European Union Declaration on Sri Lanka
By K. Godage
The Council of the Foreign Ministers has issued the following Declaration
This is the second in recent weeks. I shall confine myself to a comment on this
This is about the most shockingly bad Declaration that has ever come out of
the European Union, which has issued no less than statements on the conflict in Sri Lanka.
It is unbelievable in tits naivet and worse is that it is also condescending and
patronizing in the extreme.
Take the first indent for instance-Whilst we appreciate their "deep
concern", it does seem quite patronizing. Who could be more concerned than us, about
the impact of the war on this country. The war has not been of our making, the LTTE has
reneged and stabbed us in the back every time we sought to end it through a cease-fire and
negotiations. What may I ask have they done to close the tap on the LTTE. Prof Peter Chalk
of the University of Brisbane recently wrote "Curbing the LTTEs transnational
network will require concerted international collaboration. LTTEs operations are
global, they necessarily require a global response.
By permitting the LTTE to open offices and establish representation Western countries
have unwittingly blessed the groups political and military agendathe generally
unrestrained liberal democratic freedom that the LTTE has been allowed to enjoy in these
states has enabled the group to slowly buildand develop a complex, multi layered and truly
integrated global support structure which has become increasingly difficult to detect and
What has the EU countries done, but to give the Fascist LTTE succour and permit them to
operate out of their countries? Only recently have they begun to consider making it a
criminal offence to conspire (or do any thing in pursuance of it) to commit any act to
destabilize a foreign country from within their countries . The West has not been serious
in helping this democratic country to counter the insurgency.
The West has no economic interests of any value after the Socialists nationalized every
foreign undertaking in this country-so why should they care. Would Britain have permitted
India to destabilize this country in the early eighties had the Tea Plantations been owned
by British interests? No way.-
The second indent refers to Both parties" they are equating a democratically
elected government with a Fascist terrorist group which is seeking to dismember the
country and which, by their own admissions (shall cite those instances anon) has committed
horrendous atrocities. Where is the commitment to safeguarding Democratic values and Human
Rights that they have enshrined as Article 1 of the Cooperation Agreement between the EU
and Sri Lanka ? Further, Instead of asking the legally instituted government which is
fighting an insurgency to cease hostilities, the EU should have asked the insurgents to
stop making war against the state. What may I ask is the position of Turkey which has
associated itself with this statement? -Are they prepared to cease hostilities against the
PKK? let us not have double standards.
Governments in Colombo have twice been tricked into cease-fires and negotiations by the
LTTE-which had merely wanted to buy time to regroup and attack as subsequent events have
proved. Dr. Stanley Kalpage and I were repeatedly warned by no less a person than Rajiv
Gandhi himself, when the LTTE was negotiating with the Premadasa administration, that the
LTTE was not serious and were only buying time-Premadasa never listened.
It is the LTTE that has consistently sought to win their separate state through the
barrel of a gun-governments have wanted a "peaceful resolution of the
dispute but have been compelled to counter the LTTE militarily.
Indent three: we once again see the same offensive situation, where no distinction is
drawn between the elected democratic government and the fascist secessionists.
Indent four: I find nothing objectionable.
Indent five is absolutely preposterous."The EU regrets the restrictions on civil
liberties." I am certain that every responsible citizen understands why they became
necessary. I hold no brief for the government but as a citizen I am indeed fearful of a
total breakdown of law and order as has happened many time in our recent history. Does the
Council of Minister know of the explosive situation that obtains in this country and the
reasons that have compelled the government to restrict civil liberties in the interest of
public security? What an unbelievably irresponsible statement.
Let us pause to record what our Supreme Court had to say on this matter. The SC in its
judgement stated " Having regard to all circumstances I (Justice Amerasinghe (with
the other two brother judges concurring) am of the view that the restrictions imposed were
not disproportionate of the legitimate aim of the regulation, namely the furtherance of
the interests of national security within the meaning of Article 15(7) of the Constitution
and that a fair balance between competing interests has been struck".
Whilst a censorship on military (bad) news may be justifiable in the circumstances, the
blanket censorship is moronic. As for the restrictions on civil liberties, is it that the
EU is stating that it fears the abuse of these powers and / or are they stating that
repression already exists? They are iof course entitled to their perceptions however
As for the Declarations, I, more than most others in this country-(and that
includes the Diplomatic corps here), am aware of how these statements or
Declarations are processed. I was there when the Office of
European Political Cooperation was first established and worked closely on occasions with
its first Director Ambassador Januzzi. I am fully aware of how the so called "Experts
group functions-I believe it is today referred to as the CCASI. The reports sent by
Embassies/High Comm to their respective Foreign Offices are the sent to their Permanent
Representations in Brussels-and the men or women Desk Officers at the
Perm Representations to the EU, meet and work on a draft prepared by the country holding
the Presidency at that point of time. The statement goes back into the system
and is circulated among the Foreign Ministries and comes back for final formulation, to
the meeting of the experts and then the statement goes to the Council of Ministers.
