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Do we have an India policy?



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By K Godage
Former Ambassador


I served in Delhi at what was one of the worst times in our history of relations with India, it was when President Premadasa ordered the IPKF out (They had lost over one thousand two hundred men fighting the LTTE) and did a deal with the LTTE. Sri Lanka was fortunate to have Prof. Stanley Kalpage as High Commissioner (I was his Deputy); He was a much respected person because of his background and the manner in which he related to people (We became friends with Rajiv Gandhi, who was then out of office, and saw him many times). In that regard, I am informed by friends in Delhi that our present High Commissioner, who is also an academic and an intellectual, is also most effective (He has apparently done his post graduate studies in India and has a wide circle of friends and former colleagues in high places in the Indian establishment. I presume that we are making good use of him in the country’s interest.

Do we have an India policy? Or are we merely dealing with situations ad hoc? Perhaps, I repeat ‘perhaps’ the only time when we had a consistent ‘India policy’ was under SWRD and Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike ——- Can we forget how India took back almost half a million people of recent Indian descent from our hill country and also withdrew her claim to Katchchtivu? How we related to India after 1978 is a story of absolute disaster.



The price we have paid is enormous and is too well known and sad to recount. Let us at least now have a well thought out long term policy towards India which is now an emerging superpower, and not merely because of that but because we share so much with India, she is indeed a blood relative, and it is entirely in our interest to do so .


It is reported that Mrs. Bandaranaike once told Indira Gandhi "Your greatest son is the son is the sun which lights our land"!. It was the late SWRD and Mrs.B who established and developed our post Independence close relationship with India.


I served in Delhi at what was one of the worst times in our history of relations with India, it was when President Premadasa ordered the IPKF out (They had lost over one thousand two hundred men fighting the LTTE) and did a deal with the LTTE. Sri Lanka was fortunate to have Prof. Stanley Kalpage as High Commissioner (I was his Deputy); He was a much respected person because of his background and the manner in which he related to people (We became friends with Rajiv Gandhi, who was then out of office, and saw him many times). In that regard, I am informed by friends in Delhi that our present High Commissioner, who is also an academic and an intellectual, is also most effective (He has apparently done his post graduate studies in India and has a wide circle of friends and former colleagues in high places in the Indian establishment. I presume that we are making good use of him in the country’s interest.


To revert to my period in Delhi the HC and I virtually pleaded with Colombo to have a new Treaty of Peace Friendship and Cooperation with India, and a draft was prepared and sent from Colombo but even we did not think that India would accept it, and we were not surprised that it was rejected. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then, we MUST formulate a long term policy towards India and have as many consulates as possible in the States of India which are bigger than our country and quite a few countries of the world. I have written many times suggesting that we have consulates in all the States of South India in our interest, but I have not been able to get through to the policy makers. We must remove the one problem which we have created for the governments in Delhi, (which are invariably coalitions and depend on State Parties for their majorities in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) by resolving the Tamil issue in our country which has become an BIG ISSUE in Tamil Nadu. I am happy to learn that President Sirisena has appointed a committee headed by Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge to investigate the problems of the people of the north; she is indeed the ideal person for the task for it was she who understood the sufferings of the people of the north and sought extremely hard to end the conflict (She even wrote 47 letters to Prabhakaran seeking to settle the issue). CBK could help to make a reality of the devolution process and remove the irritant and put this problem behind us and in the process consolidate our relationship with India.


The other irritant at present in our relations is the fisheries issue which affects the livelihoods of our fishermen; I expect it to be resolved over time without it affecting our relations with the Indian Union for it is a ‘local issue’.


May I suggest to Minister Samarawera that he put together a team of academics and practitioners and entrust them with the task of formulating an India Policy Plan. Our present HC in Delhi should also be on the panel (Considering todays technology he could ‘participate’ from Delhi). The policy plan should cover all aspects of our relations with India.


India’s paramount consideration is her security and our location in the Indian Ocean becomes an important factor for her; Next comes her intention to become an economic superpower, which she would most definetly be in a decade or two from now or even earlier. For her part India should seek to ensure her security through regional cooperation and play a big brother or sister role and ensure the development of the economies of her smaller neighbours; In this regard she SHOULD base her foreign policy on the Gujral principles and not expect reciprocation at every turn from her smaller neighbours; In this regard I do hope that we can conclude the long overdue SAPTA Agreement bearing this in mind.


To conclude I request the government to enter into a new Indo-Lanka Partnership Agreement which takes cognisance of India’s security concerns and also ensures non interference in our internal affairs and also guarantees the  security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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