27 July, 2021

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Modi And Mahinda: The Twain Will Meet On Monday

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

It was not Prime Minister Modi’s idea to invite his South Asian counterparts to grace his swearing-in in New Delhi, on Monday, May 26. It was not even an idea that started in India’s External Affairs Ministry. Apparently it began as a public image idea in a think tank discussion involving retired Indian diplomats and government officials who support the BJP. They ran it by the new PM and after a brief chat on the phone Mr. Modi okayed the idea. It is a great idea for public optics, but its politics may not have been thought through. The two controversial invitees are Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. There is no one in India, who is opposed to Mr. Sharif visiting Delhi for the swearing in ceremony, but there is opposition at home – from the Pakistani military establishment. The Taliban attack on the Indian Consulate in the Herat Province in Afghanistan, soon after Delhi sent out the invitations, is widely seen as a warning to Prime Minister Sharif against attending the swearing-in ceremony in Delhi. Nonetheless, after grappling with his dilemma whether to go, or not to go, Mr. Sharif announced on Saturday that he would be going to Delhi on Monday.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already confirmed his trip to Delhi regardless of the Herat attack.

No such worries for President Rajapaksa, who has already accepted the invitation. He and his supporters are elated while the Sri Lankan Tamils at home and in the diaspora are perplexed. In Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, there is universal opposition to Mr. Rajapaksa being invited to the swearing ceremony, but they cannot do anything about it.  Political cunning or magnanimity, Mr. Rajapaksa sent a fax (or fox) offer through his External Affairs Minister to the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, inviting him to join the Presidential delegation to New Delhi. Mr. Wigneswaran has politely declined the offer and his “thanks, but no thanks” response has hit the news media in India.

The bigger snag to the swearing-in invitation was the Taliban attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat. The retired External Affairs folks who came up with the idea of inviting the South Asian leaders may not have factored in the Taliban spanner in their optical plans, but inadvertently they have created a foreign policy challenge to Prime Minister Modi even before his swearing in. President Karzai is closer to Delhi than to Islamabad and with the Americans beginning their pull out of Afghanistan, Indian targets may become more vulnerable to Taliban forces in Afghanistan. How will the new Modi administration respond? While Mr. Modi’s external focus will determinedly be driven by his domestic economic priorities, the situation in Afghanistan will force him to simultaneously deal with Pakistan, Kabul and Washington.

The mind and method of Narendra Modi

The Hindu in its editorial on Modi’s neighbourhood initiative has called it a “shock and awe tactic with three messages”: First to Pakistan, the second to the region including China, and the third for domestic consumption. The first seems to have gone well so far with the Prime Minister Sharif accepting the invitation despite his difficulties with his army and the Taliban attack in Herat allegedly ordered by its god fathers in Pakistan. The second message is really a message of difference to neighbouring countries as well as China, that in Modi they will find a no-nonsense and hands-on Prime Minister who will be more pro-active in his dealings with other countries in contrast to the previous administration of Manmohan Singh. In fairness to the latter, Manmohan Singh was virtually, especially in the second term, the ‘kept PM’ of the Gandhi family and the Congress bigwigs.  He only stood and waited, and thereby served the orgy of corruption that ravaged his government. And on foreign policy, his bright ideas and positive initiatives were given short shrift by others and India could not be counted upon for action and results, good or bad, by other countries. Inaction is Modi’s anathema, a part of the RSS training, but again to paraphrase Jayaprakash Narayan good ideas are a necessary means of escape from total action. What ideas will Modi ultimately bring to bear on his neighbourly relationships apart from inviting them to the swearing-in ceremony? The answer cannot be different from what senior BJP leaders told the reporters looking for scoops on Modi’s cabinet formation: “No one knows the mind of Narendra Modi.”

But everyone seems to know the method of Mr. Modi, and there are positive expectations among East Asian countries and in the ASEAN group for a more pro-active India under the new Prime Minister. Many of them, especially Japan, want Modi to make India more assertive in Asia as a positive counterweight to China. And China is open to a Modi rewrite of the relationship between the two countries. A Chinese think tank has even called Modi the new ‘Nixon’ who could transform the relationship between the two Asian giants, just as Richard Nixon had ended the isolation between the US and China. As Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Modi had visited three countries: Japan, Singapore and China. Indian Chief Ministers are not world travelers but it may change under Modi as Prime Minister as he starts pushing them to look overseas for markets and investments.

