22 May, 2022


Modi’s ‘Civis Romanus Sum’ Speech

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

Reproduced is an exceprt of a 40 minute speech made by Narendra Modi in Chennai on April 13, 2014. This news item is from Colombo Gazette.

“BJP’s Modi puts Sri Lanka on Notice”

“India’s BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra  Modi says with Tamils living all over the world, including in Malayasia, Sri Lanka and Fiji, it should be a priority of the Indian government to take care of their well-being and he promised to do so if a BJP-led Government assumes power after the elections.

He said a strong and determined government was the need of the hour as small countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh were poking the country and they have to be met eye-on-eye and dealt with strongly, the Press Trust of India quoted him as saying at an election rally in Chennai today.

Playing the emotive issue of recurring attacks on fishermen, Modi charged that the UPA Government in India lacked the courage to protect the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat who were being “harassed” by Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Making a strong pitch for the NDA’s six-party alliance in the state, Modi claimed it had emerged as the third alternative to the two major Dravidian parties and also a force to reckon with in the April 24 Lok Sabha polls”.

Lord Palmerston

The above speech is reminiscent of Lord Palmerston’s eloquent words spoken in June 1850. He was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, United Kingdom for a second term. In a historic five hour speech he was able to swing a hostile House to his favour with the suave use of words which ancient Romans would employ. What was the occasion for this speech?

Don Pacifico Affair

In 1847 the home of a British Subject , Don Pacifico a Gibraltan living in Athens was attacked by an anti-Semitic mob. The British government expressed ‘concern’ and did nothing else. Across the Palk Straits thousands of Tamil fishers are attacked and the ‘Congress government’ has expressed similar concern doing nothing more.

When Don Pacifico laid claims on the Greek government, Palmerston who was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs used the opportunity to blockade a Greek port in 1850. What made him do that? He subscribed to the view that “The real policy of England … is to be the champion of justice and right”. France and Russia got engaged in the dispute and it occasioned a condemnation in the House of Commons. In the ensuing debate, Palmerston pointed out that “A British subject ought to be protected everywhere by the strong arm of the British government against injustice and wrong”. He drew a parallel between the conduct of ancient Romans and the display of their might. They had only to mention, Civis Romanus Sum – I am a Roman Citizen – and nobody dare touch them. In like manner, any citizen under the protection of the British should walk the earth unharmed. It was to secure this end that Palmerston employed the strength of the British Empire.

Modi’s Stance

What the neighbours of India are being treated to provides only an inkling of what is in store. Encapsulated in the words, “Civis Romanus Sum” is the concealed might of empires that were and a great power that is to be. Whatever the pearls, the strand that runs through is one, that is India has taken upon herself the protective mantle over small countries with Tamil or Indian population.

For the full enunciation of foreign policy it appears Modi’s alter ego will come to the fore as Foreign Minister. Here again the 7 point plan outlined by Y. Sinha with particular reference to Tamil centric Sri Lanka, has a far wider perspective. What is seen in embryonic form today will have a swift evolution. Monroe Doctrine for the US two centuries back and Indira Doctrine for India four decades ago will evolve into perhaps a more uncompromising Modi Doctrine in the months ahead.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    It is understood, in the past few weeks, the Rajapakses have managed to send messages to Narendra Modi through mutually acceptable channels. This is to be prepared in the event of a Modi-lead BJP victory in the current Indian General Elections. Milinda Moragoda is one, who had made a line to Modi months ago, and the Rajapakses may be using this channel. Who else?

    Whatever happens in Delhi, Geneva, London or Washington it is best the Rajapakses regain their senses and empower Wigneswaren’s NPC to function effectively. A satisfied and peaceful Tamil people in the North is the best Insurance for the political survival of the Rajapakses – once more under attack from several powerful quarters within and without. It may be remembered in the event of a BJP victory Vaiko’s hands will be greatly strengthened.


  • 5

    Let us all hope that sanity will prevail and Mahinda Rajapakse will change course before it is too late!

    Sengodan. M

  • 4

    While Barack Obama was a candidate, a number of well respected social commentators were of the opinion that “a change is gonna come….(sam cooke thought so too)” Once he(Barry) got elected he said that ‘change’ in fact had come. In retrospect no one including those ‘respected’ social commentators think that change ever came.

    Mr Sivathasan has over the past few months been writing with a strong expectation of a Modi era in India that will in turn improve the lot of SL tamils in SL. I hope for the SL tamils sake his optimism pans out.

    Firstly, politicians , especially from the subcontinent, rarely speak the truth. The chasm between election rhetoric and political action is Grand Canyonesque. Never the twain shall meet.

    Secondly Mr Modi is backed largely and financially by the Gujarati capitalist/elite business class. That class has been historically exploitative of their own/fellow Indians. One gets the feeling, that the Ambani’s and Tata’s care about the well being of their fellow citizen, only after one has smoked a considerable quantity of crack cocaine. Any action on Modi’s part will only enhance the business interests of his backers.