The present Demarche-throws light on an important factwhat is contained
therein is the common view of the Embassies of EU countries represented in Colombo. They
are of course wholly entitled to their views but it does show that there is a serious
breakdown in communications between our Foreign Ministry and the Political
officers of these Embassies in Colombo. They seem surely to be influenced by the
opponents of the government and the government is losing by default. Perhaps the Minister
having been out of the country, and the three able DGs being in charge of other
work-this situation may have resulted in the Political Officers or the Heads
of Missions not being able to have meaningful consultations with Ministry officials.
"There is no one willing to talk to me" was a complaint once made to me by the
Ambassador of an important country. There are two senior Ambassadors attached to the
Ministry, whose tours were prematurely terminated merely because they reached 60(their
replacement from outside the service had also retired from Service-the SLAS-on reaching
60!brilliant); they could be designated to meet the Ambassadors stationed here
and Ambassadors visiting from Delhi for regular briefings.
WHAT I FIND MOST OFFENSIVE ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR DECLARATION IS THAT THERE IS NO
CONDEMNATION OF THE LTTE. WHAT PRAY DOES THAT MEAN? ON WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY?
The Council of the European Communities issued its first statement on the situation in
Sri Lanka on 25th February 1986. Since then they have issued over ten
Declarations The Declaration issued after the Indian violation of our airspace
in 1987 was most revealing. The countries of the European Community, with their eyes on
big business deals with India, did not condemn Indias violation of our sovereignty
nor the use of force, The EC Council of Ministers merely called upon "all parties to
resolve problems through discussions". They did not have the guts to take on India.
This became most evident when the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament,
scrupulously avoided making any statements on the situation in Sri Lanka, after the
Indians came on the scene and the Accord was signed. After October of 1987, when
hostilities commenced between the IPKF and the LTTE, pro LTTE organizations worked
extremely hard to get the Parliament or the Council of Ministers to condemn what they
claimed were IPKF atrocities but they were unsuccessful. The Community knew on which side
the bread was buttered.
It may be useful for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to address these Ambassadors and
find out what their problem is and where they stand in this conflict. We need to take the
EU seriously. This government has neglected the EU-we transferred our able Ambassador back
without a replacement and the position of Head of Mission to this important station has
been vacant for almost eight months now. What is this message we send out? How do we
expect them to take us seriously?- The EU is the worlds largest trading block. It
our most important trading partner and the EU is in partnership with us -assisting
us in many of our development projects. The European Commission is represented here and I
can state without fear of contradiction that I take great pride in having conducted single
handedly a war with the Commission of the EU, to have them establish this
Our policies seem strange to me. We have for a wholly unbelievable reason established a
Mission in Poland! What in Gods name have we to do with that country?-We are not
represented in Southern Europeour relationship with Portugal is 495 years
old-we do not have a Mission there but we establish a Mission in Poland!
To another related matter, I have been given to understand that there would be a
Resolution coming up before the European Parliament. There is much excitement here in
certain circles about itdespite the fact the European Parliament is at long
last emerging as a player on the European scene-we need not loose much sleep over
this Resolution. This Parliament, though it is a directly elected Parliament
it has very limited powers.
The Resolution relating to the situation bn Sri Lanka would come up under the Agenda
Item Urgencies (about an hour and half of Parliamentary time is allotted at
each Session-Parliament meets once a month for one week in Strasbourgh)-a large number of
resolutions relating to Human Rights, international affairs. major incidents and
catastrophes including natural disasters -would be taken up. The resolution on the
situation in Sri Lanka may get all of five minutes-they are not binding on the Commission
or the Council of Ministers. They help create public opinion and the LTTE will definitely
use any resolution against Sri Lanka for its propaganda purposes. Once again we loose by
default-we do not have an Ambassador in Brussels who could either have headed it off or
had it amended favourably.
The European Parliament has passed no less than twelve Resolutions on the situation in
Sri Lanka over the years, some condemning in unequivocal terms the horrific massacres of
the LTTE. Their interest originally stemmed from the increasing number of so called
refugees from this country. Human Rights violations by the security forces were also
focussed upon. The impact of these Resolutions has been as great as that of a bird
chirruping during a thunderstorm. The European Parliament is essentially a talking
shop where everybody, including the functionairs have a jolly good time
at the expense of the European taxpayer.
As for the Demarche itself and its implications-what may I ask is the role the EU
wishes to play in the settlement of this conflict?
Sri Lanka - God abandoned?