His alleged aversion to the West could be an exaggeration. Despite the strictures that western countries heaped on him in the wake of the Gujarat mayhem in 2002, the BJP and the Hindutva are decidedly pro-market at home and pro-western in their world outlook. Consumer aspirations were part of the Modi wave that swept aside the state patronage system of the dynastic Congress. And the wave was sustained more by big money than virulent Hindu nationalism. The big money that bankrolled the Modi campaign will look for its returns more in India’s linkages with the West than in any other part of the world. And Modi has no pending inquiries against him for any human rights violations at home or abroad. Modi has also toned down the campaign rhetoric that picked on Pakistan for exporting terrorism and blamed Bangladesh for ill-treating its Hindu minorities and infiltrating West Bengal with illegal immigrants. The neighbourly invitations are indicative of toning down the old rhetoric.

What roles will the States play in Modi’s India? Despite the hype in Tamil Nadu and the expected absence of the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu (Jeyaram Jayalalithaa) and West Bengal (Mamata Banerjee, because she has a pre-scheduled event to honour the birth anniversary of a Bengali Muslim poet) at the swearing-in ceremony, the invitations to the Sri Lankan President and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh should not be seen as snub to those states in the area of foreign policy. There is no way that Mr. Modi could have been selective in his invitations and excluded President Rajapaksa or any other South Asian leader. At the same time, there is no denying that the BJP and Mr. Modi personally will do much fence mending in Tamil Nadu and in West Bengal after the swearing-in. At the minimum, Mr. Modi will have to help the Tamil Nadu BJP leader (Pon. Radhakrishnan) save face in his home State, after winning for the BJP its first Tamil Nadu seat in the Lok Sabha, in the southern district of Kanyakumari. The BJP prides itself as the Party of the ‘States’ in the centre-state dynamic of Indian federalism. Ascending to be the nation’s Prime Minister from being a successful State Chief Minister, Mr. Modi can relate to the state-side of that dynamic better than any previous Indian Prime Minister. And he is on record as having stated that he would encourage States to have a say in India’s foreign policy involving their respective neighbouring countries. This does not mean that he will stand to be blackmailed or dictated to, which of course he will not, but a greater involvement of States in designing foreign policy especially in regard to trade and investment could be expected. His Gujarat experience will facilitate such a shift.

On Gods and Stars

President Rajapaksa might be thanking his gods and stars for Modi’s majority victory and the fantastic kickoff for their future relationship. But more lasting help from the same gods and stars will very much depend on the direction that the Sri Lankan government will take immediately after the President returns from Delhi. His indirect invitation to Chief Minister Wigneswaran to join the Presidential delegation to Delhi shows that President Rajapksa is sensitive to demonstrating to India that things are working well between Colombo and the Northern Province. What he is not sensitive to, however, is that more than a token Tamil presence on his entourage is needed to show that things are really working well for the Thirteenth Amendment. He could have taken any or all of the Tamil hangers-on in and out of his government, including the Tiger turncoats. But he knows that they are not good enough even for show and tell. Then why carry them at public expense and court political embarrassment?

More to the point, how gratifying it would have been if the President himself had enabled the proper functioning of the Northern Provincial Council and its Chief Minister, and given no reason for Mr. Wigneswaran to refuse but every reason to accept the invitation and join the Sri Lankan delegation to Delhi. The facts are that rather than enabling the functioning of the NPC every effort has been made to stifle its operations. The list of such efforts is long but the most ridiculous one of them is the tussle over the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province. Pettifogging lawyers who would not appear for an employee in a Labour Tribunal have availed themselves to argue the inalienable constitutional rights of a Tamil Chief Secretary in Jaffna. Say that to any Indian Chief Minister at the swearing-in ceremony in Delhi, but make sure she or he doesn’t fall off the chair. Mr. Modi is known as a man for details, and he might turn an attentive ear to this one. Nothing much can or will happen at the first meeting between Narendra Modi and Mahinda Rajapaksa. But the initial meeting at the official inauguration could shape the so called chemistry between them. It is too early for us to say too much about political possibilities.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    ….and government officials who support the JVP>>> you mean BJP?