    Thirdly even if the Modi used massive pressure on the GOSL the facts on the ground demand that any solution to the national question has to be one agreeable to the Sinhalese people who the SL tamils will have to live with and not a Modi led govt now or a Rahul led Govt in 2019.
    Modi is more likly to intervene in Sri Lanka if the Rajapakses shut down a Ambani manufacturing plant than if there is another pogrom.

    Mr Sivathasan rarely adresses questions such as these. Just because Mr Modi is viewed as strongman he will not be able to push around SL and Pakistan etc because those policy decisions will be taken by the India MEA whoose policies remain consistent and don’t change merely because their is change in government. The MEA policy on SL will change when the MEA decides that a such a change in policy is benficial to India.

    Hopefully in a forthcoming article Mr Sivathasan will write on ‘real politik’ issues as he is obviously erudite, especially on issues relating to the land accross the palk starit.

  • 0

    Dear Mr. SS,

    I am not a historian and the school education I received did not include Latin. Therefore I had to browse the internet to find the meaning of “civis Romanus sum”.

    “It meant I am a citizen of the city of Rome. It didn’t mean the legions would necessarily come charging to your rescue if you found yourself in a sticky situation with some barbarians. It did mean , however, that certain courtesies were extended to you by the local officials and that you could not be executed by crucifixion. “(Yahoo answers)

    It appears to me that NM is fishing in troubled waters with the courtesy extended by Sri Lanka by releasing all TN fishermen and their boats after India abstained from voting at UNHRC. NM knows that TN will not crucify him for doing nothing after winning at the election.

  • 0

    Dear Mister SS. Kautilya does not move with integrity like Saravanamuttu. Kautilya is a slimy slithering serpent who crawls on cunning. Modi cannot hold a line with integrity. There is something that Sri Lanka has without which Tamilnadu will become ungovernable and Modi will roll on the floor and lick Ba— to secure. He will soon become the laughingstock of the kings party.

  • 3

    There is a minimalist interpretation of what the author is saying which is true. “Don’t push great powers and big regional powers to the wall on their security or internal stability concerns”. Nobody can help a small nation if the great power then strikes back. (Crimea 2014, Cuba 1962, JR 1987, Iraq and Afghanistan when Bush went mad). China will not lift a military finger to save President Rajapakse or his family.

    As B. Balmy says, yes the solution must be acceptable to the Sinhalese people; it must also be fair by the Tamils. Both CAN be achieved if there is regime change – to be precise let me say ‘MAY be possible if there is regime change’.

    The Sinhalese do not mind Devolution, if legitimate national security concerns are addressed. This CAN be done within a Devolution package.

    However, if there is big anti-Tamil trouble here, it will impact on stability in India. Then Delhi WILL intervene, whichever the governing party. (Again, don’t forget Indira Gandhi in the 1980s, or Rajiv’s 1987 intervention)

    • 0

      For a fleeting few days in May-June 1987, India toyed with a Turkish-Cypriot type solution but in the end saner counsel prevailed. It was our population density, and the highly probable bloodbath that would have ensued, which would have earned India international disapprobation, that saved the day. Never say Never but it is highly unlikely that this solution will ever happen. The Tamils of Tamil Nadu may agitate for ‘their brethren’ across the Palk Strait but I think the answer lies in the simple fact that the Brahmins of Jaffna headed straight for Scarborough, Ontario, (bypassing the irresistible delights of Chennai! How could they?) and that speaks louder than anything Jayalalitha could scream about.

  • 0

    Latest polls show that modi can become the primeminister without the support of jaya. So the important link between his needs and Jaya’s demands are not there anymore.So Modi might adopt a more softly softly approach to srilanka but not showing manmohans weakness and support for the Rajapakshes.For the tamils in srilanka, modi being the prime minister is much better than sonia being the defacto primeminister,but they will have to be patient and not think that a modi victory will suddenly solve all the problems for them and the rajapakshes are going to run scared and capitulate and lick india’s backside.

    However under modi the main thing is that the message will be sent loud and clear to all those in south asia,not to play india’s arse at will.

    Modi will be a much better strongman of india than that bull in a china shop buffoon rajiv,because unlike rajiv he will know how to use a iron fist in a velvet glove. Mahinda will be very wary of him even though modi might not do anything much initially and you will notice that gota’s arrogant demeanour will change once modi becomes the PM.

    At last India will start to get the respect it deserves from the world.

