By Sarath Wijesinghe –
Madam Bandaranaike’s Unique Position in the Golden Book on International Arena
Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s place in the world international arena is engraved in gold as the first women Prime Minister and the longest serving Prime Minister living in the minds of Sri Lankans as the “Mother of the Nation” won for our motherland many unthinkable achievements with her inherent “Charm but Firm Diplomacy” and diplomatic skills in managing foreign policy and organizing the non-alignment summit during the height of the cold war while maintaining “friendship with all but angry with none” theory which is the motto in Sri Lankan foreign policy. She led a full life as stateswomen, world leader, Loving mother of three out of whom one became the President and son the Speaker which is a rare achievement. Other daughter is serving the nation in a different capacity as a social worker and Ambassador on culture and a social reformer. Lot is written on her in various angles, but we intend discussing her inherent powerful diplomatic skills with great restraint and patriotism in leading the non-alignment movement by giving leadership to 118 nations and 17 observer countries. Books have been written and volumes could be compiled of her honesty, integrity and great qualities as a mother figure for the family and the Nation setting standards and examples. Undoubtedly she is the best Foreign Minister Sri Lanka ever had and one of the best Foreign Ministers the world has had. There is lot to learn from her and her foreign policy to the present when the current foreign policy is in complicated unmanaged maize with no vision or aim. Foreign policy should target the economy, development, security, and the future of the country. Good news is these are correctible matters by managers of this weeping Nation demanding want of honest and competent “Trustees” to manage the beautiful Island, despite grave danger in planning to connect it to the more corrupt world via bridges and tunnels.
Current U-TURN policy on China is a good move in the long term security, development and success of the bleeding Nation. Having realized “West” is not helping and not competent to help us and we had to proceed to China with a begging bowl! For assistance and re activate the projects suspended previously. They were nice diplomatic to our powerful delegation and considered to help us due to our past friendship and glory. Late is better than never and good to be realistic and practical though at a colossal loss of billions of funds belonging to the citizen. Europe and west is in trouble looking for outside help. They too seek assistance from Chine on Economy and Technology. One should realize that China is a world power and an economic giant keeping pace with the modern world developments and trends. China has invested heavily in major powers currently limping on the economic front, and it is good news that we have though late have realized the reality in geo- politics on economic and development strategies. Madam Bandaranaike has set precedents, examples and framework to work on and built in the area of international relations and diplomacy. Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike too followed her footsteps on Peace “Diplomacy” and H. E. Mahinda Rajapaksa on “War Diplomacy” until the end of thirty year war on terror following the same foreign policies with slight adjustments. Strategy of H.E. Mitripala Sirisena, Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Hon Mangala Samaraweera appear to be still in the formative stages until the foreign Policy of the Good Governance Regime” is put to the test and forwarded with one word based on “Economic Diplomacy” and “Reconciliation Diplomacy”. It is to their credit that the pressure mounted by the West on Sri Lanka is less- most probably on the Regime Change process- on the political front though with no financial and economic benefits expected and the questions at what short and long term price? Madam Bandaraneuka laid the foundation for close relationships mainly with India, China, SAARC , Non alignment Zone, and the rest of the world. She was friendly with all and angry with none as the foreign policy motto of Sri Lanka. The Foreign Ministry during her time has been a “bee- hive” on activities on International law and relations. We still reap the harvest of good work by SWRD and Madam since 1930s in developing close friendship with China from Rice/Rubber pact and helping her during difficult periods in the UN system during the highest of the cold war. Do we maintain a proper and effective foreign Policy depends on the behaviour of the leader of the country and impacts on our economy and the future. Madam Bandaranaike gave leadership and pride to the country with effective and productive foreign policy. Is it the time to overhaul the Ministry and the diplomatic service to meet the global challenges, without seeking advice and directions from Singapore and appointing outside politicians as monitoring personalities as has been previously messed up by previous regimes. They got into difficulties tarnishing the image and historical pride of the Ministry and the leader of the State then. Madam Bandraneika has set precedents to follow in future deliberations in the sphere of management of foreign policy through the Ministry and the Ambassadors.
