The Sunday Leader

The Indianisation Of A Chinese Rajapaksa

They call it “summer” in Delhi now. It’s no fun to land in Delhi during summer with the temperature blowing over 40 plus 3, 4 or 5 Celsius. When the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa touched ground in Delhi with First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and retinue on Tuesday last, Delhi was surprisingly cool at around 35 degrees Celsius.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa being greeted by State Minister of External Affairs, Preneet Kaur on arrival in India

Yet, Rajapaksa would not have felt so “cool” when State Minister of External Affairs, Preneet Kaur greeted him on the tarmac on behalf of the Indian government. Kaur  is current Maharani of Patiala and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Patiala for the third time. That has not been much qualification to give her a high profile in Delhi politics or in the government. Nor is she, in terms of her office as a State Minister, able to receive a Head of a State.

As Head of State of Sri Lanka and President elect of the Sri Lankan people, the protocol should have had at least a very senior cabinet minister of the Indian Government, if not the External Affairs Minister himself, to receive President Rajapaksa and his delegation, in every sense of good neighbourly diplomacy. They are definitely not hurried, stop gap arrangements, when a head of a state is on an official visit.

India, that often behaves like the “South Asian American” now, has its own way of sending messages. This is one way. The message was simply, plain. India was not happy with what’s happening in post war Sri Lanka and was not going to provide everything the Sri Lankan government wants, the way it wants. But, SL could have assistance the way India provides within its own design.

Delhi also did not want Tamil Nadu fringe politico protesters to stir Tamilean sensitivity over Sri Lankan Tamil people’s misery. Well known LTTE supporters Vaiko, Nedumaran, Thirumavalavan along with the latest entry into Tamilean politics as the “We Thamil” leader, film director Seeman were arrested over “ugly protests” against President Rajapaksa’s visit, but were later released. Tamilean politics in support of the Sri Lankan Tamil people this time cropped up with black flag protests in Bengaluru too. There is a growing pro Tamil sentiment within Karnataka society that shows links with Tamilean politics in TN.

For the first time too in India, some of the mainstream national media that lavishly covered the war against Tamil Tigers, projecting the Rajapaksa regime as heroically fighting “Tiger terrorism”, this time picked up these protests against President Rajapaksa’s visit to India, his first, after being elected for the second term as president. The Indian mainstream media often senses the mood in Delhi, was one explanation for this shift of attitude in the mainstream media.

That explanation was not possible to be assessed on the random and casual coverage President Rajapaksa got on his arrival and stay with small inside reports in print media and extremely short and passing coverage on main TV news. It was a bad coincidence for presidential publicity in India with the Bhopal tragedy hitting headlines and taking up main stories, even after 26 years since it occurred. Fuming anger over very lenient punishment of two year jail terms and bail for appeal for eight indicted persons in a tragedy that reported 15,000 deaths and  badly affected a population of 520,000 people, would surely hit the media full face, ignoring any visiting dignitary.

Douglas in the spotlight

The controversial component of the publicity that nevertheless emerged was grabbed by Minister Douglas Devananda. The prestigious English daily from Delhi, Times of India (TOI) carried a long revealing story that Devananda is a “proclaimed offender” as declared by a Tamil Nadu court of law in 1986. If not for the immunity as a member of the official delegation of President Rajapaksa, he could be arrested by any police constable in any part of India without any further warrant, according to Indian Criminal Procedure Code, explained the report.

Minister Devananda who was approached by TOI and the CNN-IBN Live programme on this issue was reported as saying, he is not liable any more for such legal action as the Indo – SL Accord of 1987 provided amnesty to all Tamil political leaders who were up in arms against the Sri Lankan State. The official position of  Delhi is that Devananda is a minister and a member of the delegation of President Rajapaksa and has the right to visit India. They also say that Devananda is not in any “watch list” that prevents him from entering India.

That, incidentally, was not the legal interpretation of the lawyer P. Pugalenthy, who filed a “Public Interest Litigation” petition in Chennai High Courts, requesting that Devananda be arrested on arrival in India. The Indo-SL Accord is said to have provided amnesty for all those who waged war against the SL State to enter politics in SL and contest elections. Devananda is charged in Tamil Nadu under India’s Criminal Procedure Code for other crimes that has no relevance to the Indo-SL Accord, is the legal understanding in TN. Devananda has three cases pending on murder, attempted murder, rioting, unlawful assembly and then kidnapping of a boy for ransom filed by the Kilpauk police in May 1989, almost two years after the Indo-SL Accord was signed in July 1987, reported TN press.

Despite Minister Devananda’s controversy, President Rajapaksa had many official engagements, meeting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Tamil Nadu Political Delegation sent by Chief Minister Karunanidhi, in addition to the main discussion with delegates led by Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. All these discussions had eventually ended up with the displaced and “camped” Tamil people from the Wanni and resettlement and reconciliation that should happen in Sri Lanka.

