17 December, 2017

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The Return Of India: New Realities For The Govt & The TNA

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Something happened. Things just changed. Unnoticed by the Sri Lanka’s cosmopolitan civil society intelligentsia which was engaged in “much wailing and gnashing of teeth” (as the Bible has it), and “how many angels can dance on a pinhead” type disputations (convoluted and obfuscatory, with much lost in translation), the tectonic plates just shifted.

The five post-war years were largely wasted because the South and North, the Sinhalese and Tamil political elites represented by the Government and the TNA adopted political postures that were exceedingly unrealistic but did not appear to be so. The mutual and shared unrealism was possible because of one factor and that factor has just changed; it no longer exists. Thus in an overarching,  parabolic, strategic sense the worst may be over, though in a tactical sense things are bound to get worse, even much worse, before they get better.

Mr Modi’s investiture ceremony and the attendance of eight top level delegations from the region restored South Asia’s status as a sub-system of the world system. Every system or subsystem has a centre and a periphery. In the second term of Dr Manmohan Singh, India as the centre of the South Asian subsystem was deactivated; almost dormant. To put it slightly differently, as a subsystem, South Asia had a de-activated centre and therefore seemed de-centered. It is in this context that actors on the periphery, including non-state actors, operated with an anomalous degree of autochthony, going off the charts, verging on soft anarchy. With Mr Modi, South Asia’s centre has been reasserted.

During the interregnum that was the second term of Dr Manmohan Singh, Sri Lankan ethno-politics were characterised by the following factors: the Sri Lankan Government froze political dialogue with the Tamils. The State proceeded on the basis of unilateralism. The Sinhalese tended to make believe that they had beaten the Tamils, not just the Tigers. The Southern hawks indulged in the fantasy of non-implementation of the 13th amendment. During the same interregnum, the Tamils for their part proceeded to make believe that the State hadn’t decisively won the war and that the political project of Tamil nationalism could remain unaffected by that outcome despite the fact that the Tamil political community had for the most part backed the Tigers.

The Sinhala nationalists in and out of the State were engaged in denial that the Tamils were an ethnic minority whose right to provincial autonomy and self administration within and in accordance with the Sri Lankan constitution, enjoyed a large measure of consensus within the world community. The Tamil nationalists including the TNA fantasized that the world community could be leveraged to recognize qualitatively more than this status and right. The fantasy was that Tamils were not an ethnic minority whose rights included provincial autonomy and self-administration but were a nation which could insist on the right of self determination.

The shared delusion was that there need be no commitment to the 13th amendment as the framework of negotiations. The Government/State thought it could be denied, diluted or dismembered. The Tamil nationalists thought it should not be accepted as the framework because it should and could be qualitatively exceeded.

These aspirations/expectations were possible only within a specific balance of forces, or less charitably, in a near-vacuum: that of a weak centre in India. While t the Sinhala nationalists reassured themselves about the value of a China-Pakistan option, it also caused the Tamil nationalists to overestimate the value of Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Diaspora.

Now that framework has been radically altered. With Mr Modi, India is back, and must be factored in significantly in the strategic calculus of its neighbours. The China-Pakistan option and the Tamil Nadu-Tamil Diaspora-Western option now need recalibrating by the Govt and the TNA.

This is why the Sri Lankan leadership no longer has years to deliver on devolution (as promised to Delhi during the war and just after) but only several months, before the strategic crunch comes. Now the hawks, Sinhala and Tamil, can no longer fly as high as they did, because there is an eagle in the sky above them.

The new reality will not mean an immediate change of behaviour on the part of the Sinhala and Tamil political players, because reality is perceived through the prism of ideology and emotion. There will be resistance, clashes and even a bloody backlash, before the acceptance of reality.

Mr Wigneswaran made a mistake in responding the way he did to President Rajapaksa’s invitation to accompany the latter to New Delhi. Even if one were to concede everything that Mr Wigneswaran said and Mr Sampanthan echoed in his letter to the new Indian PM— and I see much truth in what they’ve said—the public refusal to go was as imprudent as Jayalalitha’s boycott of the investiture. I suspect that the first derived from the second.

