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The American Karanang

O Tempora O mores, (O what times O what habits)

The government ought to congratulate itself on an unintended diplomatic success. Reaching out particularly to Iran and by consolidating further our close relations with China, (which is seen by the US and its new ally India, as an emerging threat to their interests) has resulted in the US doing a karanang with regard to its policy towards Sri Lanka.

The US volte face was in a sense shameless, for she was, not so long ago, hell bent on going for our jugular led by Hillary Clinton, who was ‘batting’ for the LTTE, having received hundreds of thousands of dollars for her campaign to obtain the Democratic nomination. Her instrument was Robert Blake who had a huge axe to grind as his efforts to use US marines to rescue Prabhakaran had been dismissed out of hand by the Rajapaksa government. The US Senate has fortunately now realized that the country’s strategic interests were threatened by its stupid infantile policy towards this  country, which was being pursued by the State Department.

We were hounded and intimidated by the US to stop the war against the LTTE which had been described by its own CIA as the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world. We recall their shameless efforts at the UNSC to put us on the rack, invoke R2P and harm us; they would certainly have succeeded had it not been for China and Russia. Utterly hypocritical concern for human rights in Sri Lanka dominated the relationship with the US in recent years. What was ironical was that her officials such as Blake were preaching to us while at the same time bombing and killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq on a daily basis having invaded Iraq on false pretenses. It is Bush, Cheyenne and Rumsfeld who should be charged for crimes against humanity for the crime they committed there. Their hypocrisy stands exposed.

The stupid policy of the US and her allies in the west resulted in our having to reach out to old friends, which initiative of ours has now been perceived by the US as being inimical to their interests. The US State Department, whose policies have been driven not by principles but by domestic interests, has been compelled to change course because of the intervention of the Legislative branch of their government; but could we forget how the State Department exceeded the directive of the US Congress’ Committee on Appropriation, which called for a report on incidents which amounted to violations of International Human Rights Law and crimes against humanity during the period between January and May 2009, but the State Department led by Clinton and Blake, in their endeavour to inflict maximum damage on our country exceeded their mandate in their report to the Congressional Committee. The State Department’s report said not a word about the atrocities  committed by the LTTE against the Tamil people. No mention was made of the rescue of over two lakhs of civilians who were being used as a human shield.

US policy on Sri Lanka was in fact crafted and articulated by Robert Blake who had a grudge to bear against this government, for he sought to take out Prabhakaran from this country through an operation by the US Marines based in Hawaii. Thanks to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya that failed, and that was a huge disappointment for Blake. After he assumed duties in Washington, one of his first acts was to meet Rudrakumaran and the Tamil Diaspora (his doors were always open to them). He has established a strong link with the Tamil Diaspora, so much so that he had the Diaspora supporting Fonseka, Blake’s choice for President, who has many times over insisted that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese. It was because of the Diaspora’s influence that the TNA supported Fonseka, and he who led the ground operations against the LTTE got more votes than President Rajapaksa in the North.

Blake as a reaction to protests over his honeymooning with the political arm of the LTTE offered to meet a group of Sinhala Lankans merely to claim that he was not taking sides; that of course did not wash with anyone. It would be recalled that before Eastern Provincial Council elections last year he even called on the Election Commissioner to tell him how to do his job. It is when diplomats like Blake overstep their limits, ignoring the bitter lessons of the past, that they are seen as putting their foot into the shoes of the Ugly American. Besides, he was stepping in to meddle in the results of a province, which was transformed from violent tyranny to a democracy. Whatever the shortcomings of the election may be, it stands out as a magnificent triumph for democracy. If further proof is necessary, the prestigious Hindu, hailed it as a victory of ballots over bullets.

I am happy that the Senate woke up to the dangers of the hostile policy towards Sri Lanka which resulted in an alarming deterioration of relations with the US. The policy pursued by the State Department was despite the fact that its policy towards this country endangered its strategic interests in the region. Blake never expected the LTTE to be defeated. That was unimaginable and he probably thought that with the establishment of Eelam Prabhakaran would deliver to them what they seek. With the defeat of the LTTE they had to re-evaluate their policy towards this country. How the US intends to repair the damage done to our valued relationship remains to be seen; but its realization that Lanka sits at the center of the Indian Ocean astride the trade routes from China and Japan to the Middle East and the West is an important first step. The growing importance of the Ocean is particularly because China, with a Navy second only to that of the US, is an emerging super power. Our own close relationship with China is the new factor that would determine US policy towards this country.

Robert D Kaplan the respected foreign analyst, writing in "Foreign Affairs" in April last year on the subject of "21st Century Power Plays in the Indian Ocean" stated

"Already the world’s preeminent energy and trade interstate seaway, the Indian Ocean, will matter even more in the future. One reason is that India and China, major trading partners locked in an uncomfortable embrace, are entering into a dynamic great-power rivalry in these waters—a competition that the United States, although now a declining hegemon, can keep in check by using its navy to act as a sea-based balancer". He also stated "All of China’s and Japan’s energy resources from the Persian Gulf, as the report identifies, transits Sri Lanka and the island has the potential to control or impede the free flow these resources to China, an emerging global power, or to Japan, a strategic partner of the US.

Kaplan also wrote "Furthermore, half of the world’s container traffic passes through Sri Lanka and the island has again, as indicated before, the potential to control or impede the free flow of trade in the Indian Ocean. The island lends itself naturally to be an effective choke point, the control of which provides a strong bargaining platform in global rivalries; shades of Somalia where sea terrorists, often referred to as pirates, directed by some unidentified power, impede shipping in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean".

This is the crux of the matter, the realization of the importance of the Indian Ocean to the US has determined its change of policy towards this country.

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