28 September, 2020

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The South Asia Nuclear Threat And The Sirimavo Doctrine

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

One of the most momentous developments of recent times, perhaps the most fateful in the long run, has been passed over with scant attention paid to it by the Sri Lankan public. It could be the most fateful because it carries the potential to lead not just to the breakup of Sri Lanka but to its extinction as habitable territory. I refer to India’s expressed serious concerns over China’s nuclear submarines being allowed to dock at Colombo Port. In this article I want to focus on certain points. Firstly a successful foreign policy has to be based on an accurate perception of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be, and the success of that policy has to depend on its proper application in practice. Secondly, there is a distinct possibility of nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Thirdly we must work out a foreign policy that takes that possibility into account, and see how best we can secure our legitimate interests against that possibility. I believe that the answer will be found in rejecting traditional notions of “spheres of influence”, which would lead to what I choose to call the Sirimavo Doctrine.

But first I must put down some of the relevant facts that are in the public domain – only those facts because what went on in the area of secret diplomacy is not known to the public. On the face of it, the positions of both Sri Lanka and China seem to be unexceptionable. Sri Lanka holds that since 2010 as many as 230 warships have docked at Colombo port. It is customary and well-established international practice for warships to dock in foreign ports for refueling and crew refreshment. China’s position is the same but emphasizes in addition that submarines are used around the Gulf of Aden in the war against piracy. India does not seem to believe that submarines are required for that purpose.

Sirima

Sirima

On India’s position I take as authoritative the report in the Island of November 5 under the heading ‘Docking of Chinese nuclear subs in SL worries India’ by its special correspondent in Delhi S.Venkat Narayan. I take it as authoritative because it is known that the Indian Foreign Office makes shrewd use of Indian newspapers for its diplomacy: it makes its positions known to the public without being committed to them, and encourages thinking along certain lines. I will therefore quote from that report very substantially. It stated that the docking of a nuclear powered submarine at Colombo port at the end of October was causing “enormous concern” in the Indian Government. The Sri Lanka Government had allowed that docking despite the Indian National Security Adviser having warned the Sri Lankan Defense Secretary that the presence of a Chinese submarine in Sri Lanka was unacceptable to India. The report at that point cites the Times of India as stating that the Indian Government had no option but to regard Sri Lanka’s defiance as “inimical” to India’s interests. The quote “inimical” was not attributed to any official but it was clear that it had an official provenance.

This is the second of two visits by Chinese submarines to Colombo. The report clearly attributes a political significance to the visits. The first coincided with the visit of the Indian President to Vietnam and the Chinese President’s visits to Sri Lanka and India in September. The implication seems to be that the submarine visits were a form of muscle-flexing by China with the connivance of the Sri Lankan Government. According to the report India sees the submarine visits as a violation of the 1987 Agreement which states: “Trincomalee or any other port in Sri Lanka will not be made available for military use by any country in a manner prejudicial to India’s interests”. The Agreement also calls upon the two countries not to allow their territories to be used for “activities prejudicial to each other’s unity, integrity and security”. Let me add at this point that the Peace Accords of 1987 have not been officially denounced as invalid on the ground that they were concluded under duress, or on any other ground. They therefore remain valid under international law.

Some of the contents of Venkat Narayan’s report seem quite alarming. He writes, “The Chinese fleet of submarines, both diesel and nuclear-powered (of which three can fire ballistic missiles), represent some of Beijing’s most offensive military capabilities and have been the focus of international media when one of them propelled through the Indian Ocean waters for the first time earlier this year making its way to the Persian Gulf.” It appears that there is some amount of international disquiet over manifestations of Chinese naval power, and therefore what has been going on at Colombo port should be viewed in that context. A powerful segment of the international community could be sympathetic to India’s concern over the Chinese submarines.

Particularly alarming are statements made by the Indian strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney. True, they are not official views but they could reflect some amount of official thinking. He claimed that Sri Lanka’s disregard of India’s protests after the first docking as a hostile action with long-term implications. I quote: “At a time when India is facing increasing Chinese strategic pressure from the north, a new military challenge is opening from the south. The weakening of India’s strategic clout over the past decade has emboldened President Rajapaksa’s hostile action in granting access to Chinese submarines”. He thought that Rajapaksa could have made a serious miscalculation in challenging India’s interests without taking into account the fact that India is no longer led by a “clueless Prime Minister with no vision”. He claimed that President Rajapaksa is now increasingly seen as “willfully promoting not just China’s commercial interests but also Beijing’s penetration of India’s southern flank”.

