By S. Sivathasan –
The caption cited above, is the title of a noteworthy article in the Wall Street Journal. It appeared on28, January 2015. “After a surprising election, the island democracy deserves U.S. attention”. “Maithripala Sirisena expressed interest in counterbalancing a rising China”. These are the prefatory remarks.
It’s a presentation by three well known personalities. Mr. Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of State, 2001 – 2005; Ms. Bue deputy assistant secretary of State for political military affairs 2003 – 2005 and Ms. Curtis Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. To extend credence to what they write, their credentials are convincing.
To commence this account with their concluding sentence; the New Regime is poised to veer “from China’s Indian Ocean “String of Pearls”. For Sri Lankans, “China needn’t be their only friend” it is suggested. Apparently the writers wishfully see the New Regime departing from the pro-China policies of Rajapaksa. The words; the US should coordinate with nations such as Japan and India, in shoring up the new government and reinforcing its initial policy moves, is a portent for a Colombo, Washington, New Delhi, Tokyo Axis.
It is also urged that Sri Lanka has moved forward in re-establishing democracy, with the words “Sri Lanka’s dramatic and peaceful nod” to it. The writers see wisdom in using this opportunity to deepen ties with Sri Lanka by evolving plans to restore Washington’s relations with the Island Nation.
It is further added that time is for now for a roadmap that reflects US interests. They include; respect for human rights, democracy and rule of law. Emphasis is also placed in enhancing trade and regional economic integration. Securing the Indo-Pacific is stressed and one may take the cue from a forward looking statement; “Washington, New Delhi and Tokyo must reciprocate quickly to offer concrete opportunities” to Sri Lanka.
The writers are very pragmatic about quickening the pace of movement in Washington. They also desire Colombo coming closer and acting in concert. Wisdom is seen in an early invitation to President Sirisena to show support for an agenda on Ethnic Reconciliation, Restoration of Democratic Institutions and a Broader Sri Lankan Foreign Policy. Scope is seen in increasing “economic engagement through investment in infrastructure projects, especially in the war-torn areas of the north and east”.
In sum, the writers see an electorally changed Sri Lanka, on the threshold of a tectonic shift in foreign relations. Going afar from China and moving towards the West and more particularly closer to US. A realigned Axis to change the power equation. A new balance in South Asia and in the Pacific. The above is not a far-fetched reading of the views expressed by Mr. Armitage and his colleagues. They may be treated as quite potent and pregnant with great possibilities. If all sides adequately reciprocate, results may be sustained for over a decade. Tamils have a wholesome interest in it.
The contribution that Tamils made to regime change is duly acknowledged. One may even say that the nation was saved from the jaws of fascism, a permanent dictatorship. For once, in seven decades they merged with the mainstream for their electoral prospects and a prospective destiny.
If in the April elections, Tamils abhor ‘boycott philosophers’, spurn their aberrant ways and target 90% electoral turnout, a bright future awaits them. Even so no pearl of great price will fall on our lap. Capitalising on the new power relationship, both national and international, a deft leadership needs to lead the way. Today Tamils have the TNA in whom those inland and those out, trust and repose faith.