Foreign Policy as the Name implies, is administrative in nature. Foreign Policy of a country is the government’s policy pertaining to it relations and interactions with other nations and inter-governmental organizations. Foreign Policy of a country is dynamic as it is guided and influenced by the national aspirations, domestic and political cultural economic commercial financial and social environment international conventions treatises and global issues. Foreign policy being an extension of the domestic policy national aspirations and domestic issues play the primary role in shaping the Nation’s foreign policy which reflects economic political and future ambitions and aspirations. On 23rd January 1964 Madam Bandaranaike declared at the Senate that “underlying the policy of non- alignment is the belief that independent nations, although small ad militarily weak have a positive role to play in the world today. This attitude is completely different from that of washing our hands of these matters, which was perhaps the idea behind the classical theory of neutralism. There is a world of difference this and then on alignment.” Whilst giving leadership to the non-alignment movement both Hon SWRD Bandaranaike and Madam Bandaranaike maintained close and warm relations with the West, the western leaders and international organizations in an act of balance whilst being active in international affairs as the leader of the non-alignment group. It is evident that Hon SWRD Bandaranaike’s thinking and policies have been implemented by Madam Bandaranaike during her successful regime similar to the implementation of the Marxist theory by Lenin, at a later stage. Today we are witnessing the dangerous shift of foreign policy contrary to the needs and the internal political confrontations/realities especially on China and the socialist block which is dangerous and disastrous. Our neighbour has a firm and stable foreign policy unchanged on change of regime. In my country there should be unanimity and coconscious among the political rivals and the different sects of the ruling clan at least on international affairs in the interest of the Nation leaving aside political differences. SWRD declared that neutralism is not cowardice and running away from trouble but to exert pressure and active in international affairs using diplomatic channel. Madam did not want to be either to be in the capitalist block or the communist block till a system is found which suits us. Rulers who are “Trustees and temporary Guardians” of the Nation do not speak with one word- at least to the world contrary to the “Lichchavi” theory they promised to implement. In India Governments may change but not the foreign policy. When father of the Nation Rt Hon D S Senanayake continued the defence treaty with the Colonial Rulers all agreed upon as it was the need of the day for security for an “Unarmed newly born Nation”. Hon D S Senanayaka during the transitional period said “ I cannot accept the responsibility of being a Minister of defence unless I am given the full authority to take decisions on defence and perused the defence agreement with UK was the best option then which SWRD got rid of depending on the safety and protection on the strength of the non-alignment policy. SWRD followed the 3rd way who declared – “For havens sake be friendly with England or anyone else, but do not commit ourselves to anyone of them.” In 1957 Embassies of USSR and China were started followed by many East Europe and Latin American Countries. Bandaraneika’s neutralism coupled with pragmatism paid dividends by world leaders such as Harold Machmilan od Britin, Menzies of Australia, Peter Nash of New Zealand, Prime Minister of Cananada, Chie En Lai of China, Suhartho if Indusnia, Narue o f Indiaa, we some of the frequent visiters to Sri Lanka with the entire nonaligned block. During H.E. Jayewardene’s rule the friendship with India was on the lowest web and the 13th amendment consisting of Provincial Councils – a white elephant creating havoc today-was forced on us with “Parippue”. H. E. Chandrika Bandaranaike and H. E. Mahinda Rajapaksa attempted to follow “SWRD and Sirimvo” Policies in the International arena with adjustments based on circumstances.