Something seems to have gone terribly amiss in our relations with India. Both Sri Lanka and China seem to have acted with a strange irresponsibly in being gratuitously provocative towards India. What might be the reasons? I think I have a possibly plausible reason for China’s strange behavior, which I will give later in the course of this article. As for Sri Lanka, what must readily spring to the minds of most readers is that elections are around the corner, which means that the Government will do practically anything to increase its vote bank. Since 2009 President Rajapaksa and his Government have been unbeatable at elections mainly because of his Dutugemunu image. But the Government had a torrid time at the Uva provincial Council elections and it could therefore sense a need to refurbish that Dutugemunu image. A threat to the nation from a very powerful country, namely India, could serve that purpose. The President once saved Sri Lanka from disintegration, and he could therefore be seen as having the best credentials to save it from further mortal perils.

In my view that could turn out to be a dangerously counter=productive strategy. It is quite true that in general nothing serves to bind a nation together than an external threat. In the early ‘sixties the Sino-Indian border war spectacularly bound the Indian nation together in a way that nobody imagined would be possible. During that period there was a widespread expectation that India would break up sooner or later. What we must bear in mind is that behind that spectacular display of unity was the fact that every Indian Government since 1947 showed a relentless drive to forge a unified Indian nation. In Sri Lanka, on the contrary, since 1948 our Governments have shown not a relentless drive towards unity but towards division and hierarchy, and that drive has been more powerful under the present Government than ever before. Anyway, I believe that it was that drive to division that led, after the IPKF troops came here, not to the Sinhalese fighting the Indian troops but to butchering each other in the form of the JVP rebellion. Trying to conjure up an external threat, for whatever reason, could be dangerously counter-productive for Sri Lanka.

(To be continued)

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    I doubt it is to do with the vote-getting….it’s that we are screwed by China’s push for global-dominance. It might be too late to use the bargaining tool.

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      Izeth Hussain –

      RE: The South Asia Nuclear Threat And The Sirimavo Doctrine

      Thanks.

      Good to have a change of Subject. You are such a good writer and you need to widen the horizon, from Muslin-BBS conflicts, to more national and International issues.

      “It could be the most fateful because it carries the potential to lead not just to the breakup of Sri Lanka but to its extinction as habitable territory. I refer to India’s expressed serious concerns over China’s nuclear submarines being allowed to dock at Colombo Port. “

      “On the face of it, the positions of both Sri Lanka and China seem to be unexceptionable. Sri Lanka holds that since 2010 as many as 230 warships have docked at Colombo port. “

      “What we must bear in mind is that behind that spectacular display of unity was the fact that every Indian Government since 1947 showed a relentless drive to forge a unified Indian nation. In Sri Lanka, on the contrary, since 1948 our Governments have shown not a relentless drive towards unity but towards division and hierarchy, and that drive has been more powerful under the present Government than ever before.”

      Good Take homes.

      One Thing should be clear. China will be super power in the near future. There are many reasons.

      1.) 1 Billion Plus Population with average IQ of 100 or more compared with India’s 1 Billion with a average IQ of 82 and Sri Lanka 79.

      http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

      2.) China’s Growth Rate and Per Capita Income is accelerating. There is an almost Direct Relation between National IQ and Per Capita Income and the Wealth of a Nation.

      IQ and the Wealth of Nations

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations

      3.) India and Sri Lanka had an adversarial relationship throughout its history. However, the adversarial relationship between Pakistan and India is recent.

      Sri Lanka needs to play her cards that will benefit Sri Lanka. If it benefits India ans China , that is fine as long as it is an disadvantage to Sri Lanka.

      USA has Diego Garcia. Can China have Sri Lanka to be used for China’s Interest without harming India? That is what Sri lanka needs to show.

      I do not think anybody wants to waste their nuclear bombs on Sri lanka.

      This is not Cuba, Soviet Union and USA. India and China have a common border.

      • 3
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        Trouble is, US feels the need to correct imbalances in global trade that will hurt her super-power stability. Americans feels that it is their right to block others copying their structure attempting to take over from them. Indeed, they are a bit desperate.

        Obama tried to balance out the East-West trade and relations in a new socialistic type of New World Order (or as near as America could get to socialism). But with the mid-term elections and the GOP controlling the Senate in an even greater furor, this is a strong gauge of what the Americans are most worried about, i.e. the loss of stability and prosperity of their Imperial-type system. Right or wrong, bad or good, this is the reality of a super-power holding on to its status. With another president in 2016, Americans won’t be quite as nice. And China is not alone, but has rampant backing from Russia in toppling what they see is an empire that cannot contain the China-Russia miserliness.

