By Shenali Waduge
When the majority of Sri Lankan’s however fascinated they are with Hindi movies remain concerned about the prominence given to India in Sri Lanka’s post conflict development that concern should not be ignored. The concern is nothing that India can be upset about. There is a history behind Sri Lankan’s resentment of India’s action. It was the very person who India assisted to reign terror in Sri Lanka that kept India at bay and despite militarily defeating the LTTE we are now faced with a precarious situation that Prabakaran ironically kept away from Sri Lanka. Where are we going wrong?
An Eelam exclusively for Tamils was not in any part of the western or Indian agenda inspite of supporting LTTE. It was the followers and those who believed an Eelam was possible who ended up being fooled and continue to be fooled. This is so because if Eelam was ever the goal, Eelam would have been created (just as Bangladesh was) whether Sri Lanka’s Governments agreed to it or not. Moreover, with President Rajapakse being such an accessible person was there any need for the embarrassing way India exerted pressure on Sri Lanka through the final months of the conflict when in over 30 years numerous Indian Governments seemed to care little about the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils to make similar demands on Prabakaran. Had India been so concerned about Sri Lankan Tamil citizens they should have done something to at least stop LTTE from kidnapping children and making them into child combatants instead of giving a carte blanche for the LTTE to use Tamil Nadu as a safe haven. Yet it was the Sri Lankan President who offered these child combatants a Presidential pardon and reintegrated them into society and reunited them with their families.
What we fail to understand is why an India that nurtured terrorism in Sri Lanka, threatening to invade the island if Sri Lanka’s troops captured Prabakaran (1987), used the existence of terror to highlight its concern over its own security and forced Sri Lanka to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord and amend its constitution to introduce the 13th amendment, merging the North and East of Sri Lanka with the foresight of annexing Sri Lanka if Prabakaran’s eelaam got out of control with external partnerships should be given any stake in Sri Lanka’s post-conflict?
Can our President and our policy makers explain to us the rationale of doling out key economic stakes and nationally important strategic points to India on the excuse that India is helping us with “economic development” when it is blatantly clear India is putting into motion India’s real agenda of annexing Sri Lanka to protect its turf?
We cannot understand how economic development can ever compromise national security? Taking care of national security means nothing other than securing the safety of our island nation and the future of its citizens. The fact that policy makers have ignored this all important area has resulted in a surge in Indian labor (legally and illegally), takeover of private enterprises that are now dominated by Indians, Indian CEOs and key personnel holding important portfolios that ultimately decide the fate of Sri Lanka. Are we geared to handle any situations that are likely to be detrimental to Sri Lanka? As citizens our concern regarding trusting India is such that following the manner India voted against us and influenced other nations to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights sessions we can never stop doubting India’s motives.
Aiming to achieve FDI flow of $3b-$10b is one thing but what is more important is whom we are inviting as investors. No amount of FDI inflow will be beneficial if there is no country to call our own and there is little use in thinking IMF or World Bank can provide answers – their objective is to keep nations in debt and to amass interest payments to give to the developed world!
From $18m FDI flow, India’s FDI reached $126m in 2008. It is believed to be $457m currently. In 2011, 8 out of 9 projects to which Sri Lanka granted approval is estimated to be $168m compared to 2010 when 15 investments brought $72m and 2009 when investment was $77m. From just 10 or less companies during LTTE reign there are over hundreds of Indian companies and single entrepreneurs set up in Sri Lanka whilst others running through Sri Lankan proxy make a larger list.
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While on the surface we can quote FDI flow, India has strategically ironed out its economic takeover of Sri Lanka – India has made a stake in oil, oil exploration, telecommunication, banks, tourism and hotel industry, vehicles and machinery, utilities, renewable energy, plantations, fertilizers, ago-processing, food processing, pharmaceuticals, education and knowledge industries, IT, bio-tech and their interest in real estate has resulted in a $460m proposed Tower in the heart of Colombo with a 99year lease which spells further dangers for our national security. The Tower will be able to watch every vessel coming in and going out, it can overlook our naval establishments and other key stakes – it is perfectly based to completely undermine our security and that surely must spell danger. This together with the interest shown in expanding India’s role in Mannar and Cauvery basins calls us to take a deeper look at the geographical location of Mannar to understand what Indian policy makers have in mind.