Major Siddharth Chatterjee
(Retd), Sena Medal Ex 10 Para Commando, as part of the IPKF
An ancient Chinese aphorism appropriates the embattled time in Sri Lanka, producing
images conflicting and contradictory. The Yin and the Yang, the passive and active
principles that govern the universe, opposites yet as entwined as Siamese twins. Both
elements- the positive and the negative conspired to drag the events in opposing
directions, but at a heavy cost to a beleaguered nation. The positive being the gallant
stand of the Sri Lankan Army against all odds and the negative being that God and India
have both chosen to abandon them. "Rajiv Gandhi proposed a toast to South Asian
History with the political champagne of Sri Lanka". He wanted to get the Sri Lanka
accord implemented and therefore sent in the IPKF as cannon fodder to represent Mr.
Gandhis desire to be elevated to the pedestal as a world leader of a regional super
The Indian Army returned humiliated and suffered further battering to their self esteem
at the hands of the Tamil politicians of India. This they accepted with quiet and
dignified fortitude. As a young officer I began to question our long held myths about our
indomitably and resilience, as well as our political morality. We returned home to an
uncaring nation, with nearly 1300 dead and over 3000 wounded, and we returned great
respect for the skills of the combat troops of Sri Lanka, an army of limited man power and
resources . We as officers of our Armies have talked and drank at bars together, telling
stories one last time; the stories of the officers mess, of our training in Indian
military institutions, of the jungles of Vavunia and Mullaitivu and the urban landscape of
Jaffna, of the raids and our respective operations, the ordeals and pleasures of careers
spent together in that special fraternity of the uniform and shared danger.
I wish to remind my country men that many a time at our hour of need during precarious
combat situations between the IPKF and the LTTE the Sri Lankan Air Force and the Artillery
came immediately and robustly to our assistance and helping to dramatically reverse
potentially disastrous situations, as well as prompt responses to assist in evacuation of
our casualties from the combat zone, whenever requested .
The Sri Lankan Army deserves all our respect, gratitude and admiration. These are men
who have proved worthy of their calling, and I pray that their fortunes reverse and they
are able to inflict on the Tamil Terrorists(not Tigers, as tigers have honour too), a
final decisive blow, that puts the LTTE in the dust bin of history. It is a period that
calls for strong nerves, single-mindedness (of purpose) and intuitive convictions that
success can still be yours after these reverses. They are men of sterling character, and I
hope they overcome and demolish the LTTE, this organization of pathological tyrants and
India, has today abandoned Sri Lanka, for which there will be a price to pay, the
poetic hand of justice spares none. "Do not forget the secessionist politicians of
Tamil Nadu". A careful analysis of the history of the problems of this beautiful
country can be traced back also to the Machiavellian plots hatched against this island
nation, by Mrs Indira Gandhi and her Tamil allies in Tamil Nadu.
Here we cry blue murder about Pakistans support to Kashmiri militants, and
thousands of our troops have been killed over the years. Each mother, each wife, each
daughter mourns in tormented memory the loss of a loved one and we have felt the pain and
agony of Kargil. Are the mothers, sisters and daughters in Sri Lanka any different? We
have behaved no differently with Sri Lanka, infact by the record of our conniving and
cruel politicians who wasted no effort in creating turmoil in Sri Lanka, we should also be
declared a state that sponsors terrorism.
There is still time to correct the mistakes of history, and possibly redeem ourselves,
honourably. We must stand by the Government and the people of Sri Lanka at this hour of
need, and support them in the fullest measure, even if it means committing our own forces
once again to safe guard the territorial integrity of a nation state, and a member of
SAARC. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Parliament, not to abandon Sri Lanka.
Finally we would do well to remember the words of Longfellow: " Though the wind
mills of the God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small Though with patience he
stands apart waiting, with exactness grinds he all".
irrigation viable in Hambantota District:
Some food for thought
by Dr. N. Senanayake B.Sc
Irrigated agriculture can be considered as one of our ancient cultures. Its unique
features such as designing and durability of systems are praiseworthy even today. In the
ancient past the rain water that fall on to this noble land is never reached its ultimate
destination, the sea, without serving the Sri Lankans either for agriculture and/or for
their domestic use. The ancient civilization had a network of reservoirs overflowing from
one to another and ultimately reaching the sea after serving the mankind. However, in the
recently developed Irrigation projects planners and/or implementers have made enough
mistakes so that the projects are not able to commission hundred percent. Two good
examples could be given. One is the left bank of Uda Walawe Irrigation project where the
land area at the tail end is not receiving the projected results
. The impression of old settlers as to the reason behind this is, that the proposed
course of the (upper part) left main channel was changed subsequently, because of a
politically well-connected businessman was in the danger of splitting his property in to
two sections. Hence he was able to convince the politburo to redirect the channel away
from his property which resulted in the lowering of heading capacity of the lower
reservoirs by about 10-12 feet. The other example is the Kirindi Oya Project, which was
built after destroying a large network of small tanks which was functioning in the area,
and the reservoir cannot be filled to its capacity due to less rainfall on the catchment
area. Here again the project planners illusion by the incorrect data given to them
on rainfall, evapotranspiration etc. at planning stages.
