22 May, 2024


The Modi Doctrine – II: The New Indian Expansionism & The Sinhala-Tamil Equation 

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

As the Indian TV station WION’s program ‘Gravitas’ correctly reported, “Modi Reshapes Sri Lanka Policy”. What a reshaping it was and what a shape it has now taken! It has to be analyzed in all its dimensions and implications.

Though my old teacher of international relations, Prof Shelton Kodikara, would surely have traced Modi’s ‘Vesak discourse’ in Colombo back to the Indian Ocean-centric theories of KM Panikkar and thus posited a conceptual continuity, I would add or attribute two new reasons for the Modi doctrine.

Firstly, the competition with a rising China in the Indian Ocean has led Modi to attempt a downward thrust of India’s power, extending its sphere of influence southwards, hardening and transforming it from a sphere of influence to a domain of secure possession, acquiring Sri Lanka or at least its North and East which contains Trincomalee.

Secondly, Mr. Modi’s ideological lineage and mindset make it easier than it would be for a Congress leader, to think in terms of a Greater India, a quasi-empire—which extends to and incorporates the island of Lanka.

India’s absence at the ongoing, widely attended global conference on the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing shows the seriousness and adversarial character of Delhi’s view of China’s emergence as a powerful global player.

The Modi doctrine announcing the New Indian Expansionism or the New Indian Imperialism has to be seen against this backdrop. Sri Lanka is a test case.

The Modi doctrine seems to have its accompaniment in the Wickremesinghe doctrine. Going by the hybrid Modi-Wickremesinghe Doctrine, US, Indian, Japanese, British and European warships can and do dock in Sri Lankan ports while Chinese submarines are prevented.

This is ‘balance’ and ‘even-handedness’ and ‘nonalignment’ in the composite ‘Modi-Yahapalana’ dictionary. It means that our fickle friends can dock their warships in our ports but our faithful friends cannot—all in the context of a competition in Asia where our fickle friends block our faithful friends.

A charitable and conventional explanation would be that Mr. Modi wants Sri Lanka to be a satellite, subordinate to Delhi. My own explanation is less charitable but perhaps more Realist. The Modi Doctrine assumes that India’s new borders extend beyond and include Sri Lanka; that Sri Lanka lies within India’s borders; that Sri Lanka is borderless and has no borders or cannot and must not have borders, economic and political, that separate it from India.

The Modi Model for Indo-Lanka relations involves not only a deep reshaping of Sri Lanka but also impacts deeply on and fundamentally reshapes of the domestic balance of forces i.e. the power relations between the communities of the island.

What are the clear consequences of the Modi model for the Sinhala-Tamil equation? What is the deep impact on the destiny of the Sinhalese who are not concentrated in large numbers anywhere else on the planet and whose only home this island is?

In terms of the island’s domestic geopolitics, and the acceptance of Mr. Modi’s doctrine for us, we are incorporated within Greater India and therefore, the domestic balance tilts against the Sinhala majority and in favor of the Tamil minority, because the latter have 80 million co-ethnics as important stakeholders within India.

The security and strategic de-linking from China means that the Sinhalese are weakened twice over, because they will be cut-off from their staunch and economically powerful ally, while the latent separatist Tamil minority is strategically empowered by the borderless linkage with India and the Indian veto over our relations with China.

The Sinhalese will be unable to balance off the US and India while the Tamils will be able to leverage them thanks to the Diaspora and Tamil Nadu, and we would have given the Indo-US friends of the Tamil nationalists a huge leverage over us and our only home, this island.    

In the Modi Model, the only borders that Sri Lanka is expected to have are those of a federal state unit within India. In this sense, the sum total of Mr. Modi’s Vesak speech in Colombo is to change Sri Lanka’s status from a free, sovereign, independent country to a federal state of the Indian union!

Both discourse and body language show that he already regards Sri Lankan leaders as Chief Ministers and no more—and for their part they already behave like Chief Ministers or aspirant ones, in a federation of which Mr. Modi is the Prime Minister!

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Latest comments

  • 4

    [Edited out] India does not care if we are Tamils, Sinhalese or even Chinese. India’s only concern is its own Geo-Political plan. If Modi’s speech is so much to support the Tamils, why did his leader Mahinda Rajapakse begged to meet Modi? Has Mahinda Rajapakse under whose term racist fire was fueled has now changed his views and has become a Tamil Supporter? What crap is this “[Edited out] writing?

    • 4

      Old King wanted to meet PM Modi as the neighbouring country’s counterpart.

      Remember Joint Comedy Club keep pounding that they will have done with Yahapalanaya by June? You may also remember Ponny is appointed as the new Guard of Lankawe. He is expected to protect Lankawe if Old King capture Lankawe.