Resettlement

Numbers apart, the subject had been the content of the programme for resettlement and the subsequent political solution offered for the Tamil people, by the Rajapaksa regime. Tamil Nadu media reported that discussions with President Rajapaksa was not positive on displaced Tamil people and the resettlement that is being carried out is not very constructive and helpful with no concrete answers on “prisoners of war”, as LTTE cadres in detention are defined in Tamil Nadu.

What is not being discussed in the Indian media nevertheless is the socio political impact of the many agreements that were signed by the two governments, with the two heads of state deliberating and agreeing on mutual cooperation. The Indian government, it is said, would provide a soft loan of one billion US dollars on a 20 year credit line, for infrastructure development including repair and improvement of railway transport and a 500 MW coal power electricity plant in Trincomalee. It is also said that the Indian government would assist in the construction of housing with an additional 250 million US dollars, which is a grant and not a loan.

Taboo subject

The common adjective to these very generous offers is, “especially for North and East”, where collateral damage leading to a massive human tragedy that is now seen by international human rights and UN experts as necessary to be investigated for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, was and is never questioned by the Delhi government.
Meanwhile the much agitated Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was not pressed upon by India says Indian official sources, as that is “not so much about advantages to India, but to Sri Lanka” that unfortunately the Sri Lankan business community is unable to read for their own advantage. It’s not only with CEPA that SL interests are not rightly read.

The agreement to involve a Gujarati based NGO, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in helping “war widows” in SL is one that is being questioned by political circles in Delhi. Their web site introduces the SEWA as a movement that works extensively with unorganised and poor women. Their type of work differ very little from the type of work the Women’s Development Foundation (WDF) in President Rajapaksa’s own Hambantota District do, except in its magnitude, which is possible in India that has crores of such women to work with. Added, is the market that’s available to exploit for product oriented income generating activities. Given the opportunity and funds, SL women NGOs could be much culturally closer to undertake projects for war widows than SEWA. How, in this context that SEWA was chosen for this work and was entered into an agreement by the two governments, is a political riddle to be answered somewhere, some time.

Other agreements

There were other agreements too that could be considered favourable to India more than for Sri Lanka, just now. In the backdrop of Maoist / Naxal attacks in five states including West Bengal and not counting the long standing Jammu and Kashmir, Naga, Manipuri and Assam conflicts, the two heads of state over saw pacts on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters and the transfer of sentenced prisoners as key steps discussed, aimed at boosting “counter-terror” cooperation.

This in fact was a subject taken up at the recently concluded summit of SAARC heads of state in Thimpu. For India that is in the midst of a debate on how to use the military to engage increasing Maoist insurgency, with suggestions that hint at possible replication of the Sri Lankan model with due alterations, the two agreements aimed at boosting “counter terrorism” can not be without far thinking.

All in all, what is taken as relief by Indian nationalism is the push the Indian government gained through all these  seven agreements, to balance off the Chinese presence in Sri Lanka, while also getting Sri Lanka’s pledge that it would support India’s entry into an expanded UN Security Council, where China is already happily using its power of veto.

Trinco for India

Within Sri Lanka, for China’s presence in Hambantota, India will be in Trincomalee, a strategically more important location for India, than the far south. Yet, they have also gained their presence in Hambantota with a Deputy High Commission office, that could give the Indian R&AW a window to the new harbour. With business in the railway transport and energy industry added, India has been rewarded by the Rajapaksa regime for all their covert support during the war against the Tamil Tigers.

Now the question is, how much more could this Rajapaksa regime provide to the Chinese government, if they take all these Indian intrusions as “Indianisation” of Sri Lanka ?

Sri Lanka is surely turning out as a test ground for the two emerging Asian giants to work out their strategic geo political compromises. In the new world that is being fashioned after the global meltdown, neither China nor India can have it their own selfish way, to grow as new giants that would make Asia the epi centre of world capitalism. One cannot swallow the other.  How much and how soon is a different question. They would have to compromise on each others presence in the Asia-Pacific rim. Sri Lanka is again a pilot project for such compromises.

That in fact is the importance of Rajapaksa and also his advantage in bargaining on both sides. He may seem for now as an “Indianised” Chinese Rajapaksa. But so far, he has done that job competently, though he has miffed himself on local politics. He certainly gave into India to get out of India and deserved the stay in Shimla, the luxury retreat of the Colonial Britisher.

16 Comments for “The Indianisation Of A Chinese Rajapaksa”

  1. Appuhamy

    MR is a strategist. He knows what he’s doing. He did what the other past leaders of Sri Lanka couldn’t do – defeat terrorism. As a matter of fact, he achieved what leaders of other countries are still struggling to achieve – victory over terrorism. He has the charisma and personality to win friendship with those nations that matter to his country – and the capability to overcome those who oppose his country. He also managed to get the cream of his opponents to join him in his endeavors for the progress of his country. He also has managed to put his opponents in disarray – who are now without any proper leadership that can unite them again. These are rare characteristics of a true leader – the kind that every nation needs!