Though we are very conversant in irrigated agriculture we do still make wrong
conclusions probably because of wrong consultations and or political interference.
Irrigation per se is supposed to provide the water requirement of cultivated crops,
replenish the evaporative demand of the exposed surface and the water table, maintain
proper soil structural conditions for deeper and better root development. It also help the
plants for adequate nutrient absorption through releasing the fixed and adsorbed minerals
and bringing them to equilibrium state with the soil solution by the natural forces acting
in the soil. It helps to wash out the excess soil nutrients, which comes up along with the
capillary flow due to evapo-transpiration pull from the exposed soil surfaces. There are
several methods of providing irrigation water to the crop. They could be divided broadly
in to three: surface irrigation, overhead irrigation and sub surface irrigation and each
of these methods in turn can have several application methods.
These methods on the other hand has their own deficiencies and efficiencies. Choosing
the correct method for a particular situation depend on the efficiency factors, source
availability and most importantly the micro environment where it is applied to have a very
efficient application method. For example an overhead irrigation method, namely sprinkler
irrigation cannot be used in an environment where the ambient temperature is very high and
the small water droplets gets evaporated before reaching the soil surface. In the same way
surface flood irrigation may be of little use in a very sandy soil and percolation rate is
very high for which situation a frequent sprinkler irrigation method is more beneficial.
Drip irrigation is one of the available overhead irrigation methods. The salient
feature in this overhead irrigation method is the very high resource use efficiency or
more properly, the water use efficiency and application efficiency. However, the overhead
costs are high in this method and the farmers in the third world countries cannot afford
or very few could effort. Therefore-state intervention is inevitable if one to popularize
this method. In Sri Lanka there appears to be a recent trend in advocating this method of
irrigation and a project proposal is underway to implement it in the Hambantota district.
Further, scientists have predicted scarcity of water in the world not only for the
irrigating purposes but also for domestic use. This could be further aggravated by the
global warming which processes will increase evapo-transpiration demand for water. Hence
this move by any country is commendable in order to use the scarce resource very
In this method of irrigation water which will carry through pipes laid out in the field
is applied to the base of the crop itself with special nozzles which drip the water to the
plant base. Thus the daily requirement of water is given to the plant at a rate less than
the percolation rate though there is still water movement within the soil by mass flow and
water potential gradients acting within the soil mass. In other countries, it is a very
popular method in green houses and in the field, it is always combines with muIching.
However, as any other irrigation method, it also has its limitations on application such
as high capital cost though water application efficiency is very high. Further, it
emphasizes on the water requirement and the transpiration demand of the crop assuming the
evaporation demand in the soil is minimal because of mulching and there is no percolation
loss. Thus in the field it could be used as a supplementary irrigation method with
mulching or in areas where there is a good water balance (inflow/outflow) through out the
year. However, in general, selection of an irrigation method for a particular environment
should be done based on its merits and demerits.
Sri Lanka is an island and the Hambantota is the driest southern district where the
annual rain fall is less than 800 mm per year. Ten year average annual rainfall is 1139
m.m. It lies within the 30 m MSL contour which also refer to as the coastal plain.
Therefore, the water table in the area is also fairly high (close to the root zone) and
invariably salty due to the sea water around. Being in the coastal belt the area also
affected by the high tide and low tide all-round the year. With the global warming there
is also a possibility of rising mean sea level which could aggravate the situation further
in the near future. Further the ambient temperature is also high in the area (32.3OC) as a
result of which the evapo-transpiration demand is high. Figure below gives the comparison
of the water inflow/outflow over the year (ten year averages at RARDC, Angunukolapalessa).
The figure shows that the monthly rainfall will exceeds the evapo-transpiration demand
only in three months (one month very marginal) of the year and in nine months of the year
there is a deficit of water, which will be countered by the water available in the lower
soil layers (water table), if no irrigation is provided. Water in the lower soil layers
moves upward through capillary movement due to the transpiration pull which invariably
carry the soluble salts and deposits in upper soil layers as the water gets evaporated
from the soil surface.
This upward movement of the salts could be washed down only during two months of the
year. Another important yearly phenomenon in the area is the salt influx which will carry
to the land mass by the land-ward wind movement during the day. Further if one
to study the soil types available in the district, specially in the major irrigation
project Kirindi Oya Irrigation Project, the low humic gley soils found in the moderately
flat lands or bottom lands which drain the peneplained land surface are characteristically
greyish in colour and the sub soil consist of calcium carbonate concretions 2 to 3 feet
below the soil surface. The Siyambala series of this soil group has been also identified
as solodized solonetz and is generally unsuitable for most type of cultivation. This soil
types are therefore threatening as there is a possibility of developing salty conditions,
if no adequate irrigation is carried out to bring down the calcium carbonate that moves up
to the upper layers. Thus, crop intensification in the area should go hand in hand with
adequate irrigation facilities also.