Imagine if Mr Wigneswaran had accepted President Rajapaksa’s invitation. As part of the delegation he would have been in the room when Prime Minister Modi brought up the need for the full and speedy implementation of the 13th amendment. In a different atmosphere a new triangular understanding could have been arrived at under Indian auspices and with an Indian guarantee. A page could have been turned.

Whatever is believed in the Tamil Diaspora (and/or on Jaffna campus) the reality is that there is no two-state solution on the table, and therefore the TNA should not behave as if there is or should be. There is a one state solution; not even a one and half state solution which could become a two state solution. The corresponding reality that the power elite has to grasp is that that one state solution has to be of a reformed state; a devolved state.

The strategic reality is that no military anywhere in the world would treat a sensitive ethnic periphery, a borderland, as anything but a top security priority. In a border area which has witnessed a full blown war and the tacit support at the least, of the populace for the secessionist terrorist militia, any military would insist on remaining vigilant. If such a periphery was adjacent to a huge zone of hostile co-ethnics (in this case Tamil Nadu), the strategic concern and vigilant security would be of long duration. In any part of the world, at any time of history, no military would withdraw from a borderland with such a background of a massive organized violent threat to the state, unless it had a guarantee that conditions have been durably created to prevent the re-emergence of such a challenge.

The TNA’s election campaign which invoked Velupillai Prabhakaran did not provide such confidence, to put it mildly. Fast-track and full devolution in the aftermath of that campaign would have doubtless caused legitimate concern among the military as an institution. There will be no withdrawal of the Sri Lankan armed forces from the North in the foreseeable future, but there definitely has to be a negotiated and graduated shrinkage in the footprint of the security forces in that area.

However, the reality on the ground in Sri Lanka is not the only strategic reality that there is. The Sri Lankan state has to realise that while there is certainly a legitimate hard power option, even a pre-emptive one—provided it is surgically targeted— against a Tiger revival, there is no hard power option against unarmed Tamil nationalism or even ultra-nationalism. Not with Big Brother back in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. The China card just got geo-strategically smaller and the Pakistan card is a provocation. The Sino-Pak option that the hawks in the Sri Lankan State set store by is too small to be an effective deterrent and too large not to provoke a response.

In the new situation that Sri Lanka finds itself in, the State has two options: either it fails to move forward on devolution and finds itself alone in the face of the US-UK offensive in the form of the ‘international inquiry’ buzz saw, or worse, gets itself in an Indo-US pincer. Or it can pivot to South Asia, with its reactivated natural centre, India, and use it as umbrella and shield.  Of course this requires the expeditious and full implementation of the 13th amendment as Mr Modi seems to have explicitly called for.

The Tamils and the TNA have a choice to make too. Tamil Nadu will never be as big as it was politically before Mr Modi came to town; the Tamil Diaspora will never be bigger than a resurgent India, and the West will never be bigger than India in South Asia —just as China will never be bigger than India in South Asia.

What the TNA has to decide on, are politically existential questions: are you in the game or not? Are you the preeminent parliamentary party of the Sri Lankan Tamil community? Are you for the full and early implementation of the 13th amendment and going beyond it incrementally, in terms of the re-negotiation of the concurrent list, or do you stand instead for nothing less than full fledged federalism? Are you keen on convincing a majority of the majority on the island— the Sinhalese— or are they peripheral to your calculus and are you focused instead on the Tamil Diaspora and pan-Tamil sentiment including that of Tamil nadu? Is yours a choice of participation and presence while pressing your legitimate claims, or are you a party of boycotts? Are you part, albeit a radically dissentient and reformist part, of the Sri Lankan democratic mainstream or do you continue to engage in political theatre and rhetoric from the enclave—the ghetto— of Pan-Tamilianism, globalized though that ghetto may be, encompassing as it does significant swathes of the Diaspora?