        So far what Gosl has involved with China is most true and rightful for Sri Lanka. But now is the time (if it is not too late), to give China our apologies and say thanks, we have worked our best with/for you.

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        Izeth Hussain –

        RE: The South Asia Nuclear Threat And The Sirimavo Doctrine

        with India and Pakistan going after each other is a real threat.

        Now what will make Pakistan to fire First? Iblis, and their Followers.

        Example ISIL, ISIS and other Wahhabi Clones including Taliban.

        ISIL: Servants of Iblis and How to Combat Them

        By Steven A. Armstrong
        Tutor, Editor, Consultant

        http://stevenaarmstrongsf.com/2014/10/05/isil-servants-of-iblis-and-how-to-combat-them/

        If there is nothing else more clear, it is that the cancerous ISIL is a child of Iblis. In Islamic Belief, Iblis plays much the same role as Satan does in the Judeo-Christian Mythos. Let’s take a look at his history, and then consider why Islam as a whole seems unable to clearly and unanimously denounce this demonic manifestation of evil in their midst as well as other evils that plague them, and us all.

        In Islam (and I apologize to Islamic scholars if I over-simplify), God created three intelligent species that we know of. The Deity has other creations that we know not of, the Qur’an tells us:

        …and He has created (other) things of which ye have no knowledge. — Qur’an 16:8

        Of the three known intelligent species, there are Angels (without free will to disobey), Jinn and Humans (with free will to choose good or evil). The greatest of the Jinn was Iblis, whose statue gave him a rank equal to an Angel. When God ordered the Angels to bow before humanity, Iblis refused, and was expelled from Paradise for his hubris. He then began to work to influence others to reject God, but could only do so if they failed to adhere to God. He is also known as shaytan, Satan. (Old English Satan, from Latin Satān, from Ancient Greek Σατάν (Satán), from Hebrew שָׂטָן (Śāṭān, “adversary, accuser”).

        As we have seen in a previous blog, this is the source of the confusion of Iblis and the Yazidi Melek Taus (Tawûsê Melek), their chief Angel and link to the Divine.

        It is interesting to note that in the Hebrew Scriptures, Satan is not always seen as the Devil, but in Job, as a member of the Heavenly Court. He is the “Jack McCoy” of the Court, the D.A. His diabolic character begins to solidify during the Second Temple Period. In the 2nd Century BCE Alexandrian Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Ha-Satan is translated as the Greek diabolos, the slanderer. Our word Devil comes from this. Wiktionary gives the etymology:

        From Old English dēofol, from Ancient Greek διάβολος (diábolos, “accuser, slanderer”), also as “Satan” (in Jewish/Christian usage, translating Biblical Hebrew שטן, satán), from διαβάλλω (diabállō, “to slander”), literally “to throw across”, from διά (diá, “through, across”) + βάλλω (bállō, “throw”). The Old English word was probably adopted under influence of Latin diabolus (itself from the Greek). Other Germanic languages adopted the word independently: compare Dutch duivel, Low German düvel, German Teufel, Swedish djävul (older: djefvul, Old Swedish diævul, Old Norse djǫfull).

        I am not making a case here for an actually entity “Satan.” If that’s your Faith, fine. If not, “Satan” is the symbol of everything that tries to prevent us from being fully human, and realizing our Divinity. Notice in the Tarot Trump of the Devil, the bondage is illusory. The chains are so loose they can be lifted off. We are only bound by our own ignorance.

        Given the context of the traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic beliefs about Satan / Iblis, it is quite clear that in this framework, one would say that Iblis has seduced ISIL into blaspheming Islam and doing the Devil’s work on Earth. So why is Islam having such a difficulty in clearly responding to this blasphemy within their own household?

        Islam began as a Militant Faith. The Prophet Muḥammad himself, for various reasons, led armies to subdue Mecca, and later areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Following his death, from 623–1050, there was a phenomenal expansion of the faith, so that by 1050, its reach stretched from Portugal to India, all propelled by force of arms.

        While ISIL plays on this, the historical expansion allowed for the Jewish, Christian and Sabian inhabitants to retain their own faith, and communities within the Islamic environment. Those who were not “Peoples of the Book” did not fare so well. Nevertheless, it was conquest. They robbed territories from the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the Kingdoms of Spain, the Frankish Kingdoms. No one doubted that this was aggression, just as Alexander and later the Roman Empire had earlier dominated this part of the world. That was the way of the world.