  • 0

    The Congress party took the Tamils backward by turning the young Sri Lankan Tamils as terrorists groups. The Congress hasn’t done enough to protect the needs of the Indian fishermen either. It has been hindering the Tamils’ progress; this is the reality. Therefore, time has come for the Congress party leaders to take the backseat and examine their mistakes, but let the BJP leaders to take the driver seat. Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed his life for the Congress’ stupidity, not for Tamils. Indira Gandhi should not have created the Tamil armed groups to deal with the Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. The Tamils armed groups caused too much suffering to the people in the Subcontinent. Creating the Tamil arms groups was one of the worst political blunders in the history of India since the independence. It took the Tamils backward, and brought a disgrace to the region. Indira Gandhi should have given an ultimatum to the Sri Lankan government and dealt with it accordingly, as Russia did with Ukraine.

    I am a great fan of Nelson Mandela than Mahatma Gandhi, because Nelson Mandela dealt with Whites and Black Africans. Mahatma Gandhi fought against the British well, but didn’t do that well with his fellow Indians. Gandhi’s blunder led to the creation of Pakistan. During the British rule the Indian Subcontinent had the largest population than any other region in the world. The British was fearful of that and wanted to divide India badly. And the British had succeeded in their divide and conquer strategy, because of Gandhi’s inability to deal with his own people. Mahatma Gandhi knew what had been done by the British, but gutless and clueless to deal with his own fellow countrymen. The author articulates that Mahatma Gandhi’s moments just before the partition of India was helpless, but reluctantly approved to divide India. Finally, Mahatma Gandhi got shot for the decision he never masterminded or approved wholeheartedly. Gandhi’s leadership style is still dominating India, but undermining the Subcontinent. Would Modi break this ugly side of Gandhi continuing? Only time will tell.

    The total Aussies and Kiwis population is not even 1% of the Asian population. They are in Australasia which is Asia’s backyard, yet they are dominating the Asians. Seventy years ago Indian Subcontinent, South Africa and many other countries were under the West, but somehow we got it back, but still long way to go to make them to think and act as a minority. Strategically speaking, the West is one step ahead of the Asians. Uniting Asia against the Western Powers’ divide and conquer strategy is almost impossible, but we have to do it. After I have travelled around the most parts of Asia, I have found that the Asians are divided more than I have imagined. In fact, they don’t only dislike each other but hate each other. The Asians won’t trust each other that easily. This is a huge advantage for the West. It will keep the West one step above the Asians, and it will continue to help the West to keep the billions of Asians under them; unless we do something about it.

    I am well aware how vulnerable the majority Asians are, this is the reason I am starting this important organisation. Being in billions does not mean anything, unless we are small enough as an individual country to equip our citizens, and large enough as a region to protect our people and our economic interests around the world. We must guard ourselves; otherwise we will be betraying our future generations. It is costing me everything expose the West and unite the Asians; getting a job, having a friend or getting married all are beyond reality. The West hates me, but I love my job. I rather hated by the West for my smartness than loved by them for my stupidity. If you are stupid the West will love you, because they will use you to divide your own people to rule the world. I am fighting in someone else’s country, but Gandhi and Mandela fought in their country. My job is much harder than theirs, but someone has to do it.

  • 0

    Dear Shankar – you say that “At last India will start to get the respect it deserves from the world” – a country where more than half a billion people live on less than $1 a day; a country where more than half a billion people have no clean drinking water; a country where more than half a billion people have no toilet facilities; a country which got the thrashing of its life from China in 1962; a country whose beedi-smoking troops were losing soldiers at an alarming rate when fighting th LTTE … I could go on an on … and then has the audacity to claim “india shining” does not deserve any respect from the world, or even from its very own backyard! PERIOD.

    • 0

      Prasanna,i hear what you say an you do have a point,but what i meant was as the fourth largest economy after US,EU,China on a purchasing power parity basis, india does not deserve to become a laughing stock in its own region due to srilanka and other small countries treating it like a paper tiger without teeth and claws.It deserves more than that.

      As for your statement that they are living with less than a dollar a day,they are still living aren’t they?Not dying?How is that?It is because a dollar in india is worth much more than a dollar in the US,hence the purchasing power parity used in measuring GDP to compare countries economic power.Just imagine if the dollar a day becomes 5 dollars a day,how much bigger the economy will be on a PPP basis.Bigger than the USA and completely achievable because 5 dollars per person is not much.So think of india’s future potential,can a american live on 5 dollars a day,so there is a limit to US’s growth prospects but no such limits for india’s growth.It will grow and grow till the end of this century,albeit slowly but never stop growing, beating all one day.

  • 0

    Even if Modi wins without needing the support of the ADMK, Vaiko, Ramadoss and other small parties that strongly support the SL tamils will exert a strong influence on Modi to ensure that Rajapaksa fulfils his promises to India and Sri Lankan tamils and a solution is arrived at without further delay. The best scenario for the tamils would be if the Modi govt has to rely heavily on the ADMK to form a government – strong influence from ADMK and other tamil parties in Modi’s alliance for the SL tamils.

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