The Sri Lankan state must not toy with the kind of radical reforms that saw the undoing of the USSR under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. That state and Yugoslavia as well cracked up precisely along the lines of recognised nationhood and self determination, however nominal that recognition was. That is why China, Vietnam and Asian states in general do not make that mistake. Nowhere in Asia is any ‘nation’ or ‘right of national self determination’ recognised within the country’s borders. Montesquieu’s sense of ‘the spirit of the laws’ will explain why federalism goes against the grain in many societies. Though any progressive must stand foursquare with Tom Paine in his polemic against Edmund Burke in defence of the French Revolution, Burke was insightful when he urged that reform must work with the warp and woof of a society rather than against it. This explains why Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s ‘union of regions’ package/s not merely failed but resulted in the rapid growth of the JVP and JHU, finally toppling Ranil Wickremesinghe, bringing CBK’s tenure to an undistinguished close and opening space for Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Luckily for Sri Lanka, Mr Modi’s BJP is allergic to the ‘two nation’ theory which partitioned India and even has doubts about Article 370 which accords a special status to Kashmir.

The Sri Lankan state cannot be multi-polar or bi-polar; the island is too small and vulnerable, lacking strategic depth. That is the geopolitical reality.  Sri Lanka fought a Thirty Years War to defeat such bi-polarity as had been established in the North-east. Any project which leads to a bi-polar Sri Lanka with the North as a separate and equal power centre, will trigger an armed response by the State, and if not, by radical non-state actors as in the 1980s. Does anyone want that?

While it may have local autonomy and thus autonomous provincial/regional administrations, no unitary state has more Governments than one. Any push for the abandonment of the unitary state and the recognition of self determination for/of a Tamil nation on Sri Lankan soil will only catalyze an Egyptian-Thai outcome—and it will be popularly endorsed, just as the Egyptian endgame is. This may in turn catalyze external intervention which hives off the Tamil majority North but will consign everyone living in the other two thirds of the island to a protracted Praetorian purgatory which makes the current Rajapaksa government, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency, seem a capacious democratic space which we shall be happy to retrieve!   Does anyone really want two thirds of Sri Lanka to turn into Pakistan before Nawaz Sharif made his comeback or Burma/Myanmar before the military junta decided it was both imperative and safe enough to retrench?

The bottom line is that if the State and the Tamil nationalists remain delusional and unable to manage centre-periphery relations, Mr Modi’s India will feel compelled to balance between the two and nudge, prod or push both sides to a Middle Path and a saddle-point settlement. Both the Sinhala and Tamil political elites have to reckon with the reality of the return of the regional Leviathan, which means leaving behind the priority and preference that each side has for the extra-regional (US-UK, Tamil Diaspora, China, Israel) and the sub-regional (Tamil Nadu, Pakistan).

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    I hope Dr.Dayan has the minimum brains to understand Pre.Rajapakse’s duplicity when it comes to politics. He was never a honest or a trustworthy negotiator but always playing tricks.But this time he is caught hands down.

    If Dr.Dayan saw the eyes and smile of Pres.Rajapakse when he greeted Modi, you will be able to grasp his true being. Please go and see those photos.

    Modi investiture ceremony was one of the simplest and down to earth ceremonies I have ever seen. It was so simple, less extravagent and less expensive to Indian Tax Payer than most of the ones held under Rajapakses, which are more of a show off “pus vedilla” glamour with fake and empty show off drama and a burden to Sri Lankan Tax payers.

    It is none other than Pres.Rajapakse’s duplicity that brought whole Sri Lanka to this level. CHOGM back fired on his face. UNHRC vote isolated Sri Lanka in front of the world. Ranil says it was this implementing 13th Amendment uder UNP that MR used to topple then UNP Government and now MR is trapped in that same hole himself.

    Also Dr.Dayan himself should know what MR did to himself after 2009 UNHRC vote.

    MR never gave any relief or sympathy or assurance to Tamil people who were deeply hurt after 30 year war, But further supressed, intimidated and humiliated them constantly and now using BBS,JHU and lemon puff Weerawanse to further subjugate them. This will no longer work and now the world has a clear vision of who MR is.

    No absolutely not playing pandu with Modi this time. With over 1,700 Indian peace keepers sacrificed their lives and over 12,000 injured to serve 13th Amendment, and now with constant protests by Jayalalitha, Viko,Indian Tamils all over the world, Modi will take the needful actions at the correct time. Lemon puff and king coconut water or BBS or JHU will not work this time.

    Take my word today. 13th Amendment will be implemented in Sri Lanka within the next six months. Modi plans to visit Sri Lanka between August/ September this year, and he wants to see results when he comes and he ment Business.