The table below also shows the other important climatic parameters, which have their
effects by increasing the evapo-transpiration, demand, thus, depleting the water
availability and hence the water balance in the area as a whole. The high wind velocities
in the area, during the yala or dry season are popularly known as the kachchan
winds because of its dryness. Hence, the drip irrigation per se has to be carried
out at a high rate of application especially in the dry season.
Recommending drip irrigation in the field in the Hambantota district is risky and
therefore should practice much more cautiously as there can be detrimental and suicidal
results in the long run. It may be lucrative in the short run but with the changes that
could occur in the soil catena over time; salinity and/or alkalinity could even lead to
the abandoning of the whole land mass from agriculture.
If one to use drip irrigation in the area it should be done with some sort of mulching
to curtail the salt movement upwards which practice is going to be very expensive and/or
the mulching materials are unavailable. Otherwise, the salts in the lower layers of the
soil will move up and their deposit in upper layers near the root zone could results in
the development of salinity/ alkalinity. This may not happen in two- three years and will
take still a greater period of time depending upon the microclimatic conditions; high
temperature, high wind velocity etc. in the area. Add to this problem is that in Sri Lanka
we do not have research data on drip irrigation and also the salt movement within the soil
catena for any part of the country. Hence the decisions were to be taken haphazardly
through trial and error which may not be conducive for a high cost involved project
(The author is the former Deputy Director (Research) at RARDC,
On the way to Buddha Bhoomi
by Bandula M. Abeyewardene
On March 27, 2000 I was blessed with the opportunity to embark on my
pilgrimage to Buddha Bhoomi in India, a fulfillment of a sacred dream I had been nursing
over the years. As the Sri Lankan airbus UL 191 descended on the New Delhi international
airport, it warmed the cockles of my heart no end. Among the important places of tourist
interest the tour party was fortunate enough to visit was the sprawling and imposing
Indian legislature, the Indian Gate and the museums depicting the lives and times of
perhaps the greatest Indian that ever lived excluding Bodhisatva Siddharta, the most
venerated demi-god Mahatma Gandhi and of Indira Gandhi, that indomitable Indian Prime
Minister whom the Indians adored.
A brilliant Indian sculptors work portrays the entire life of Ghandiji, spanning
his early childhood to his ultimate assassination by a religious fanatic. But the
highwatermark of this inimitable masterpiece of sculptural excellence reflected in the
scenes where the Mahatma fought the might of the imperialist big wigs to win independence
for India. Visitors were highly impressed with what they saw at the Indira Museum. It was
all simplicity and unostentation. It was Indiras Private residence, and her living
room cum study, dining room etc. were symbolic of an all pervading austerity which we do
not usually associate with leaders of countries. Surely the Indians can take pride of the
fact that they ride in vehicles, all made in India. Even in the capital city of Delhi it
was as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack to spot a car which was not Indian
made, again signifying to no small measure, the eschewing of opulence in the almost total
Indian social fabric.
The journey from Delhi to Agra was not in anyway uncomfortable thanks to the luxurious
coach we travelled in. Our hearts sank as we saw the board put up at the periphery of the
vast premises where the Taj Mahal stood. Entrance fee of Rs. 500/- for the foreigners.
Yes, we were indeed foreigners although we did not feel that way, mingling with the rest
of the Asian communities which had converged there. Our irrepressible and determined tour
leader working in harness with an expert Indian guide, summoning all the ingenuity at
their command, conducted us through the entrance gate to this wonderful spectacle built in
the name of eternal love, disguised as Indian citizens. The modus operandi to see the Red
Fort too was the same and everybody was happy, not excluding our foxy Indian guide, who
pocketed a cool 350 rupees for his trouble. The hawker invasion in Agra was something we
had never encountered before. It was at the Delhi Bazaar that we learnt our first lessons
in bargaining and honed this art and skill to our advantage wherever we stopped to do our
marketing. The persistence of the hawkers was unbelievable for they would even follow you
for the better part of a quarter mile to sell their wares. Correctly guessing that the
tour party was from Sri Lanka, they hawked the names of Jayasuriya Atapattu and
Ranatunga to inveigle us into purchasing their little knick-knacks.