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      Rajan Philips –

      http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/modi-invite-sri-lanka-president-students-protest/1/363449.html

      Tamil Nadu students protest Narendra Modi’s invite to Sri Lanka president
      IndiaToday.in New Delhi, May 24, 2014 | UPDATED 22:06 IST

      Do the Indians Issue Visas for War-Criminals? In Sri Lanka, Para-Sinhala Monk Mahanama “Buddhist” Racist country, they deport people with Buddha Tattoos, back to India,the birthplace of Buddha,

      “Sri Lanka is a genocidal country. Its President killed more than two-lakh Tamils. We don’t want him to participate in Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. We don’t want any compromise other than an international investigation.”

      http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/modi-invite-sri-lanka-president-students-protest/1/363449.html

      Tamil Nadu students protest Narendra Modi’s invite to Sri Lanka president
      IndiaToday.in New Delhi, May 24, 2014 | UPDATED 22:06 IST

      Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/modi-invite-sri-lanka-president-students-protest/1/363449.html

      After political parties in Tamil Nadu, it’s the students who have joined the chorus of protests against the invitation to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa for attending PM-elect Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

      Protests in Tamil Nadu have intensified ahead of the Sri Lankan president’s visit to India. First, it was the BJP’s own allies, then the Dravidian parties. However, now students have taken to the street to urge Modi to review his decision on invite the Lankan president.

      V Prabhakaran, the coordinator of Students’ Federation for Free Eelam, said, “Sri Lanka is a genocidal country. Its President killed more than two-lakh Tamils. We don’t want him to participate in Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. We don’t want any compromise other than an international investigation.”

      BJP ally MDMK is planning to stage a black flag demonstration at the Jantar Mantar on May 26, the day when Modi takes the PM’s oath.

      Meanwhile, DMK has said that this was not the right time to iron out difference with Sri Lanka. “This is not an occasion to call a person who is facing such heinous charges. The BJP has not invited the DMK president, a senior political leader of this country, but has invited Rajapakse. How can we accept this?” TKS Elangovan, the organising secretary and spokesperson of the DMK, said.

      Even as Tamil Nadu has erupted in protests over the invitation, observers said the invitation as an opportunity for constructive talks between India and Sri Lanka which will in turn help the Tamils in the island country.

      Dr Sumanth C Raman, a political analyst, said, “India should engage in constructive talks with Sri Lanka. This will help the Tamils there. Taking a hardline and cutting off contact with Sri Lanka is not going to help. Though the protests are justified, the question remains if they are of any help to the cause of Sri Lanka Tamils.”

      For more news from India Today, follow us on Twitter @indiatoday and on Facebook at facebook.com/IndiaToday
      For news and videos in Hindi, go to AajTak.in. ताज़ातरीन ख़बरों और वीडियो के लिए आजतक.इन पर आएं.

  • 2
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    Rajan Philips –

    Modi And Mahinda: The Twain Will Meet On Monday

    So, in Modi’s equation, Rajapaksa and Wanigeswaran are small potatoes and time wasters, given that Tamil Nadu is irrelevant.

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    There are deficiancies in the way MR functions and there is a lot to desire. But things wont work well just because MR is replaced or just because he changes his way of things. Because he is not the only one creating trouble.

    Why do tamil intellectuals and even so called, ‘liberal’ sinhala ones fail to see and realize the inappropriate actions of the tamil leadership.

    For 30 years the blame for failing peacetalks were directed at Lankan governments. the critics failed to see the LTTE’s wrongs or deliberately were blind to them. This made LTTE to be bold and go further in their agenda. what was the end result?