        In time, Islam became the leading scientific, artistic, literary, and philosophical culture in the western world, with the exception of the Roman Empire ruled from Constantinople. Yet it was also still militant.

        How about the other Monotheists?

        Let’s see how that contrasts with the other Monotheistic Faiths:

        http://stevenaarmstrongsf.com/2014/10/05/isil-servants-of-iblis-and-how-to-combat-them/

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          Izeth Hussain –

          RE: The South Asia Nuclear Threat And The Sirimavo Doctrine

          Compare wiyj what the 120 Muslim scholars said about ISIL.

          Eye Witness news about ISIL Who Follow the devil Iblis from a Muslim on the ground..

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJGiIOxyQtM

          A Muslim who had lunch with ISIS/ISIL tells us the facts about them and Islam

          Published on Nov 15, 2014
          Journalist, film maker and this weeks special guest Bilal Abdul Kareem who was reporting first hand on the ground in Syria will be giving us the inside scoop and all of the hard facts about this group called ISIS/ISIL and will be explaining to us how they went wrong and how they have been misguided.

  • 5
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    Obama recently called Modi “The Man of Action”. America and India the largest two democracies are increasingly becoming close friends. This trend will continue as long time where it is BJP or not.

    Which ever direction US policy goes so does EU and Japan and all US allies. This is formidable combination. Now India is part of it.

    Lanka controlled by Rajapaksa is something they do not want. If Rajapaksa gets re-elected again there will be enormous consequences for citizens of Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka is stuck between US/India Allies & China. Guess who is going to win. Electing Rajapaksa in 2015 is a big bad news for Sri Lanka.

  • 1
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    The keyword is “nuclear”. The implications are tactical and strategic.

    The submarine was nuclear powered. It did not carry nuclear warheads. Many nuclear as well as diesel powered vessels call in at the port from many nations. This includes vessels from nuclear capable Pakistan.

    In the event of a conflict with Pakistan or China, it would be fool hardy for China or Pakistan to use any port in Ceylon as it would easily fall within Indian land based missile range. Its very easy for Indians to knockout the port with a volley of missiles. So at tactical level Ceylon or its ports do not pose a threat to India.

    Although the docking of Nuclear powered vessel is a new thing. Its probably a prelude to its “Silk route” strategy that will need certain security measures to keep supply routes open.

    So as long as no one obstructs China’s efforts to trade globally, the nuclear subs would not be a threat to anyone.

  • 2
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    As Amarasiri has said in his response, it is good to see a change of subject from Izeth Hussian (IH). While the article makes a reference to the ‘Sirimavo Doctrine’ in the heading itself, what that Doctrine was about is not explained, not that, in the context of what IH writes, that really matters.

    It may well be the Indian practice to release official policy through carefully chosen statements to the Indian media. But for whose benefit would that be? Who is expected to read and take due notice of such releases? I have no doubt that if the matter was considered serious enough, the Indians would have little hesitation in conveying their concerns to the SL government in more robust and direct fashion. We well remember the ‘Parippu Drop’. That reflected no subtlety.

    It is understandable that India will not have been thrilled with the visits by Chinese submarines to the port of Colombo. Especially after the first clash between the two countries in the 60s, the Indians have seemed to be almost paranoid of the perceived Chinese threat. Sure, the infamous 1987 Agreement (from which only India stood to get any real gain) provided that “Trincomalee or any other port in Sri Lanka will not be made available for military use by any country in a manner prejudicial to India’s interests”. But how can one reasonably say that allowing Chinese submarines to use the port of Colombo violated that provision? The submarines were not engaged in any military activity and why should SL assume that their visits were prejudicial to India’s interests? Surely, India and China are not at war with each other.

    Relations with India might perhaps have been better managed but I cannot accept that SL has recently been “gratuitously provocative towards India”. And, as for IH’s perception that the government may “sense a need to refurbish that Dutugemunu image”, that seems like a sign of IH’s imagination running riot. Well has it been said that the human mind has an infinite capacity for imagination. It is also not without a capacity for skewed thinking

  • 0
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    Mr. Izeth Hussein:

    If nuclear submarine coming to Sri Lankan ports is a concern to India, India should fix Missiles along the Indian and Chinese boarder.

    Sri Lanka does not have a boarder with china. It is the India that has a boarder with China. China also has lot of business ventures in India and China has built a ROAD direct connection New delhi. Those things are far more important than the Submarine coming to the port.

    So, what you are writing is just irrelevant.

    I think by writing this article you are trying to prove that you are not a Islamic -Fanatic trying to convert the whole world to Islam.

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