From Agra it was a nearly 12 hour journey to Lucknow the capital city of Uttar Pradesh
and then to Kushinagar, Sravasti, Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodh Gaya . For the first- timers to
these parts of India it was a revelation to behold and have a passing glimpse of life in
the above-mentioned parts of India. It soon became evident to all of us that here was
where the poorest of the poor in India lived. Shacks and hovels seen in abundance
signalled the all pervading poverty. It was a common sight to see both cattle and goats
living cheek by jowl with humans. We were intrigued by the conical shaped stacks of straw
mixed with cowdung kept out to dry to be used for cooking meals during rainy days. Boys in
their early teens employed in various trades and also earning their own income kept us
wondering if these children had ever seen the inside of a classroom. However, we spotted a
few schools in these parts. One of them imparting education to primary class children by
the roadside covered in a virtual dustbowl resembled a compartmentalized row of shops.
I believe almost the whole of India including its most indigent areas can justifiably
boast the grand strides made in the sphere of transport. There was the common Bajaj
trishaw, but other contrivances like the bigger version of the tri-shaw, camel drawn
spacious carts comprised the bulk of passenger transport . It was mind-boggling to see the
smaller version of the Bajaj carrying as many as 9 passengers and the bigger one an
unbelievable 20 adults precariously packed to sardine standards. We saw open trucks loaded
with sand on the top of which were seated men, women and children. Even in the few buses
we saw in areas where mainly the poor lived, had specially carved out seats
on the roofs where the passengers rode sans any qualms or embarrassment. But all my life
the largest fleet of lorries ever seen was in the States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They
were carrying lorry loads of goods produced in the country from one State to another. A
rare traffic jam caused due to an accident made us stay put inside the bus for nearly 10
hours! Thousands upon thousands of lorries remained stationary on either side of the
road-four deep. Buses too were aplenty in cities such as Delhi, Agra and Patna. Despite
the heavy movement of traffic what puzzled us was why the traffic cops of India have not
found it important for motor cyclists and pillion riders to wear helmets. Yes, helmets
were conspicuous by their absence.
A fellow female pilgrims pertinent observation was if I had set my eyes upon more
than just a handful of young girls and young women in the countryside. True enough, it
dawned on me. It may be that these young women were shunning the limelight with their
older mothers and grandmas ever prepared to take up the outside chores.
From Sravasti it was a long journey to Sonauli a town sandwiched between the Indian and
the Nepali borders. As we approached a bridge on our way to Sonauli our driver got off the
bus to pay what is called a Toll tax of Rs. 30/- which took us Sri Lankans by surprise .
But the Tax was Rs. 70/- before using the 5 1/2 km bridge over river Ganges. Crossing the
border to Nepal was not as easy as we had thought, having paid a staggering Visa fee of
Rs. 2200/- each. We noticed that our driver was in apparent discomfort accosted
intermittently by police and Immigration Officials demanding certain mysterious payments.
However our tour leader with his extra sensory cunning and artifice succeeded in getting
the gerrymandering officials to cough up every rupee fleeced.
Our post-pilgrimage journey commenced from Gorakpur railway station to Chennai. Our
tour organizer apologised profusely for his egregious blunder when assuring us that the
train journey was going to be of only 1 1/2 days whereas we later realized it was going to
be a tedious 02 1/2 days. However, we soon came to terms with this shocking predicament.
To the first comers to Chennai, the sprawling city itself with huge shopping malls, its
evident opulence and sophistication, fashionable shoppers, ubiquitous restaurants serving
South Indian fare which tickles the Sri Lankan palate, the multiplicity of transport
facilities and above all the near dismantling of the language barrier we had experienced
earlier, presented a rosier picture of Chennai which was actually beyond their
But the writers crowning moment of ecstasy was the ride in the Ambassador
Indias pride in her motor car industry, the unostentatious and simple vehicle built
by the Indians for the Indians, including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers et al.
Finally, all of us who were fortunate enough to visit Buddha Bhoomi have nothing but
praise and bagfuls of gratitude to the gallant pilot of our luxury coach Mr.
Varma, who drove us safely for the better part of 3000 Kms all by himself!.
in South Asia: The road ahead Part II
Remarks of the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs,
Thomas R. Pickering, at John Hopkins on US Policy in South Asia
(Continued from yesterday)
Those ties were further limited by Pakistans pursuit of
generally poor and protectionist economic policies, aggravated by widespread corruption,
which sharply reduced the scope for bilateral cooperation in trade or investment, as it
has also elsewhere in the region.
Most recently, we have been greatly concerned by Pakistans support both for the
Taliban in Afghanistan, in whose territory the now notorious Usama bin Laden finds
shelter, and for militant groups that are escalating violence in Kashmir. Finally, of
course, there is the serious departure from democracy caused by the October 12 military
takeover last year.
All these concerns, I must emphasize, do not argue for walking away from our
longstanding ties with Pakistan.
Quite the opposite; they make continued high- level engagement all the more urgent.
It is in this context of historical friendship, current concerns, and desire to keep
open lines of communication now and in the future that the President decided to include
Pakistan on his visit last month and that we continue our contacts and work with Pakistan.