Settlement of contentious International issues with diplomatic skills
Madam Bandaranaike telephoned from the Indian Prime Minister’s office to Hon Dudley Senanayake for his consent at the last stages of the settlement of the Indo Sri Lanka dispute on the Indian Labour issue showing the great statementship qualities of both Prime Minister and then leader by seeking opinion of Hon Dudley Senanayake on the issues, who promptly agreed to the formula proposed by Madam Bandaranaike’s team which is a rare happening in current political personalities and trends. Attitude and the applicability of policies towards Sri Lanka by the successive Indian leaders in the recent past has been always pro-Indian. Nations consist of human beings and obviously any leader will be selfish for the benefit of their Nation unless others are cautious. The current trends are worrying on moves and direct/ indirect threats on imposing trade agreements and construction of roads and bridges connecting the two friendly Nations existed thousands of years in peace and harmony due to peaceful secured location as a protected Island. H. E. Mahinda Rajapaksa was brave to face “arms twisting threats” during the last stages of the war which is a classic example for the current day polite. Madam Bandaranaike and the group took all the precautionary measures to defend and protect this wonderful Island during her time armed with the personal Charm and Goodwill developed by “SWRD and Sirimavo” for decades for the Motherland she loved so much. Indian foreign ministry is behind their successive Prime Ministers and foreign ministers protecting their interests and guiding as one of the most professional and stable foreign ministries. Madam Bandaranaike was always armed and determined to safeguard the interest of her motherland. Therefore it is to our advantage that we resolve to follow firm Non Alignment with fear or favour. It is fondly remembered with credit to H. E. JR Jaywwardene – an ardent supporter of the West who was always spoke in favour Non Alignment at lease on the book on realization of the safety and the value to be neutral in the complicated world politics.
Madam Bandaranaike’s Legacy and Strength in the world politics
Madam Bandaranaike’s main strength in her success story has been her vision coupled with the dedicated experienced and seasoned international civil servants, such as Dr Vernon Mendis, Arther Basnayaka, Shirley Amarasinghe, Glannie Peiris, N Q Dias, Tilak Gunartna, Manal Abeyasekara, Jayantha Dhanapala and the colleagues who masterminded the foreign policy with Non Alignment Summit to be one of the Sri Lanka’s greatest triumphs in foreign Policy. She strengthened and gave teeth and power to the Foreign Ministry established in 1949 injecting officers not second to any in the globe for global matters. It is time for the current Trustees/Guardians of the Nation to follow Madam Bandaranaike’s vision and footsteps go get out of the mess we are in on mismanagement of foreign policy. The group led by Madam Bandaranaike helped her in the success of the geopolitical and international affairs coupled with excellent personal and family relations with many world leaders who often visited Sri Lanka on friendship visits with pleasantries to the Madam Bandaranaike and the Nation followed by the subsequent successful achievements with ripple effects on performed diplomacy as a result of the implementation of correct foreign policy of the day. One main challenge on foreign policy then was the outbreak of the Sino-Indian war of 1962 when she was deeply distressed as both were close and good friends. Fortunately Zhou En-Lai declared ceasefire providing space for diplomatic efforts for Egypt, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Indonesia met in Colombo on 10th December 1962 and Madam Bandaranaike was requested by all the parties to visit countries with proposals. The mediation effect, bold and unique it was, led by Madam Bandaranaike and colleagues, failed to bring the warring Asian Giants to the negotiating table at the time. More than five decades later the boundary issue between India and China remains unresolved, but that circumstances have not prevented the two countries from forging a flourishing bilateral relationship with economic component setting an example to the rest of the world. Hon S W R D Bandaranaike’s opening diplomatic relations with China in 1957. Her other achievement is the declaration of the Indian Ocean a zone of peace by resolution 2832 (10710) by the General Assembly. She maintained close relationships with Indian Prime Ministers Narue, Lal Bahadur Sharathi, and Indira Gandi whilst holding firm to Sri Lanka’s national interest. The issue of statelessness-the citizenship of Indian origin was settled with Indian counterparts to the satisfaction of both. A firm group of the implementation of Sri Lanka’s geo- political context together with close relationships between Bandaranaike and Nerue families as far back as 1930s helped to settled the maritime boundary, settlement of the states of uninhabited but strategically important Island Kathchitive agreement in March 1976 demarcation of the maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Manner and the Bay of Bengal are her achievements on quite, subtle and “friendly diplomacy”. Correct and firm foreign policy by the leader of the Nation, his approach and charisma will diminish the irresponsible one sided statements published local and international media, by Indian Minister of State Radhakirishnam that India is firm on Bridge across Palk Strait which will be disastrous to Sri Lanka protected over millions of years as an Island. It is time the country is united as one on these issues of national importance and facing grave danger. Will such a leader emerge or mould from the existing lot is a million dollar question. Sri Lankans are flabbergasted with the dead silence on our side as having accepted the suggestion.