      That is why he wanted meet the neighboring country counterpart.

      • 4

        All that is not necessary due to new developments – mauritius is about to get diego garcia via court order. Using the same precedence Modi would apply for getting back Lanka – then sing end is near like the diego garcians and take a boat to africa’s mugabe land because the indians would overwhelm at lanka. The Indians are prepared to pay back the loans taken for colombo port etc in a bilateral deal to china.
        When China can make islands in the ocean why has it to quarrel with india when (bullet train cargo to africa-china) rail freight is cheaper, safer and environmentally friendly?

    • 3

      DJ the most controversal writers of his unique nature, may NOT even been waking up yet today, if anyone can remind it, various civil groups led by late rev. Sobhitha thero the gold son of recent past brought MR and previous highly abusive men to their knees by 8th Jan 2015.
      As pledged prior to get elected, being stuck to Thero s principles, nothing seems to have done sofar. Current leader unfornately fully underestimates by today. This is the real problem we have got to get clear first today not being able to see things turn out to what they elected for.
      Had the leaders gone thorugh the agendas from the day one, by now, both those who rabblerouse asking to hoist black flags and Rajapakshes of all varied nature should have been spending already 2 years in jail sessions..

    • 1

      BBS has restarted their anti-Muslim terror campaign with Modi. This is very bad for the country. President Srisena should intervene and imprison rowdy drunk monks.

  • 4

    India does not have expansionist aims. India is not a monolithic state like Sri Lanka; it is a federation within which power has been devolved extensively. Caste, language, etc. are big barriers to unity in India. That is why you have well off states like Kerala and piss poor regions like Bihar. The economic development is entirely uneven. One of Modi’s campaign promises was to popularize the use of commodes among Indians.

    • 3

      So what every grouping of nations is the same.- the anglo-american concept has collapsed worldwide and both nations are in debt over and above its GDP while India has reserves in foreign exchange- Indian national Laxmi Mittal is director Rothschild and money falls from his hands- brexit or no brexit he made 1.86 billion from Arco Luxembourg.
      Therefore english has lost its relevance and brexit means britain goes broke.

    • 4


      “India is not a monolithic state like Sri Lanka”

      Is Sri Lanka a monolithic state? What exactly did you mean?

      Please note:

      monolithic –

      formed of a single large block of stone,

      large, powerful, indivisible, and slow to change.

      inflexible, rigid, unbending, unchanging, intractable, immovable, impenetrable, fossilized, hidebound; undifferentiated, uniform, unitary

      • 1

        Native Vedda:

        In Sri Lanka, power is concentrated at the Centre. There is a clearly defined majority (Sinhalese) and a strong tendency towards nationalism. The only things “uniting” India are cricket and to some extent,Hinduism.
        Even with the film industry, the Northies watch Bollywood, & the Southies go for Tamil/Telugu. Now there are Northies going to the South for work, but the old regional prejudice is still there.

        • 2


          I am sorry you haven’t answered my questions.

          Please try again with facts not with your perception nor with your conditioned mind.

        • 1

          what links the island to to the subcontinent is the mahabharata and the first british raj mounted police at chennai of today governance over the island until 1948 when school dropout church_ill the school drop out unintentionally granted a separation.

          “”Britain and the United States have approached India to leverage its influence with Mauritius on the contentious issue of Diego Garcia, where the US has a major military base, but is caught in claims over Mauritian sovereignty and legal rows over return of former islanders.

          New Delhi’s help was sought by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who is currently on a visit to India, during Wednesday’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, London-based sources told HT.

          The help was sought since it is seen as part of the “same security architecture” with Britain and the US, sending what is considered a “good signal” from New Delhi’s perspective. Continuation of the US base would also be in India’s interests, Modi was told.””

          this is not rocket science.

          Diego Garcia for sovereignty over Lanka the harbinger of war to the region by playing pakistan and china over india and indian ocean.

          viva la hindustan viva la republic.

  • 2

    Nepal is about to agree on $$8 billion belt initiative. Then India would agree to belt initiative too. At worst Lanka would be split in 2 like north south korea and at best China takes it all because Diego Garcia goes back to Mauritius by court order making Trump a happy man that he has closed at least one for the 800 bases that he promised.

    • 0

      Thailand threatens Facebook with legal action over anti-monarchy posts
      Junta, which has led a focused crackdown since it took power in a 2014 coup, gives the site until Tuesday morning to remove 131 ‘illicit’ posts”
      Thailand the only nation in the world never to be conquered by foreign forces except allowing japanese unfetered access to enter and fight the British Army WW2.

      Once Thailand bans Facebook and Utube (done before) – Buddha God will be banned.

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