by Victor Cherubim
( May 16, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Prime Minister Modi in his address during his recent visit to Sri Lanka at the UN Vesak Day Celebrations stated: “whether it is on land or in the waters of the Indian Ocean, the security of our societies is indivisible”
UPFP MP Udaya Gammanpila echoed the silent sentiments of many in Sri Lanka and questioned Modi’s authority to make such decisions for Sri Lanka. He is quoted in the press as stating: “that his speech and actions only confirmed that Modi has partially acquired Sri Lanka as a province of India”. He went further and said “Modi indirectly says that our actions affect the security of India, and therefore we cannot do as we please. Is this not a threat towards our independence?”
The Hanuma Bridge has not even been conceived, or is there a blueprint for construction, in circulation? But rightly or wrongly, it is already a bone of contention.
The fear psychosis
What Modi said and what perhaps, he meant, may have been taken out of context. But if there is a fear that Sri Lanka is at risk to be swallowed by India, then it is a sad day that our High Commissioner in New Delhi did not raise this concern before the official invitation or even after as Mr. Modi could have done “due diligence.”
On the other hand, if Mr.Modi wanted to raise the issue of making Sri Lanka, a sovereign state as an appendage of India, at the whim and fancy of a more powerful and larger neighbour, the matter could have either been treated with derision or diplomatically handled.
Let us imagine for argument that Sri Lanka could be added as the 30th State of the Republic of India at some distant future, what action are we talking in Sri Lanka to safeguard our integrity, our independence? The viable solution to this vexed question is that we in Sri Lanka have preserved our sovereignty and our freedom as a small island in the Indian Ocean over 2500 years or more and we are able to defend ourselves as we have done one way or another in the past. Shall we say, “have no fear Ravanna is here, or better still, our Mahinda is here?”
For a moment, may we also consider why would India want to be saddled with Sri Lanka, with all the “hum drum” of our varied activities and problems with added burden of debt? Is India so desperate to acquire Sri Lanka now or later?
The new world order
Whilst the world is witnessing a new phenomenon of isolationism, protectionism, “America First”, or “India First”, there appears to be a vacuum which has been created and is being filled by mutual cooperation, globalism and international understanding among nations.
We see this in the role Sri Lanka is playing as a friend of both India and China, not through default, but through necessity. As a result it is able to talk to both China and India on equal terms, without aspersions, but openly.
Who knows why Modi came to Sri Lanka days before the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) in Beijing?
Could Sri Lanka have acted as an honest broker to diplomatically sound Beijing about the $57 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key part of the “New Silk Road”? This corridor runs through disputed Kashmir, which India has quite naturally rebuffed.
Sri Lanka has eyes to see, but will she be heard in Beijing?
What is seen by the outside and what is commented on, is not what is seen diplomatically from the inside?
“Wars begin in the minds of men and it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be built.” This is part of the UN Charter. It is well know but more easily said, than done.
It is not size of a nation or the voice of a people that matters today in global politics. It is quiet diplomacy.
The BRI (Belt & Road Initiative) would see 60% of the global population and around a third of the global GDP which will be linked through a network of Chinese Bank (AIIB) $100 billion fund, bank rolled into ports, railways, roads, energy power grids and industrial parks that will make once a camel road, as the new development powerhouse of the 21st Century. The aim of this move is to ward off the thought of conflict in the resolution of national and international dispute and turn to development infrastructure as the new diplomatic tool of survival over the forty or more years of the foreseeable future. Could it be the Marshall Plan of Asia and Africa?