Let me touch on five issues where a very brief look ahead at our agenda with Pakistan
is in order: nonproliferation, narcotics, democracy, economic reform, and terrorism.
On non proliferation, I have already outlined both our main objectives, and our main
means for pursuing them.
I would just add that several leading Pakistanis have publicly pointed out that signing
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would promote Pakistans own security interests
and, as the President said in Islamabad, "the whole world will rally
around" Pakistan if it does exactly that.
In Pakistans long competition with India, this would be a striking first step. It
could turn the competition from a downward spiral of malevolence to an upward one of
The President and Musharraf agreed, in this context, to reinvigorate our security and
In that regard, we look forward to Strobe Talbott and Foreign Minister Sattar meeting
In the counternarcotics field, we applaud Pakistans progress toward eliminating
poppy cultivation and look forward to enhanced cooperation. With the impact Afghan opium
and heroin have on Pakistan itself, certainly this is an area where we urge Pakistan to
encourage the Taliban to take action.
So too, we urge our friends in Pakistan to continue to do all they can to deal with the
scourge of terrorism in their own country, in and from Afghanistan under the Taliban, and
wherever else they can help.
On the issue of Pakistans return to democracy, we welcome General
Musharrafs announcement that local elections will be held by next year. We also
believe that his pledge this week to protect human rights for all Pakistanis, and in that
context to prevent or prosecute so-called "honor killings" of women, is another
initial step in the right direction that we hope others in the region will emulate.
We very much hope also to see more.
Pakistan needs restoration of freedom of association and assembly and an impartial
In particular, we urge General Musharraf to move quickly toward a clear road map for a
real rebirth of democracy, including fully functioning political parties and a free and
fair national election at the earliest possible date.
In the economic sphere, we are encouraged by Pakistans apparent intention, at
long last, to reform its policies and institutions, work to root out corruption, and
resolve international commercial disputes.
Here again, as we look toward the future; actions as always will speak much louder than
I believe that Pakistan has a last chance to save itself from economic stagnation, or
If it makes the right moves in this area, we and the international economic community
will be prepared to lend appropriate support in offering its people prospects for a better
President Clintons televised address to the people of Pakistan during his visit
addressed many troubling concerns in our relations, including the view of some that U.S.
policy in South Asia and elsewhere is anti-Muslim.
On the contrary, the President affirmed the major examples of solidarity with Muslim
populations in key regions of the world.
He personally "stood with the people of Bosnia and Kosovo, who were brutalized
because of their Muslim faith."
He has "been privileged to speak with Palestinians at their National Council in
He has "mourned with Jordanians and Moroccans the loss of their brave
At a White House ceremony marking the end of Ramadan this year, the President recalled,
a Muslim imam cited the Koranic message that God created different nations so that we
might learn from each other, not despise each other.
Let me now turn to another country visited by the President: Bangladesh. In less than
thirty years of independence, this nation of more than 120 million people has managed to
transform itself, against great odds, into a model both of a moderate Muslim democracy and
a grass-roots based economic development.
Bangladesh set an example for the entire region on non-proliferation by ratifying the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in March.
The Presidents visit, the first ever to Bangladesh, celebrated these achievements
and, more importantly, set the stage for more.
Follow-up efforts are already underway in several important areas.
As with India, we look forward to working with Bangladesh in launching an international
Community of Democracies effort in Warsaw, Poland, in June. Bangladeshs
participation in this important initiative as well as its own free and fair
exercise of the right to vote in national elections next year offers yet another
opportunity to support Bangladeshs democracy.
While in Bangladesh, the President met with both Prime Minister Hasina and Opposition
Leader Zia and urged them to avoid the politics of confrontation and to strengthen the
spirit of compromise and cooperation necessary in any democracy.
We also want to work with Bangladesh to develop its economic potential, and a big part
of that means bolstering our increasing trade and investment relationship.
Those ties have grown dramatically in the past several years.
American investment, mostly in the energy sector, will soon approach $1 billion, with
Bangladeshi garment exports to the United States nearing $2 billion a year.
These sectors are economically significant, and in the case of energy, there is the
added potential for the development of regional cooperation.
But it is clear that we can expand beyond these sectors to areas such as
telecommunications, financial services, and infrastructure.
The key will be renewed commitment to economic reform, and cooperation between
investors and the government in keeping the investment pipeline running smoothly and
We want to see Bangladeshs economy thrive, but we also want to work with
Bangladesh as it addresses its many environmental and social challenges.
We have launched a creative "debt for nature" pilot project designed to
preserve the unique tropical forests of the Bangladeshi coast.
We are supporting World Bank efforts to deal with the serious problem of arsenic
contamination of groundwater.
Similarly, we will be working together to extend to additional sectors
Bangladeshs successful efforts to end child labor in its garment export industry,
and to lift people out of poverty with small-scale private enterprise development through
micro-lending, especially to women.
