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India, China and Sri Lanka: A response to Kuldip Nayar

By Gamini Gunawadane

I have been reading Kuldip Nayar’s feature articles with interest as they generally presented a different view of India. But I was rather perturbed to read his recent article on Sri Lanka. I would wish to express my humble opinion on some of the issues raised by him therein.

Really the ‘cat is out of the bag’ on his actual concern and the message he wanted to convey is clear, in his last sentence. He says "But if Colombo continues to encourage China and Pakistan, India would have to do something to safeguard its interests." What a patronizing statement!

So what is unsaid here is that Sri Lanka being the neighbour, India will choose whom Sri Lanka should associate with and her friends! Ignoring the insult, let me explain the Sri Lankan side of the story. It is not Pakistan or China who created this mess for Sri Lanka by creating the Monster that is Tamil Tiger Movement, by providing them a safe haven, training them and arming them in their formative years, with which Sri Lanka had been struggling with for the last 30 years and finally succeeded in wiping them out by the dint of her own hard work, which caused so much suffering to the Tamils themselves whose welfare he is now mourning over. If not for this short sighted policy, perhaps Rajiv Gandhi may have been still living, who knows?

Although it is conceded that the ultimate success would not have been possible if not for the ‘hands off’ policy by India this time during our final campaign, we know that India did that not for our sake but for its own sake, because the ‘Monster’ they created was becoming a real threat their to security and political stability. Thus, Sri Lanka did a big favour by India, by removing a looming threat to her security and stability when Sri Lanka saved her from a serious impending crisis with no cost to India, for which India should in fact be grateful to Sri Lanka. It reminds me of the famous lion and the mouse story.

Yet, during this difficult campaign, when India was refusing to help us with the weapons we asked for and were trying to tell us which weapons and military devices we should use and not use, it was Pakistan and China who readily helped us all the way. Not content with nurturing the Sri Lankan terrorists, when India denied the Sri Lanka military men admission to their higher Military Training establishments, it was Pakistan who opened theirs readily. Pakistan also co-operated with the Sri Lankan Air Force, exchanging their know-how with us. Incidentally, it was neither China nor Pakistan who nurtured Tamil terrorists in their countries.

It is true that India has helped us in this effort; but it was always in exchange for a bigger deal in return. Nayar says: "New Delhi has also allocated a large sum of money for rehabilitating the Tamils who have suffered during the war." Not only that. India is doing the Northern Railway line, re-developing Palali Airport and obtained a contract to construct a coal powered plant in Trincomalee etc. etc. But look at what they extracted in return. A consular office in Jaffna and Hambantota, of all places. For what? I may ask.

It is common knowledge here that the Jaffna office given unasked, is to serve as a watch post for RAW and to churn up another revolt if the need arises, through the RAW, in time to come. And what is the Hambantota office going to do, other than to serve as a watch post for the RAW, thinking that China is going to have a military base here! Could India be so naïve to imagine that Sri Lanka will entertain such fancy ideas? In Sinhala there is a saying Ahaka yana nai sarama asse daagannawa meaning: "one does not tuck under one’s sarong, cobras that are going away." Our President is quite familiar with all this folklore. He is a man of the soil.

True, China in return have got many mega contracts here. They have given them on very low interest credit. They did not ask us for a pound of flesh, like some others. They did not scrutinize our bank balance and our earning capacity like the World Bank or the IMF. before they released the loan in tranches watching our work and conduct. The Chinese do not try to teach us how we should spend our money and try to brainwash us on how to manage our affairs as they do. In short, they have not impeached our self respect as a nation. They have not tried to influence our way of life. As somebody pointed out, they have even brought their own prostitutes for their work force. So what, as long as they take them back to their next work site?

Besides, is it nothing but proper to reciprocate China in whatever way we could as they have been our unfailing friend with no questions asked when almost the entire Western world was bringing pressure on us during the height of our crisis. And Pakistan who had done all this without asking anything in return, a true friend indeed.

Nayar says in one place: "He (Rajiv Gandhi) even sent an Indian Peace Keeping Force when the Sri Lankan government was in trouble". Oh my foot! This makes the whole of Sri Lanka laugh aloud. J.R. Jayewardene himself must be laughing in his grave! Who put the Sri Lankan government in trouble, may I ask? Who prevented the Sri Lankan forces from dealing the knockout blow to Prabhakaran in July1987, with the ‘Parippu invasion’, may I ask? If not for the unseemly, crude intervention of India on that occasion we would have saved all the lives of several thousands of Sri Lankans lost till 1 ½ years ago, of the many Indian soldiers as well as that of Rajiv Gandhi himself. That was not Pakistan or China. And who do you think Rajiv Gandhi was, to ‘persuade’ Sri Lanka to include an Annexure C in our own Constitution?

