04 March 2013

The Indian Resolution and Sri Lankan Resolve

Countries don’t love other countries, they love themselves. No country can find fault with another for pursuing its (that country’s) ‘national interest’. Botswana, then, must do what’s good for Botswana, and Sri Lanka must do what suits Sri Lanka.
So countries have to look for common ground, seek win-win situations or at least secure optimality in bilateral relations. In other words things could boil down to what in common parlance would amount to mutual back-scratching. So in Geneva, a few weeks from now, countries voting on the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka, will not be voting for or against this country. They will be voting on the basis of their individual interest, i.e. what works best for them in terms of how they understand the word ‘best’.
Such political moment help countries being ‘assessed’ themselves assess others in relation to what may be called the Optimization Matrix. Previous votes which passed judgment, then, are in fact exercises which helped Sri Lanka pass judgment in return. Accordingly, Sri Lanka’s relations with individual countries get weighted, friendship-wise. Accordingly, it becomes prudent to stand with those with a better friendship quotient.

There are discernible ‘givens’ here. The USA will not initiate any resolution on any country in South Asia without approval-nod from India. Indeed, it is more likely that the two countries have agreed that India gets the first word and the last in South Asian affair. Last year in Geneva, India is said to have shown ‘friendship’ to Sri Lanka by ‘watering down’ the US resolution. Didn’t fool too many people. ‘Politics’ recommend that the pantomime unfolds to obtain the desired ‘final text’; so one begins with a hard text, makes much show of ‘negotiation’ and ‘compromise’ and get a ‘soft’ text as resolution, which is in fact the document that was considered both expedient and possible in the first place. We are yet to see the theatrics being played out, but we can rest assured that India, having first and last word, will secure the document it desires from Geneva. So much for friendship.

Over the years, two countries have been consistent in their ‘friendship’: Russia and China. China has insisted on two ‘conditions’: don’t recognize the Dalai Lama and don’t recognize Taiwan. Sri Lanka has not been consistent. We were ‘non-aligned-but-leaning-towards’ when it came to Russia, but dumped the Soviet Union for the USA in 1977, snubbing India in the process and adding insult to injury by insulting the Nehru family. We paid and continue to pay.
The USA has not been consistent. It has proclaimed friendship even as its representatives tried to arm-twist the Government to submit to Anton Balasingham’s agenda. Robert O. Blake even tried to save the LTTE’s military leadership right up to the last moments of the war.

The Indian Foreign Minister says ‘Sri Lanka is a sovereign state’ and claims that India has a policy of non-interference, even as it is reported that his Prime Minister has assured Tamil Nadu politicians that India will get Sri Lanka to go with the 13th Amendment, perniciously thrust down the throat of a nearsighted and hapless J.R. Jayewardena in 1987. India trained, funded and armed the LTTE. India thinks it knows best what is best for Sri Lanka. That’s arrogance, not friendship. India is has a clear threat-and-extract form of bilateral relations with Sri Lanka. As for India’s relations with the big powers, it was once an ally of the Soviet Union and now a US proxy, given its yearning for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. As for India’s love for Sri Lanka, all that needs to be noted is that Delhi must (show) love Tamil Nadu more.

So where and with whom should Sri Lanka stand at this juncture? Well, first of all Sri Lanka has to love Sri Lanka. The President (who must love himself, first) and the Government (which must love itself, first) must acknowledge that whatever popularity it enjoys comes from those who are not enthusiastic about power-devolution. India wants power devolved. USA must back India on this.

They talk of LLRC ‘recommendation’ as though the LLRC was some kind of constitutional council. If at all, the matter of devolution (which, in the LLRC Report comes with caveat) must be decided by the representatives and by the people (and here, the Tamil National Alliance is reneging on ‘mechanism’, the PSC set up for the purpose).
Thus, if we talk ‘optimization’, the deck is stacked in favor of Russia and China. The USA and India will play threat-and-extract, but given where Sri Lanka stands, there’s little to lose by calling their bluff. If Sri Lanka loves Sri Lanka and Mahinda Rajapaksa refuses to be masochistic like J.R. Jayewardene, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe were, he would do well to consider these factors when playing the friendship card in the arena of international political economy.