Encircling India: The Pakistan-China-Sri Lanka Alliance!

Encircling India: The Pakistan-China-Sri Lanka Alliance!N.P. Upadhyaya, Kathmandu:

 Nepal’s experience says that Indian jealousy has no limits.

Hardly had the election results declared in Sri Lanka, the bigot Hindu card holder and the forcefully raised Indian foreign minister S. Jay Shankar rushed to greet the newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksha to ensure that the new President may not drift towards

The standard Indian habit is teasing and harassing the smaller neighbors. Nepal is the weakest of it all.

To recall, the Tamil Tigers have had initiated a secessionist movement in the Island nation which was clearly sponsored and funded by the Indian regime.

It was the brain child of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, matured political observers of South Asia opine.

Talking to this scribe at the end of the nineties in Kathmandu Annapurna Hotel, the retired Indian Foreign Secretary late J. N. Dixit had admitted that sending of the Indian Peace Keeping Force-the IPKF to Sri Lanka was India’s Himalayan blunder. This he has also stated in his voluminous book My South Block Years.

To recall, one Navy young man in Colombo most convincingly hit the visiting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

That was the Sri Lankan anger exhibited towards India.

However, the three decades long separatist movement carried by the LTTE men headed by India preferred and encouraged dreaded Vellai Prabhakaran came to an end as back as in 2009.

A press conference was hurriedly summoned in 2009 by Sri Lankan Ambassador Hewage to announce that the LTTE menace has been eliminated from the Sri Lankan landscape once and for all.

The Sri Lankan envoy that evening in Annapurna Hotel was beaming for some understandable reasons. His excitement was real.

The entire credit for the elimination of the dangerous separatists from the political scene goes to the then Sri Lankan top leadership headed by President Mahinda Rajpaksha and his defense secretary Gotabaya Rajpaksha.

Thanks Pakistan and China’s “moral” support that this LTTE menace was wiped out.

Though the Tamil terror came to an abrupt end, however, with the sudden landing of the Indian minister Shankar to Colombo a fortnight ago does hint that the Indian minister was in Sri Lanka to impress upon President Gotabaya to award due attention and special rights to the Tamils of the Indian origin or else the Island nation may have to face the same fate as had been in the past decades.

Despite the Indian pressure at the moment, let’s presume Gotabaya is not bowing to the Indian dictates as the India indoctrinated and trained Nepali leaders have been doing since the early months of 2006.

Some declared Indian stooges have been entertaining the Chinese officials in Kathmandu.

An Indian ploy perhaps. Raw “nexus” against China has suddenly become active with the arrival of Shyam Saran a month back.

However, President Gotabaya assured Minister Shankar during the meet that he would be the President “even of those who did not vote for him” during the just held polls.

The Tamils perhaps do not yet favor Gotabaya as per the “designs” of the Indian regime.

Minister Shankar was quick enough to extend invitation to the new President to visit India and while writing this story, the Sri Lankan President has already visited India where PM Modi requested President Gotabaya to devolve power to the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

President apparently is not in a mood to act as per the Indian preferences.

As was expected and warranted, Pakistan’s foreign minister M. Qureshi was already in Sri Lanka and extended a formal invitation to President Gotabaya to visit Pakistan at his convenience. FM Qureshi by this time has already returned to his home country.

In doing so, Pakistan has taken a timely political step that will balance the South Asian politics in many more ways than one.

Interestingly, Pakistan also was quick enough to congratulate Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his victory, like India, and expressed the hope that the new dispensation in Colombo would reverse some of the earlier decisions vis-à-vis Pakistan ( on Kashmir perhaps) according to people aware of the matter.

PM Khan talked over phone with the new Sri Lankan President immediately after the election results.
To recall, the newly elected Sri Lankan President has obtained his military training in Pakistan.

If and when the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya visits Pakistan, he will do so only to reinforce his political commitment that he will follow a policy of equidistance while dealing with the important neighbors in the region.

This also means that even if Gotabaya visited India first but yet this should not mean that he will ignore China and by extension with Pakistan.

The fact is also that President Gotabaya can’t afford to ignore China for multiple reasons and also recalling Colombo’s ties with Beijing in the past.

In fact, his policy of equidistance means that he will do justice with China as well though he has visited India first under pressure from the known hegemon.

Unsubstantiated rumors have it that the politically strong Rajpaksha brothers prefer China over India for reasons unknown to many political observers but known to those who have specialized on SA politics.

It could be the compulsion of Sri Lanka to counter the Indian hegemony and thus they need Chinese help and have every valid reasons to inch closer to China.

Qureshi has met his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena this Monday in Colombo.

This has then set the tone for the visit of President Gotabaya to Pakistan to be followed by China or vice versa.