On the magnanimous gesture of improving bilateral economic trade, improving job opportunities for ONLY Tamil “victims” India is building homes, schools, vocational training, Sampur thermal power auto components, pharmaceutical industries by creating a Special Economic Zone in Trincomalee. Trincomalee belongs to the Eastern province of Sri Lanka which was liberated far before the North, its ethnic composition leaves Tamils in the minority and this certainly reiterates our previous belief that the very reason why India insisted on the merger of the north and east through the 13th amendment was in order to secure the Trincomalee natural harbor. That interest has been clear since World War 2 when it was leased Trincomalee for oil storage. It is Trincomalee that prompts India’s outsourced local mouthpieces to demand a remerge of north and east through the TNA. It is therefore, beyond our comprehension why we are offering these key security hubs to India on a golden platter and begs to question whether our policy makers are providing proper advice to the President!
We find no fault with Indian policy makers. They are afterall working towards securing the interests of their country’s security as rightfully they should. We need to know what our policy makers are doing to secure Sri Lanka’s national security interests?
India is not naïve not to be aware of the status quo of its own country. Its selfish policies have left its neighbors hating India. India’s politics in its modern context is being steered West not out of popular consensus but because of the Italian influence. It is probably the Indian bureaucracy that is keeping India from seeing the fate of what befell the Soviet Union trapped into a Glasnot and Perestroika. We are well aware that Western diplomacy is all about shaking hands, making deals and conducting parallel programs to adopt limited intervention depending on the scale of their “interest” – thus Obama smiles with Manmohan and Hillary plans dissent with Jayalalitha! The West is using India to one day attack China. Whatever India has done to us we do not want India to be divided.
In Sri Lanka’s case the national security must never be left to the sole decision making of the external affairs ministry! As a unit more concerned about pleasing their counterparts and establishing diplomatic relations it is doubtful that they will have any plan to counter let alone establish ways and mean to protect Sri Lanka or a blueprint to follow to ensure whatever economic stakes we give does not compromise our country or its people. At this crucial juncture it is better that we put all our efforts towards agriculture and take that to the level that it deserves. The future conflicts will be about food and water, food security is the key area that we now need to concentrate on….we should not destroy what we naturally have or hand it over to foreigners.
As things stand we have reason to be alarmed. Those bothered only about the rise in gas prices or vegetables will never know the magnitude of that concern. In reality their voice is just 1% of the population – many of them hardly pay their taxes to the State though ever ready to point fingers.
Unfortunately, we are faced with the scenario of deciding which powerhouse to lean towards. Power politics are such that countries as small and economically drained as Sri Lanka cannot realistically follow a non-aligned approach though ideally we should. It is Asia’s century which means the rise of two powerhouses in India and China. China is gathering its pearls while India has fallen prey to Western promises though it is securing links with South-East Asia. The game of politics is all about securing interests and Sri Lanka is a focal point. A question obviously asked is with whom our allegiance should be. China’s pearls have been established through state-backed programs that have had more give than take. Its associations with Russia and Pakistan have given similar incentives to Sri Lanka. Giving military bases to these is better than a country that is taking over the economy of Sri Lanka. India’s on the other hand has been nothing but take and that take has been strategically planned cohesively to take over areas that hold strategic interest to them with the eventual plan of tying up Sri Lanka for good. Is it so difficult for us to decide where our allegiance should be given that we have little choice to stay single?
We are not asking GOSL to sever ties with India all we say is that a Sri Lankan economy controlled by India offers little benefit to the natives of Sri Lanka!
Our goodwill has been returned only be continued harassment by India – our pilgrims are being attacked, our tourists to India are being attacked and so too are our sportsmen and those undergoing training so much so that finally Sri Lankan Government has taken action with a travel warning. It is now time for the Government to realistically view the dangers of India in Sri Lanka.
The national security of Sri Lanka must take precedence over all decision making.
The views expressed are the author’s own.