By R.M.B Senanayake –
Deception and Intrigue have been traditional instruments of foreign policy in the Kautilya tradition which have been used by our rulers in the past. It was successfully used to oust the Portuguese. It was also used against the Dutch to dampen their enthusiasm for conquest. It was used less successfully against the British who after their early experiences with the Sinhala Establishment did not trust anybody. In the 1980s, President J.R Jayewardene played on the inherent prejudices of the Nehru family, the Delhi bureaucratic establishment committed to the unity of India and the Brahmin lobby in the South, to dampen India’s championship of the Tamils.
The LTTE leader Prabakaran was not enamoured of the sentiments of the Nehru family and looked with disfavor upon their efforts to browbeat them. So he did not trust the Indian ruling Brahmin regime. President Premadasa continued the deceptive policies, paying lip service to the need to remedy Tamil grievances while deceptively undermining the devolution of power under the 13h Amendment. President CBK was perhaps less deceptive but she too was not really committed to resolving the Tamil grievances except where she could also enhance her own self interest.
This policy of ‘double speak ‘which was elaborated on by George Orwell in his work titled “1984”, as the practice of the one party totalitarian State, seems to have been adopted by the present regime as well. Presently this policy is being pursued by the Russian President Putin in his handling of the Ukraine crisis. The grievances of the Russian speaking people in Southern and Eastern Ukraine cannot be wished away and they like many minorities elsewhere want a measure of autonomy or self government. Can such a demand be denied when the West has championed similar demands in Kosovo?
The art of double speak was aptly described by George Orwell as follows: “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process . . .”
The present regime successfully neutralized the Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi. The Gandhi family would have a natural animosity to the LTTE which killed Rajiv Gandhi. This animosity would rub off on the whole Tamil community in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. It could be played upon.
There is also the China card to be used against the Indians. If India were to push Sri Lanka too hard on the Tamil issue she would be driven to cultivate even closer relations with China and Sri Lanka could end up in the arms of China like Pakistan.
Will Modi buy this argument? He may. He doesn’t have to depend on Tamil Nadu support to govern India. He also stands for a strong Central Government in India and knows the earlier Tamil secessionist sentiments. If he takes the China card seriously ,Modi may well follow the same vacillating policy of the previous Congress Party regarding the devolution of power to the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
But Modi has to reckon with the USA whose support India cannot dispense with. What is the attitude of the USA and the EU to the Sri Lankan Tamil issue? The U.S would like to be friendly with Sri Lanka and woo her away from China. So she would not deliberately antagonize Sri Lanka. But the USA is the upholder of the International Law and minority human rights. The US may be willing to drop the accountability issue or at least soften on it if she feels the Sri Lanka Government will attend to the grievances of the Tamils and grant them autonomy at least as provided under the 13th Amendment.
The US is however unlikely to forego both objectives. Nor is the USA concerned too much about Sri Lanka shifting to the China camp like Pakistan. China already has her hands full and the US has managed to create a string of countries from Japan and the Philippines in the North to Vietnam and possibly Malaysia in the South who are hostile to China. Indonesia is not particularly fond of China as past events showed when thousands of Chinese Communists were slaughtered. So the US must be quite satisfied with how its policy of containment of China is working out.
In any case China’s reach is limited. She couldn’t even recover the wreck of the Malaysian Flight 370 which crashed in the Indian ocean with a large number of Chinese on board. So the prospect for the regime to play the China card is not rosy. The Americans are likely to discount Sri Lanka as a factor in their China policy. Sri Lanka can always be brought to heel just as Pakistan was. So the regime will play for time and hold a presidential election to retain power before the deluge. The Parliamentary Select Committee which is supposed to come up with a political solution will procrastinate and drag its feet until the diplomacy with Modi works. The fly in the ointment is the UN Human Rights Council Resolution.
The regime will be committing hara kiri if it gives in to the Tamil demand for autonomy or even make the Northern Provincial Council an effective body. After all, this costly war was unnecessary if the B-C Pact or the Dudley Senanayake Agreement was implemented. Who opposed them? The Buddhist monks of course who consider themselves the guardians of the Sinhalese Buddhists.
Many political analysts and sociologists have ignored the importance of the monks vis a vis the Tamil problem. But MR and the regime know the attitude of the monks and know also that they will not be able to carry them on board if they give in on the devolution issue. The Sinhala Buddhist hegemony will be over in so far as the north and east are concerned. Settlement of Sinhalese from the South through State colonization will have to be given up. The Buddhist monks will never agree to the dilution of Sinhala Buddhist hegemony over the whole Island. Power seeking politicians within the Establishment will mobilize the monks against any such efforts.
If President MR persists there may arise a situation similar to what President J.R Jayewardene faced in 1987/88 from the JVP. He was specially anointed as the Protector of the Buddhists by the two Mahanayakes and they are unlikely to be sympathetic to devolution of power.
MR himself would prefer to go down in history living up to his anointment as the Protector of the Sinhala Buddhists and the unifier of the country under Sinhala Buddhist hegemony. What will Modi do? Probably nothing . What will China do ? Vote against UN Sanctions in the Security Council. But bilateral sanctions can always be imposed.