    As much as LTTE, the ones who whitewashed LTTE should also be blamed for

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    ” At the minimum, Mr. Modi will have to help the Tamil Nadu BJP leader (Pon. Radhakrishnan) save face in his home State “

    Does Mr Modi owe anything to a Hindu State which failed to vote for a Hinduthva party, by rising above the everyday ethnic politics that the latter is utterly chained to.? I doubt it.

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    Modi has been elected to govern India and that is what he will do. He has not been elected to govern Sri Lanka or threaten Sri Lanka. He will naturally try to influence Sri Lanka on how he thinks the Tamil/Sinhala ethnic issue should be sorted out. He will aim at improving relations with all SAARC countries and China. In fact China too will desire good relations.

    Both India and China will be more concerned with how to meet the challenges posed by the United States which is fast gaining the reputation of being the main exporter of terrorism in the world, and destabilizing countries in the wake of the subversion it instigates as a preliminary to intervention and exploitation of resources. Given half a chance the USA will destabilize India, as they did Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria,Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and now attempting in Ukraine and Iran.

    Any overseas adventures by Modi’s India will be at the expense of India’s own wellbeing. Modi knows it. So did the previous Congress administration.

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    ‘Malwatti’ Mahinda is all show as the Sinhala saying goes: ‘loketa parakashe, gedarata maragathe’.

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    “The Twain Will Meet On Monday”

    modi and moda will meet today.

    Moda-i’am also muslim bashing like you.

    modi-but you did not kill anybody.I killed 2000.

    moda-wait and see will you.I will beat you.

    Modi-what about our fishermen issue.

    Moda-i will throw them,no no sorry their fish into the sea.

    Modi-if you do that jaya will want a referendum for the northeast.

    Moda-i can give a referendum into her big backside the way i gave to prabha with hot iron rod.

    Modi-if you are nice to her and let her steal all your fish she will drop that idea.

    moda-Hmmmm.Let me think about it.I can’t make any decisions without consulting my brother.When he was small i used to bully him.Now he is giving back with interest and is the defacto president.

    Modi-i heard he is always threatening us with china.

    moda-no,no ,no.What china,you and i are relatives no.Same DNA.cousins.

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    RSS has acknowledged that the Eelam Tamils’ problem can be a thorny issue to Modi. Everybody knows the Al Qaeda problem is one created by Reagan era America. The current status of the Lanka’s problem earns the same merit to Sonia’s Congress too. That is, instead of solving the Lanka problem, that was a problems about to be go solved by negotiations after the international countries stopped LTTE from capturing the North in 2002, the Sonia’s Congress put forward “NO” as the answer to effort of Norway and dragged it until Mullivaaikkaal. (Norway is, now, likely to come forward and release some of Sonia’s Congress conduct, for Public consumption). Reagan created Al Qaeda and Bush , not knowing to deal with it, fought with it. Indira Gandhi created rebels and Sonia not knowing to deal with them, fought with them. Now it has become an International problem. By protecting King from international efforts of stopping the war, Sonia has turned it into Genocide/War Crime inquiry. RSS see this does not offer an easy way out for Modi to solve Tamils’ problem.

    Sonia has made the problem into three fold by dragging it up to Mullivaaikkaal. Now BJP has three problems. First is, since the Tamils are perceived as Hindus, to keep the image of its Hindu color and to keep the Tamil Nadu cool and prevent it keep creating political turmoil, Modi has to solve the Tamils’ problem. He cannot afford to watch the way Vajpayee did it.

    Second is, China has firmly footed in India’s backyard. After so many things said and wrote, now the relationship China has with Lanka is not a trade relationship like China has with Middle East, South America, and Africa et al. So this is more than a trade. A story they say is “Once a thief who had climbed high up on a gardener’s coconut tree was caught by the owner. The owner shouted to the thief from bottom to come down and was asking why the thief was climbing on his tree. The thief came down and answered that he was looking for to cut some grass for his hungry calf.” Lanka is a country in a strategic Geo- position. After putting in all these unrecoverable loans and other efforts, if China replies it was trying to cut some grass for its hungry calf in Lanka, the story will be received by International community with due suspicion. Sonia’s Congress refused to accept the ground realities or pretended did not, just to revenge Tamils. So it has been acting like it was competing with China in Lanka for trade. Instead of creating real trade relations, Sonia’s congress has been giving substantial freebies for Kings Family to keep hidden both parties’ illegal trades. These freebies were no match at all to the massive billions dollar loans China was pumping into Lanka to buy Lanka inch by inch. China has now made Lanka obligated to say “yes” for anything it ask for. Now the question for Modi is, Is he capable of redeeming Lanka from China so that Lanka will not be obligated to China to help it in a war situation, as way it helped to Pakistan in 1971.