Have you heard of any such thing happening anywhere else in the world? Did Sri Lanka ever try to tell India how to solve their Kashmir problem where heinous human rights violations are alleged to be occurring regularly? Have we asked for a war crimes inquiry against India? That is not all. We are still struggling here with the 13th Amendment that Rajiv Gandhi forced on our Constitution, and are left helpless with the Provincial Councils set up here as a result, which has turned out to be a white elephant. And he says : ‘A federal structure is what is needed in Sri Lanka so that the North has a feeling that it is as much part of the country as other areas area+". A federal structure for Sri Lanka which is minutely smaller than the smallest state in India? And that in this age of communication revolution? You must be kidding.

Nayar refers to the Sri Lankan government as "Sinhalese government". A Sinhalese government when several Tamils and Muslims are holding Ministerial positions in our jumbo cabinet. How come?

Mr. Nayar an ex-diplomat of repute in India should know better. If not for the proportional representation system in our constitution, very few of these people would even reached parliament. "….. to persuade Rajapaksa to decentralize power and to have the North to have a say in their own affairs". Who does Nayar think are the government agents in Jaffna, Mannar and Batticaloa are, but Tamils?

So are all the officers in the administrative bureaucracy there, down to the grassroots level. So are the top of the corporate sector in these parts. So, where is the "Sinhalese Government"? Are the structures in the rest of the country any different? So where do we need the advice of Nirupama Rao? It would be a better exercise for her to study the administrative structures here at some depth, to advice her own government.

"This will only confirm their belief that they (Tamils) are second-class citizens". Could Nayar please tell us some instances where the Tamils of this country are made to be "second class citizens"?.

This is a genuine enquiry. As far as we know, there are no situations where Tamils or any other community is made to feel "second class". They have held most of the highest positions in this country and some, even todate. They are entitled to the same fundamental rights that the rest of the people are entitled to under the constitution. They are entitled to all the privileges that the rest of the population is enjoying in this country. True, they have suffered setbacks in these opportunities due to the deprivations caused because of the restrictions imposed by Prabhakaran. From now onwards, there are no obstacles down the road.

As regards the national anthem, is the beautiful Indian national anthem sung in any other language than Bengali? Do the rest of the people in all the other Indian states thereby become second class citizens as a result? At the same time, will the Tamil Diaspora now domiciled in England and Canada feel second class citizens because they cannot sing the national anthems of those countries in Tamil? On the same line of argument, will the Sri Lankan anthem have to be sung in Malay too because there is a Malay minority too here? It seems strange that all these things are being decided for Sri Lanka, by other people quite unsolicited.

That brings me to my last point. If only India and other countries in the rest of the world could leave Sri Lanka alone, to manage her own affairs, much of the problems will be solved. True, we have some problems to solve in the aftermath of the ‘war’. We are settling them slowly one by one of our own time. These are not things that could be rushed through, to please others. We have confidence in Rajapaksa to deliver the goods, despite the motley crowd that he has to manage with; he does make mistakes, for he is human. But he has made fewer mistakes than most leaders we have had.

To wind up, let me say this to Kuldip Nayar to be conveyed to the Indian high command, Rahul Gandhi inclusive. Sri Lanka has not gone insane, to be doing things that would jeopardize the interests and fears of India, our closest neighbour. No sane government would do that. For, to do so will be to the ultimate detriment of our country. We are not such fools.

But by unnecessarily bullying and pushing Sri Lanka with condescension, India will only push Sri Lanka more and more into the lap of China, which we do not fancy either. However, a country needs many friends. For, when pushed and bullied by another, there has to be a way out.

Therefore, please understand us in a realistic perspective and the best that India could do is to leave us alone, while managing the cheap rabid communalism of Tamil Nadu as best as you could


The attitude of India is unbearably patronising while China has helped us without strings attached. In Pakistan and other Non-Aligned countries we have friends who are willing to help when we are in a dfficult situation.
Hence the message to India is that it should foster neighbourly relations without undue intereference in our affairs. We may be small in size but not small in mind. Our politicians too should not rush to import everything including eggs and chicken from India. Better to foster the local industry and stand on our own feet than fatten the coffers of others even if we have to go hungry.