    President Rajapakse will have to deliver what he promissed and even could go further than 13th Amendment. Also MR could go for a Presidential elections early next year to save his face. But he will defenitely has to go for devolution of powers to the North and East. MR is getting weak politically by the day and his tricks to hold back autonomy are been exhausted. He is more worried of UNHRC War crime investigations and charges than autonomy to the North and East which he has to deliver sooner than later.

    Also MR is between BBS, JHU Sinhala Buddhist extremists and both International community and peace seeking local communities and the opposition parties that could finally lead to another 1983 like Progrom that could lead to toppling of the Government.

    Anything is possible in coming months. But 13th Amendment…Yes it will happen, and the Executive Presidency will be eventually abolished for good.

  • 1
    1

    “you will really piss off India,”

    cheeeee!,what language. You could use words such as royally miffed off or infuriate,incense,livid etc.I know that’s what i would have done.

    Anyway it may be better for srilanka to piss off india than to be pissed on by tamilnadu. India will have to make a decision soon tamilnadu or srilanka.If they decide they would like to have srilanka they will gain 65000 sq.km and 21 million people and excellent strategic location,but lose 130000 sq.km and 72 million people as tamilnadu will secede one day.

    If india wants to keep tamilnadu,then it will have to piss on srilanka and srilanka will have no choice but to move towards south east and east asia where the bhuddhist countries are(i know geographically they can’t but hearts and minds and interests can).

    Tough choice for india,unless it uses the military option as russia did in crimea and turkey did in cyprus.Then it can have srilanka and TN.

    Unless sinhalese reconcile with tamils,india will face tough choices ahead with everyone pissing on each other until kidneys pack up.

  • 3
    0

    just another vocabulary lesson for already losing lankans. this guy always confuse the shit out of you. why the hell he just has to talk about TNA and Tamils? How about massacre and genocide?? justice will prevail and be served one day. we don’t know when it would be.

  • 1
    2

    reading the comments here and elsewhere this is what i get.

    Tamils thought believing election pledges that Modi will come and make radical changes and punish the sinhalas. Some even thought Modi would do a Crimea. But they were flabbergasted with Modi trying to have good relations with MR.

    And the otehr reality India’s relations with SL doesnt depend on what party comes to power rather their foreign policies are deisgned by professionals and parties that come to power do not affect it. Reality is congress policy would continue in Modi gov.

    Now this is a bitter pill to swallow after all the boastings and threatening. And they hold onto Modi’s idea that SL gov should implement 13A which is the continuance of Congress’s stance.

    • 2
      1

      Such,

      I pity your ignorance. Yes, ignorance is bliss.
      We all know that Modi will not go anything beyond 13A plus in his next 5 years. That is our first step. Life does not end in next 5 years, does it???

  • 2
    0

    Dayan,

    I will take only a part of your Narrative.

    “The Sinhala nationalists in and out of the State were engaged in denial that the Tamils were an ethnic minority whose right to provincial autonomy and self administration within and in accordance with the Sri Lankan constitution, enjoyed a large measure of consensus within the world community. The Tamil nationalists including the TNA fantasized that the world community could be leveraged to recognize qualitatively more than this status and right. The fantasy was that Tamils were not an ethnic minority whose rights included provincial autonomy and self-administration but were a nation which could insist on the right of self determination.
    The shared delusion was that there need be no commitment to the 13th amendment as the framework of negotiations. The Government/State thought it could be denied, diluted or dismembered. The Tamil nationalists thought it should not be accepted as the framework because it should and could be qualitatively exceeded”.

    I just take a few examples of what is happening in some of the former communist countries and or their neighborhood.

    Russia and Ukraine

    Crimea had conducted a referendum and opted to join Russia and Russia had in turn annexed Crimea

    Was Crimea a nation to exercise the right of self determination?

    Again in Eastern Ukraine, several parts in Eastern Ukraine such as Donetsk had conducted referendums and wanted to join Russia.

    Are they nations?

    What happens if the Northern and Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka conduct a referendum and opted to form a separate county instead of Joining India?

    What will be your stand? Do not lecture on reality!

    This is not a hypothetical Question, but a highly likely scenario.

    As a political scientist with international perspective Dr Dayan are you courageous enough to make your observations in these columns?