Historical Current and Future factors in International Relations
We are going through the most decisive era in International law and relations in the annuals of our great history. Sri Lanka’s foreign relations with other countries could be traced back to 3rd century BC when King “Devenampiyatissa” of Sri Lanka, had close friendship with unseen neighbour, Emperor Asoka of India who sent his son and daughter as emissaries to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka. 245 BC Emperor Asoka was instrumental in dispatching noble teachings of Buddha which introduced a new culture with Buddhist concepts. This is how we maintained our foreign relations from time immemorial with the rest of the world when the rest of the world preaching us diplomacy was still developing. Madam Bandaraneika continued and strengthened close existing bonds with ruling world families and the governments brought glory, safety strength and peace. Now that economy, security is linked to diplomacy on international law and relations, it is time for us to be extra cautious on international issues. Today Nations are giving Priority for “Economic Diplomacy” replacing the traditional trends on “Traditional Diplomacy” of only attending wine and dine parties. It is the duty of the Ambassadors to promote business and trade bringing investments and prosperity. It is time for us to build on the past glory and experiences to lay down foundations for the future. Whether we are living up to the expectations and fulfilling the needs and aspirations is a matter for the citizen to decide. It is necessary that the President, Prime Minister and the Minister of foreign affairs “ MUST” speak with one word as the statements made by any one of them is considers as part of common international law and quoted and used in international deliberations. We reiterate current diplomats and the Foreign Ministry Officials to study the precedents and legacies left for us by Madam Bandaranaike and other foreign ministers of the calibre of Hon Lakshman Kadirgamar.
Iron Lady with a Soft and Kind Heart
Sri Lanka is located strategically in the Indian Ocean on the famous silk route traditionally and historically used by Arabs and Chinese for trade with South Asia. The Indian Ocean is now the primary focus internationally politically and strategically as a hot spot. Its geo – political prominence makes it a pivotal factor in the global balance of power as the “Ocean of the Future”. Regional and Global powers wish to rub – shoulders with Sri Lanka for future trade and political benefits. Therefore we should be careful in dealing with others on international trade, commerce, and political bonding short or long term. Foreign Policy should be productive to the people and effective to the economy and future of the nation. Our country needs “Sri Lanka Friendly Foreign Policy” aiming at the development and the prosperity not following any group / ideology West East or North. We must always think of developing Sri Lanka in the real and unique Sri Lankan way assimilation the world trends and developments on technology, based on the visions of the our visionaries lifted the country to the above from time to time historically. We have made mistakes due to hurriedly concluded agreements from the 1815 agreement with British which still unimplemented but in in force, India Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, which is still in force partly implemented not fulfilling of one party agreed to eradicate terrorism, led to Provincial Councils – a white elephant–, 2002 Cease fire agreement forced on us, when we had the opportunity to dictate terms in our favour due to the impact of 9/11. We need a vision and visionaries to take our country to the correct tract and lift above others. Israel with no water 70 years ago is a world power, and Singapore and Dubai were sandy dry lands uplifted with vision and visionaries brought their nations to the limelight with sheer hard work and dedication with honesty and integrity. Madam Bandaranaike had a vision for International Relations and full authority to take decisions with power and authority to speak with one word with full control over any situation with an iron fist. She is incorruptible figure with financial integrity beyond approach with unblemished personal conduct which strengthened her starter among her people and the international arena. It is our pride to be a part of the commemoration of the birth centenary that falls on 17th April 2016 and closely associate this great figure. We are indebted to her for what we are today in the diplomatic arena in the regional and international global world in international politics riddled with uncertainty on economic and political fronts, lacking leaders with of qualities of honesty competency and integrity. Currently the President, Prime Ministry and the Foreign Minister do not speak with one word on policy procedure and future which is unsafe and undiplomatic which has to be corrected in the interest of the future of the Nation. Sri Lankans are fortune to have her services as the Prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who had set standards for the future rulers to follow. Her Legacy as the Best Foreign Minister in Sri Lanka and a permanent Glittering Star in the world International arena will be “ENGRAVED IN GOLD FOR EVER!” in the books and legacy of foreign relations Policy and International Law.
*Sarath Wijesinghe -Former Ambassador to UAE and Israel