    • Lord

      Appuhamy, we all salute MR for defeating terrorism with or without human right violations. But I question your praise that he has dismantle the opposition and taken the key members to join him in pursuit towards the progress of the nation. We are all waiting yet to see after 12 good months any kind of progress that has been implemented to the benefit of the masses. We are aware that all politicians in power build their wealth before they think of doing anything for the country and MR & company are no different. Having said that, if he let go this golden opportunity there is no hope that this country will come out of this poverty stricken era where law & order does not prevail to protect the ordinary masses. We are short memory people and all politicians divert the attention by insulting each other without any progress in development that benefits the country till the next elections. We are never going to be a developed nation until true democracy is put in place, so that police, judiciary and all other law institutions function independently without any discrimination. The politicians are elected by us and we give them authority to manage the country and its wealth. They don’t own anything and we expect them to rule the country with good governance for which they benefit the privileges that come in the process. You guess is good as mine if MR will bring prosperity to our nation!

  2. lankan

    North is for India and the south is for China.
    So the new coutry will be named — CHINDIA

  3. Saro

    MR may feel contentment of placating India on Tamil issue but the fact is ancient history is repeating.
    On that fateful day in the year 1815, darkness of foreign domination descended on Senkadagala, the last bastion of the Sinhala people.

    Then as now, foes from without, traitors from within and intrigues from within and without, all these contributed to the shameful events of 1815. To the British the traitors who betrayed the nation were patriots while the real patriots mourned in silence.

    “The Sinhalese during their long history at no time sank so low as to welcome an invader of their country with magul bera and pavada” (Revolt in the Temple).

    Says Dr. Colvin R. de Silva in his Ceylon under the British Occupation: “It was a repetition of the old and tragic tale. The Kandyans turned with a too facile readiness to the idea to the idea of bringing in the foreigner to settle their domestic differences. The pitcher went once too often to the well. The convenient arbitrator became the permanent master. The Kandyans accomplished their own political doom.”

    With the fall of the Kandyan kingdom ended not only the last vestige of national sovereignty but also the end of a civilization which had endured for nearly 2400 years enemy invasions from near and far.

  4. kumara

    Sri Lanka should be annexed to the Indian Union. This may be the only way to neutrailse the monopoly of Mahinda family in the Sri Lankan regime.

    • Manjula

      This is a story of another traitor, ready to happily sacrifice Sri Lanka for a personal grudge with Rajapaksa. Sri Lanka had similar traitors even in the past, 1815 was one good example as in “Saro”‘s comment above.

  5. Bashir

    Wait till India sets up its Foreign Offices in Jaffna and Hambantota. And will China also not want to set up itsown offices here to have an eye of the Indians who are bisotted about the ‘string of pearls’ tightening round her neck? Will know soon enough. Billions of dollars will then not be enough to get out of the mire!

  6. mano

    It would be nice to call ” SRI CHANDIA”

  7. its not strange,
    “My country wright or wrong,
    if wright to be kept wright,
    if wring to be set wright” (Thomas Paine)

    should we as sri lankans , think of the modern days global politics, we have to agree with MR for his stance on foreign relations.
    India and China are better friends than the bully US and UK (Includin Europe).

    just immagine a forced situation with sanctions and nonsence by the so called international community thru the UN??

    then how you fellows call Sri Lanka “screwed lanka?

    be positive and get out of the couour and party politics that has seen the motherland at todays situation.

  8. rathnayaka

    It will be easy for MR to hand over country to India to rule directly than giving it indireactly

  9. MR should not kiss any Indians,,,they are just crooks all over the world…Chinese are sly ,,,we have to watch them also ,but they are much better than CROOK INDIANS,,,,MR got to watch his steps.

  10. Trinesh Perera

    Totally agree with Appuphamy..I like his political diplomacy to get things done..

  11. Bandu

    Kusal Perera takes liberty to assume rather than reason. When he says, as a paid up journalist, quote “where collateral damage leading to a massive human tragedy that is now ‘seen’ by international human rights and UN experts ” which no body with sanity would or could say.
    I have so far never ” seen” in official documents that those people seen rather than guess/believe.
    This kind of lipservice for the benefit of international anti Sri Lanka elements will not give any credibility to sunken morality of these paid upjournalists and of course will not help sort out any issues Sri Lanka is facing today..

  12. veera purranappu

    I agree with you! MR is a true leader who told Prabakaran to Jump in the sea. The U.K to fly a kite. And he is flying his own flag .

    Great to see an Asian who is winning against all odds. May he continue to be victorious in all his endeavours.

  13. Ranjana

    MR and the family is going for a dictatorship in Sri-lanka and thir affliations will be more with China , as US has some influence with India, moreover with the War Crimes issue coming up the first family will have a lot to answer to, also with TN pressing for justice India will take a back seat , hence he got that kind of treatment on his last visit to India , a state minister to receive him was the snub the entire delegation got. Perhaps it is the first time when a state head visits in official capacity he got this kind of treatment, he deseves it for what he has done for human rights in Sri-Lanka. He is only a big show off in the country, ruling with jungle law

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