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Geopolitical Reality Of India – 1986 And Today

  • Joint Opposition propaganda drums are beaten claiming that parts of the country are being sold out to foreigners
  • The key to this revival of the fear of Indian imperialism and hegemony lies in the support that New Delhi gave to groups of Tamil terrorists
  • China has been an all-weather friend and has not interfered in Sri Lankan affairs except at the time when it played the role of Godfather to the Rajapaksa regime

by Gamini Weerakoon

Imagine a hypothetical situation of a foreign company signing an agreement with the Sri Lanka government for purchase of all the garbage in the Meetotamulla and Bloemendhal Dumps and shipping it out for power generation abroad.

Going by past reactions of the Joint Opposition and its allied trade unions of today, we can expect violent protests as that which took place at Hambantota when the Yahapalanaya government proposed an agreement to lease out the billion-dollar loss making Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port to China. The Yahapalanaya government was selling out a ‘Jatika Vasthu’, (national treasures) it was claimed.

Hambantota Port: Ships calling at this port are few and far between though it is just a few miles away from the main sea route traversing the West and East Asia

In the hypothetical case of garbage dumps the charge that ‘This government is selling off our national treasures – Jaatika Vasthu - could be well expected. ‘Everyone knows that there is money in garbage. It is a tremendous source of energy, fertiliser and now this government is selling our precious garbage out for a song!’ Such would be the strident cries of the Joint Opposition leaders who would bring out demonstrators to the streets by the thousands, going by what happened at Hambantota.

Prof. G. L. Peiris would in measured academic tones say: They are selling off our family silver.

 

Debt Trap harbour

The Hambantota port and ancillary projects were built with billion dollar loans given by China at high rates of interest to the previous Rajapaksa regime. The incumbent Yahapalanaya government was unable to pay back the colossal loans and interests due to the parlous state of the economy left behind. Ships calling at this port are few and far between though it is just a few miles away from the main sea route traversing the West and East Asia. It had obviously been built not with shipping and commerce in mind but other well- known political objectives.

The total annual revenue earned by the Sri Lanka government is insufficient to pay off the loans and interest incurred and Sri Lanka is now in what economists call a ‘debt trap’.

 

Chinese colony!

The attempt to use the Hambantota as a joint venture project with a Chinese company resulted in agitations and allegations that Hambantota port and its environs were being ’sold off’ to China and the district was becoming a Chinese colony!

The hypothetical analogy of the two dumps being given to a foreign investor was necessitated because in almost every instance where an investment is being proposed – foreign or even local – the Joint Opposition propaganda drums are beaten claiming that parts of the country are being sold out to foreigners.

 

Indian Bogey

Hambantota is being sold off to China, it was claimed. And now the Indian bogey is being raised because the government has signed a memorandum with India which some reports say could result in India operating a major oil storage facility, a LNG plant and piped gas projects using the Oil Tank Farm at Trincomalee left behind by the British. Now, it is the legendary threat of Indian hegemony looming over Sri Lanka with Trincomalee and its environs going under the heel of India.

The Indian bogey of 1986 can easily be resurrected – 70,000 troops of the Indian Peace Keeping Force being brought to Sri Lanka, etc. – and now Indians being given industrial/ commercial facilities is used to remind the Sinhalese of the threat of Indian hegemony of the 1980s.

The key to this revival of the fear of Indian imperialism and hegemony lies in the support that New Delhi gave to groups of Tamil terrorists including the LTTE in the form of finance, training and diplomatic support in the ‘80s. It has the potential of igniting the racist fears and revival of terrorism among Sinhalese which the Rajapaksa regime has been playing upon when in power and at winning the last elections but lost. The claim of the Rajapaksa brothers – Mahinda and Gotabhaya – of being solely responsible in giving leadership for the defeat of the LTTE and the fear of revival of terrorism in the North once again is the underlying dynamic force with which they hope to sway the Sinhala electorate to win the next elections.

 

Comical

To those surviving observers of the political scene in the ‘80s it is not only paradoxical but comical on how some supporters of terrorist groups then who fled to India, lived in exile with the blessings of New Delhi, and materialised in Sri Lanka at the time of the Indian invasion with the leadership of a terrorist group are now warning the Sinhala electorate about ‘Indian hegemony’.

China is a safer country to have a strategic relationship, it is said. True, China has been an all-weather friend and has not interfered in Sri Lankan affairs except at the time when it played the role of Godfather to the Rajapaksa regime.

But amnesia seems to be gripping some of those who wrote about J. R. Jayewardene’s monumental mistake of not taking ‘geopolitical realities into consideration’ and antagonizing India, our immediate neighbour and the ‘regional power’ – the status conferred by them even at that time – now warning us of Indian hegemony.

True, India with its million or more divinities have not always been divine or benign towards its neighbours but can we forget about the ‘geopolitical reality’ of India in the 1980s when in 2017 it is physically reaching for the stars and is a nuclear power?

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