Posted by: SriLankan | January 3, 2011 09:43 PM

"They are entitled to the same fundamental rights that the rest of the people are entitled to under the constitution. They are entitled to all the privileges that the rest of the population is enjoying in this country."

Such arrogant patronising and the people of Tamil Nadu are accused of cheap rabid communalism?? What hypocrisy! It is amazing that we still have people like this author who continue to take a "head buried in the sand" approach to the conflict in Sri Lanka and is not ashamed to put his name to his thinking.

M.D. Nalapat, who wrote "How The West and India are letting Sri Lanka slip into China's orbit" should read this piece to get an understanding of why Sri Lanka will never be part of India's orbit.

Posted by: Kaz | January 3, 2011 10:26 PM

It is very clear that China has ulterior motives detrimental to the sovereignty of SL.

China treats SL like other African countries.

No wonder "China in return have got many mega contracts here. They have given them on very low interest credit. They did not ask us for a pound of flesh, like some others. They did not scrutinize our bank balance and our earning capacity like the World Bank or the IMF. before they released the loan in tranches watching our work and conduct."

China's behaviour in some African countries like Namibia, according to Wikileaks publications, were similar, prior to bargaining for their pound of flesh.

Wikileaks published info that China asked Namibia to give citizenship to 5000 Chinese and derived other benefits with the default of an easy loan.

Interest is often low to China but with default comes the loss of sovereignty and independence.

SL occupied Tamil Eelam. What was sown has to give a harvest. SL becoming a colony of China will be the harvest !!!

Posted by: Justin | January 4, 2011 04:48 AM

This only tells that you have not forgot anything as you have not learn't anything.

The author speaks as though that the Sri Lankan Govt was always right and the sinhalese were always right.

The author speaks as though the Tamils had no reason for grievances and all the grievances were only due to the Prabhakaran.

The author also forgets that the going into the American orbit made India to encourage the LTTE.

Not only that the Sri Lankans were not accomodating the just demands of the Tamils like devolution.

Pillayan also is a Tamil and he says that he has no powers to administer.

It is not enough to have Tamils to rule but to have the powers as well to administer.

He calls India to learn from the administrative models of the Sri Lanka.

In fact he has to learn from India. This author is a joker and the people like him are the curse upon their country.

Posted by: Mahesh | January 4, 2011 07:34 AM

hello gamini who you are kidding?

we heard all these sinhala mahavamsa mindset

stop grovelling and giving pokies to tamils and their friends!

our time will come and we will be more daring this time!

Posted by: chelliah | January 4, 2011 07:40 AM

If being in friendship with China and Pakistan is your sovereign rights how we perceive it and how we respond to it is our own right.

Posted by: Mahesh | January 4, 2011 08:34 AM

Well said Gamini. Fantastic.

Yes we are a sovereign nation. We want help, finance arms and training, not advice. We want India’s assurance when a military plot was looming from our good army commander Sarath Fonseka. We wanted India’s intelligence to track Tiger’s arms ship.

That is all. We are a sovereign nation, our king “Mahinda 11” will look after us.

We should be able to choose who will be our friends. China has a veto vote in UN. Therefore we can use that whenever war crime charges comes up. India will never be admitted to security council.

We are strategic planners. Well done.

Posted by: Ravi | January 4, 2011 11:47 AM

Well said, Gamini.

All we have to say to India is that treat us like adults with respect, the same way India wants other countries to treat her.
We are capable of managing and resolving our own issues.


Posted by: Ravi | January 4, 2011 12:23 PM

Thanks Gamini this is a very good response to Nayar's letter. And the diaspora critics like Kaz,Justin,Mahesh and Chelliah must remember the consistent and the density of population in Srilanka. In Srilanka where more than 75% {majority} are Sinhalese, it is correct to call it Sinhalese government. This is the stark truth which diaspora and indian guys like Kuldip Nayar's cannot digest.

Thanks to Prabakaran's useless war, thousands of tamils migrate and millions of opportunities for many intellectual tamils deprive. Otherwise we can see many doctor's ,lawyer's,administrator's,businessman like in 60's and 70's everywhere in Srilanka.

