and India will without doubt help us to proceed on the path of development of our country.
K Godage is a former Ambassador, Courtesy The Island