    The third is Genocide/War Crime and the West. West appears to hold the war crime trump card over Lanka not just to bring in a regime change. Until Modi’s election, like many others, that is what I thought too. Now it does not appear to be just so. America one time blamed LTTE to throne The King. But, right away swallowed it its own word and worked with King to wipe out LTTE. After the war, in the next election, America dumped UNP, for which loss it had blamed LTTE, created a common candidate. India did not like Fonseka, but, yet he is not as hate-able as UNP to India either. All the way from Indra Gandhi’s time UNP is India’s enemy . The first thing India would not like to happen in Lanka’s political sky is that UNP coming back to power. Teasing Mrs Gandhi, beating up of Rajiv to cheating on India-Lanka Pact, throwing IPKF out of Lanka, everything done by UNP was an anti-Indian act. Now, UNP’s Ranil is being pushed up by America, instead of the common candidate, whom it invented in 2010. This, America would know for sure, India will not like. So the answer to the question why America is taking this risk is, America now (after Modi’s arrival) really interested its person on the power in Lanka. That indicates, now, America too have interests, more than mere regime change, with Lanka the same way like the China. Sonia’s Congress went on the path of revenge rather than keep up the same aggressiveness Indira and Rajiv Gandhi had showed in managing Lanka. From 2008, Lanka the Prize Fruit of India has been pecked little by little by the same tree squirrel China and the far away bird America. Longer the time Modi takes to saves its prize, the more only of the skin and seeds are going to left over to India, and the flesh of the fruit will be gone.

    Modi will not be afforded to say that he is a prime minister elected only for India and stay put contented with that. Modi will be forced to act on Lanka’s issues. Only a few Lankans would argue against it. But how is it going to be is the one let to be seen.

    One of the greatest Sri Lanka’s diplomats, JR, found it is too difficult to deal with India. Premadasa completely broke up with it. Chandrika stayed away from it. Surprisingly, King won every bit of diplomatic game with India. A first look of this may make it to appear that the King is the best diplomat Lanka ever saw. But, someone analyze the India side on Kings period will know that the King, at lease, had gone to Law College, but the one on the other side had not achieved even that. The blind relationship that existed between India and Lanka during the Sonia and King time was like a girl who fell in mad love with her boy, surrendered every hold of her to him. (Those who know Tamil knows that word is not mine and I am borrowing it form Naavukkarasar’s esoteric poetry. The meaning of the song is here. http://myanasworth.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/esoteric-poetry/, the YouTube part is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsSjzeo1kYA). In that time India surrendered anything it had with it to Lanka.

    The story of India with Pakistan China, America… during the period was much different. It is purely of ignorance and stupidity rather than the infatuation for revenge.

    Pakistan has built an extensive terror network direct and through Lanka, on the Indian soil. This is interconnected with Human smuggling, Criminals protection, contraband and drug dealings, counterfeit rupee printing network, arms dealing, fake passport for proscribed groups…… everything. Even if Navas Sheriff thought of getting along with India, ISI not going to give in. The extensive penetration of Pakistan, direct and though Lanka, will be a challenge for Modi throughout his Premiership period. Pakistani fire crackers (rather than the usual Chinese ones) bound to blast all over India for the next few years. They have indicated that by already attacking the Indian sub-embassy in Afghanistan. This will be increasing, with especially the increase in Tamil Nadu on exponential propotion, using the newly opened up route Colombo.