Posted by: Rana | January 4, 2011 01:57 PM

Instead of making patently false statements, why dont you point to the relevant articles you blithely describe ?
Where in Wikileaks does it say China asked Namibia for citizenship for 5k Chinese in exchange for loans ?
Where is it documented that any country has lost sovereignity by defaulting a Chinese loan ?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 4, 2011 01:58 PM

This author represents the same mindset that has been the cause of all the problems. You have still not learned !!! Totally ignorant.

Posted by: ivar | January 4, 2011 06:01 PM

A brilliant article !

Very well done Gamini. You resonate the sentiments of many of us who read these ludicrous articles that appear from time to time.

However we have also to thank DBSJ for allowing views and opinions, however stupid, to be published.

I totally agree, the authour clearly appears to be drenched with LTTE sentimentality, possibly emanating from Tamil Nadu, who are the REAL CULPRITS behind 'yeverything'

Posted by: Sinhaya | January 4, 2011 06:55 PM

I believe the writer is a former Police DIG. One cannot blame former senior officials trying to catch the eye of the administration in various forms - the impression one gets reading Mr GG's articles in the press in recent times.

Mr GG appears to make Nayar's article like some form of threat to the country. I do not see it that way. Kuldip Nayar is an experienced Columnist held in high regard in India whose articles, written in simple English, on matters of contemporary interest enjoy a wide following. Years ago when he called on a senior Minister very much involved in the resolution of the ethnic issue here, I was invited to be present in the talk and observed Mr Nayar had a good grasp of the matter. My take is Mr Nayar is trying to point out the views from a neutral angle. Note his comments "Tamils, living most in the Northern part of the country, were critical of the LTTE. Prabkaran was not their hero because he brought them misery...." Looks like Mr Nayar has come to the conclusion the East - where the Tamils were also predominant until recently - is out of his reckoning due to engineered and State-aided Colonisation where Tamils are now rendered into a virtual insignificant minority there. It is widely known some form of Referendum may be forced in the East soon to set right the records that part of the country is also pre-dominantly Sinhalase now that the census statistics are taken care of for the purpose.

What Mr Nayar proceeds to suggest is what the entire international community - and India - have felt is the way out of our impasse. He adds "A Federal structure is what is needed in Sri Lanka so that the North (sic) has a feeling it is much part of the country as others are" What he continues to say can be twisted also as a threat to a mischievously inclined mind "New Delhi may also be faced to stand by them (Tamilnadu) because of domestic political compulsions" The problem Mr GG will recognise is while many here may agree this appears to be the formulae for a settlement, we have created a fearful bogey out of the word "Federalism"
for over 50 years and that is deeply ingrained in the Sinhala psyche in demonic terms. I might add that Mr Nayar has not advanced the cause of Eelam and his comments are based on an undivided country. His credentials in the issue may also be viewed from the incidence where he refused to see LTTEs Kittu when
Nayar was Indian HC in the UK.


Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | January 5, 2011 12:25 AM

I welcome people like you and also many many more Rajapaksas. I am definite, that you people will give enough motivation to Tamil youths to join a future Tamil militancy probably a guerrilla movement. The world will not blame us Tamils this time, when we take up arms again SOON and start the next war. The world will soon know who the real terrorists were. I doubt, if there is even one Sinhalees who is really educated and having conscience.

Posted by: afool | January 5, 2011 12:49 PM

hello gamini

we the tamils will never ever intergrate with the sinhalese at any cost

because the atrocities you have done to us since indeprndence and the way

you behave will never ever pave the way for the tamils to accept you as fair minded human beings.

you may ride high at the moment but our time will come .

we are financially very strong and our language and culture is way ahead of yours!

if you guys think that we follow you and your custom you are living in the cockoo-land.

if you want to follow our custom and tradition and the great language ypu are

very welcome.

we will never follow you- if that is the case that will be on the diasporas dead body!

Posted by: chelliah | January 5, 2011 02:14 PM

"I welcome people like you and also many many more Rajapaksas. I am definite, that you people will give enough motivation to Tamil youths to join a future Tamil militancy probably a guerrilla movement. The world will not blame us Tamils this time, when we take up arms again SOON and start the next war. The world will soon know who the real terrorists were. I doubt, if there is even one Sinhalees who is really educated and having conscience."

And you and your ilk will still be here posting rubbish from your ghettos in the London and Toronto while "we" start another war in Sri Lanka and end up being decimated over another 30 years. It's the 'diaspora way'!

Posted by: Thambi | January 8, 2011 07:03 PM

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