    I will challenge you on China- Tibet and Ulghur and China,Vietnam and Japan about Islands in the South and East China Sea on another occasion!

  • 2
    0

    DJ says :”Imagine if Mr Wigneswaran had accepted President Rajapaksa’s invitation. As part of the delegation he would have been in the room when Prime Minister Modi brought up the need for the full and speedy implementation of the 13th amendment. In a different atmosphere a new triangular understanding could have been arrived at under Indian auspices and with an Indian guarantee. A page could have been turned.”
    (1) How is he assured of PM Modi saying the same in CV’s presence?
    (2) Had PM Modi said “Is not it good if TNA goes with the PSC?”, which cannot be ruled out to suit friendship building, will not MR play hell out to get the TNA in and finally do a Shirani Bandaranayaka type PSC report?

  • 3
    0

    It is good that Wiggles was not party and privy to Rajapaksa’s false undertakings. Bensen

  • 0
    1

    Tamil people are day dreaming!

    There is already a pact between Modi and MR. Modi will not even allow US,EU to intervene.

    All you get is provincial councils, Be happy with that or keep bitching to US, UK, Tamil Nadu. They will give you peelam.

    To think, Sinhalese will hand over Federal system in a platter, the one you could not win in 30 years of war.

    Sri Lanka need devolution of power to provinces based on advantages bringing to the people. Not on the basis of race lines.

    We need to inter marry each other and become brothers and sisters, Viggie, have you got a grand daughter for my son?

    What kind of bullshit are these people wasting time?
    Get an education,
    Get a good job
    Have fun and help each other
    Get married
    Have fun and help each other
    Life is too short suckers.

    Is there any other fun than having a bottle of Gal in a beach in SL with the fried Hurullo? and Biriyani afterwards. Does the fun differ you do it in south or north?

    • 3
      0

      srinath.gunaratne

      “Get an education, Get a good job Have fun and help each other Get married Have fun and help each other Life is too short suckers.”

      You missed one important aspect of life:

      Have sex.

      More sex the better.

      Make love not war.

      “Does the fun differ you do it in south or north?”

      It does differ enormously.

      In the South the men have fun on 24/07/52 basis while their women folks work in medieval middle east kingdoms under most difficult working conditions.

      Its alright for men who can afford to have one.

    • 0
      0

      srinath.gunaratne,

      First talk to “Desha Premi Kada Kadappan” BBS Gnanasara before having a bottle of Gal in a beach in SL with the fried Hurullo? and Biriyani afterwards.

      The freelance “pinguttaraya” knows how to play both ways and how to enjoy both and now Tamils, Muslims and the hard working minority communities know what “pinguttarayas” loot undr the sun game plan.

    • 0
      0

      “Modi will not even allow US,EU to intervene.”

      Srinath,india’s GDP on a purchasing parity basis is 5 trilion.The US is 17 trillion.The EU is 16 trillion.So a combined EU+US is 33 trillion.Add to that Canada’s 1.5 trillion and you have nearly 35 trillion.So a india which is the economic size of about 15% of the west is according to you going to stop the west from intervening inn srilanka.

      Oh i made a mistake.I forgot to add srilanka’s 130 billion to india’s 5 trillion.Then you may be right with mighty srilanka added,the indians could take on the west.

      “Is there any other fun than having a bottle of Gal in a beach in SL with the fried Hurullo? and Biriyani afterwards. Does the fun differ you do it in south or north?”

      So why dont you just give the federal system that exists in malaysia,india,switzerland ,germany etc so that tamils can enjoy with you the huurullo and buriyani as equals with their self respect and dignity intact without being under your thumb and control?

      Don’t you think if the bhuddhist monks had not got the banda-chelva pacts and the dudley -chelva pact torn up all these stupidity of ethnic rivalry as you rightly pointed out could have been avoided

  • 0
    0

    Dayan,

    Sorry for any misunderstanding.

    Sampanathan and Sumanthiran will back the opposition in 20 whatver i fogrot.

    Byue

  • 0
    0

    Dayan,

    You know I always considered you a friend so I just want to let you know. Canb tyou please stop going to ?IDSA or SDAI ISDA conferences man?

    these people you wont be needing to talk to them.

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