    America’s expectations, from India regarding Lanka, are going to be a challenge. America wants to handle China though Lanka. For that it wants India’s help. America wants to expand its trade with South India and Lanka. For that it wants India’s help. It wants a share of the strategically located Lanka’s advantage too. America wants a new post USSR era military-emphasized relationship with India too. Whatever the solution Modi propose to Lanka has to address all these. This is why America prefers UNP in power. But Modi would like to solve all these without allowing UNP to the power.

    China, the coconut tree thief, in realty does not care of whoever is in power in Lanka. Even if UNP come to power, it knows to sign a Rubber-Rice pact. At same time, if UNP wins the next election and King wants to hold the power, China would not mind to give all necessary arms for loan to King to put down all uprising and bring the country under control. China will not mind India’s or America’s opinion on this or rules of a free election and power changing methods in a democratic country. This is unlikely become a problem as there is very little chance anybody wining standing oppose King in the coming election. All winnable candidates like Chandrika, Fonseka, and Ranil will be dealt in the criminal court so they are unlikely to go up to the Election Day as opposing candidates. But, Chinese spies agencies are, under business company names, delivering services for Indian Central Government.

    Modi will have to deal minimum with these Sri Lanka’s current conditions. He knows that from the time Sonia took the baton, India has fallen far behind on the relay. Without interaction, Modi cannot stand alone in trade relation, diplomatic foreign relation and the countries land and sea boarder relations. The strategic position of Lanka and the failure of Sonia’s handling of Lanka’s relation aggressively like Indira and Rajiv Gandhis did, is serious disadvantage to Modi. So he has invited his neighbors (Maldives, Bangladesh, Lanka, Pakistan…) and has indicated that he is ready to erase every point India has on the score board and start with a clean slate. He is expecting the others to match him and give up the extra mileage they gained during Sonia’s time.

    Lanka, even before his call reach colombo, it has rushed to Delhi, ready to sign another Indo -Lanka pact. It knows there will be always a time that any pact can be tear off. So, if Modi played “no hold barred game” any time during his tenure, Lanka will play low profile and wait for a time to overturn the pact, after he leave. The advantage for King, here is, Modi will not like UNP coming to power. So that he too unlikely act on anything if China and Lanka get into a pact to save the throne for King in the next election too. So all the dealing Modi like to have with Lanka, as it appears at this stage, will be with King. This will be a lot of ailing to Tamils and to America too. Though King has this advantage, on the disadvantage side, the biggest entanglement that is going to be between King and Modi is the 13+. BJP will hold the from not going back from the promise King gave to the Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh and the opposition leader Sushma Swaraj. They will be holing it like a Pact No-2 signed between India and Lanka. King may survive until next election (2015-2016) pointing on that to Modi saying any substantial change that may affect Sinhalese mass’s perception of giving in to Tamils is not possible for him until the election is over. If Modi does not want to see UNP back again on the power, he has to give in for King. But, after the election, there will be so many variable will be present, no prediction can serve any purpose.

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      A very profound, sensible and a mature analysis of the things that were and to come. Great strategists like malla aran should have been in the corridors of power.

      The analysis regarding Sonia giving everything to MR was very profound and accurate, who else would know that otherthan Malla aran?
      And the knowledge he has regarding ISI’s spread in SL which hasnt even reached the ears of lankan and Indian intel services is commendable. I wonder even ISI chief would know that to the extent of malla aran

      You should come with such analysis more often for the joy of the reader.

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        sach

        “Great strategists like malla aran should have been in the corridors of power”

        Who is this “malla aran”?

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    Modi from giant India – Moda (most stupid preson) from 22 mio popoulated beautiful island- former serendib to arabs, ceylon yet to former colonial masters, Srilanka for many that is known to be the country ethnic tamils coming from. Many failed to get me at the time, answered with CEYLON, because I thought it is still the CEYLON for them – but the asylum seekers caused them to identify the country with the name Srilanka. It is believed Modi will oneday become an another GANDHI or MANDELA to the world, while the MODA (counter part) will have to stay in his BOLLYWOOD LIKE film actor role also in the days to come. If people by any miracles would become knowledgeble, things could work other way around in terms of the future of the nation, but the probablity is now what many would guess by today.

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