Reviewing the U.S. relationship with these three largest countries of the region just
visited by President Clinton, one can extrapolate several broad themes of our engagement
for the future: economic reform; social development; and integration into the
international mainstream on nonproliferation and peaceful conflict resolution, among
But there is also one overarching issue democracy.
Scholars and diplomats alike are increasingly convinced that democracy is the best
promoter for the greatest measure of progress in all of these other areas as well.
That is why, in preparing the Presidents trip and in looking ahead today, we
attach so much importance to the strength of democracy in both India and Bangladesh, and
to the restoration of civilian, democratic rule in Pakistan.
And that is also at crucial ingredient of our overall approach to this entire region
including development in some of its smaller but still significant states, in which
the future of democracy is among the important interests we pursue.
To take one example, we strongly support the democratically elected government of Sri
Lankas arduous campaign to resist separatist violence, and its bold offer to
negotiate new arrangements for the Tamil minority an the island through peaceful political
While we are disappointed at the continuing violence in the North of the country, we
are encouraged that both the government of President Kumaratunga and the leading
opposition party are coming closer together on a joint approach on autonomy for the
northern and eastern parts of the country, home to most Sri Lankan Tamils.
We offer our support for this approach, while calling upon Sri Lankan government forces
to adopt the strongest measures to prevent civilian casualties and human rights abuses.
We hope that the military reverses suffered by the Sri Lankan government in the Jaffna
peninsula earlier this week will not derail its efforts to settle this dispute on
honorable terms. Another case in point is Nepal.
This country, which this year proudly celebrates its first decade of full democracy,
confronts a violent Maoist insurgency and severe poverty.
We support the governments admirable efforts to stay on the path of democracy and
I would also note that Nepals sense of civic engagement extends well beyond the
countrys borders, as demonstrated by Nepals frequent participation in
peacekeeping operations and in providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of refugees.
At the other end of this spectrum, unfortunately, is Afghanistan.
There have been some small and scattered improvements lately in the Talibans
egregious treatment of women and girls, and we remain open to dialogue with Taliban
representatives on this and all other urgent matters.
On the whole, however, this is a regime which, by its behavior at home and abroad, has
isolated itself from virtually the entire world, and increasingly from its own people.
In the long run, only a representative government that includes all parts of the Afghan
community can bring peace to this tragically tortured land. This will require the
participation not only of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, but also of other Afghans
inside and outside the country.
The United States is encouraged by the efforts of Afghans around the world to
contribute to the search for peace.
We believe Pakistan can exert considerable influence on the Taliban and support its
initiative to find common ground with Iran to work together on a peaceful solution of
Afghanistans civil war.
Unfortunately, we see little movement on either front at this stage and the
international community is, once again, beginning to look at what steps it can take to
address our multitude of concerns in Afghanistan terrorism, narcotics, human
rights, and ending the two-decade long conflict.
The U.N. Security Council, in Resolution 1267 last year, unanimously imposed targeted
sanctions because of the continuing presence in Afghanistan of Usama bin Laden and
terrorist training facilities sanctions that affect only the Taliban and
principally its leader, while providing unimpeded humanitarian access for all the people
Just a few weeks ago, the Security Council prefigured further action if bin Laden is
not brought to account.
And last week, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, by consensus, not only condemned
Taliban policies but also called upon all nations to stop supporting them.
The isolation of Afghanistan will only increase unless steps are taken now to address
the international communitys deep concerns.
To return for a final moment to a broader view of the region, all across South Asia we
see some of the most important challenges of this new century in play.
They range from the universal striving for democracy through the gamut of global
security, technological innovation and economic growth, to environmental and other issues
that will define our interdependence in the coming years.
In some of the largest countries of the region which are also among the largest
in the world the promise of this new era is correspondingly great.
In others, while we currently have great cause for concern, we are determined to
maintain the kind of engagement that offers the best hope of advancing our interests, and
those of a more peaceful and prosperous planet.
The goal is certainly worth the effort: I hope to see a South Asia with no more
conflict, no more fissile material for use in weapons, and no perceived need to test
nuclear weapons; with Kashmiris engaged creatively in a future of peace and prosperity,
working in ways that bring Pakistan and India closer together.
My vision includes prosperity, with a common market and open borders, with local and
Central Asian energy resources available to all and where the militaries work together to
solve regional problems and contribute to world peace rather than to arm and plan for war
against each other.
Late next month, I hope to travel to the region to pursue these and other issues
South Asia is destined to play a growing part on the world stage. American engagement
in the region is sure to increase in intensity in the years ahead.
The active involvement of all of you here today will be an essential element in
ensuring that we conduct this engagement successfully.
We expect, and very much desire, a great future for the region, its people, and its
relationship with the United States.
I deeply appreciate your being here today and your kind attention and I look forward to
your comments and questions on these important issues.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of