Let’s hope that China’s foreign Minister Wang Yi lands in Colombo much the same way the Indian minister landed there close on the heels of the declaration of the Sri Lankan election results.

Minister Wang’s Colombo trip as and when it materializes would send appropriate signals to the places where it should approach.

Needless to say, Indian minister Shankar’s visit to Colombo gets neutralized by the visit of the Pakistani foreign Minister Qureshi who is currently in Sri Lanka for a two day visit.

FM Qureshi’s talks with the Sri Lanka counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena is expected to keep the South Asian politics rolling in a better direction as both favor the revival of the India killed SAARC-the regional organization.

President Gotabaya has already made it clear that he will do all he can in order to revive the SAARC body.

With Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and now Sri Lanka ready for the revival of the dead SAARC, India now can do little to object to the majority of the voice from the regional countries that favor the revitalization of the regional body.

If Nepal is the current Chair then it is the turn of Pakistan to hold the stalled Summit of the SAARC. Pakistan must step up its activities in this regards. He is most welcome in Nepal.

To sum up, Sri Lanka and Pakistan being the two powerful countries of the South Asian region have no other option than to increase their “bilateral understanding” in order to keep not only the region safe but also to counter the Indian highhandedness which has terrified the smaller nations that unfortunately share their borders with the goliath.

This they can do through SAARC and other international organizations for the betterment of the South Asian region.

To sum up, the foreign ministers of Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka should travel in the region and lobby for the revival of the SAARC body and enhancing bilateral ties.

This will send the needed political signals where it is needed most.

Thus Pakistan’s foreign Minister Qureshi’s current trip to Colombo has significant political connotations of sort. Its meaning will have greater meaning when the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visits Sri Lanka and adds to the strength of the Pak-Sri Lanka ties.

FM Qureshi in Colombo talked on Kashmir with the Sri Lankan media. He also briefed the media on regional developments.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoy longstanding and strong bilateral relations.

Issues confronting South Asia in the recent months were discussed when Qureshi met his counterpart in Colombo on Monday.

“FM Qureshi also briefed his Sri Lankan counterpart on the dire situation and human rights crisis” in Jammu and Kashmir”, news sources said.

FM Qureshi on behalf of Pakistan extended invitation to the Sri Lankan President and also to the Prime Minister.

The Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Colombo page reported December 2, sought Pakistan’s assistance to boost bilateral trade and eradicate the drug menace plaguing his country when met Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Shad Mahmood Qureshi on Monday in Colombo.

“Drug trafficking and addiction is a grave evil that my country is confronted with. We wish to seek Pakistan’s assistance to eradicate this menace,” the SL President said.

An expanded Colombo-Islamabad friendship definitely will act like a political deterrent in South Asia, the regional observers hope.

Will these three countries work in this direction? They have to if South Asia is to be kept safe from the malevolent design of the Indian establishment.

China knows it better.

To sum up, the two south Asian neighbors and members of the SAARC body exchanged views on the entire gamut of bilateral relations and matters pertaining to regional and international issues which is a good development for the region.

In addition, the Pak FM Qureshi while meeting Dinesh Gunwerdene said that the two countries having held longstanding trade ties need to reach a higher level of economic cooperation, which at present has not been fully optimized and there is much potential for economic linkages to be strengthened. He highlighted that Sri Lanka is presently not fully utilizing its credit line of USD 200 million with Pakistan and invited Sri Lanka to make use of the opportunity, especially in the animal husbandry area, which would be beneficial for the country.

Minister Gunawardena lauded his appreciation for Pakistan’s partnership in multifaceted cooperation including the steadfast support for the country’s development process.

The Minister stated that this visit is the first to be made of a Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka following the formation of the Cabinet, after the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Minister Gunawardena informed his counterpart that Sri Lanka was committed to continuing the bilateral partnership in all possible areas of cooperation and looked forward to engaging in the fields of tourism and higher education, in addition to the growing bilateral economic partnership.

A great disaster was averted in that the previous Sri Lankan PM Wickremesinghe was so close to India that his attitude towards Pakistan remained damn cold.

Had Sajith Premadasa won the election, it would have been a disaster for Pakistan,” a South Asian diplomatic source said as claimed by the Economic Times dated November 19/19.
The Economic Times further writes that as a young army officer in the early 1970s, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sent to Pakistan for an officers’ training course at a time when Sri Lanka maintained strong relations with Pakistan.

Later, during the war with the LTTE, when he was the defence secretary under his brother Mahinda’s presidency, Pakistan military supported the Sri Lankan army.

To conclude, it may be recalled that during the 1971 unrest that led to the creation of Bangladesh, after India withdrew landing and overflight rights to Pakistan, Sri Lanka granted refueling facilities to Pakistan International Airlines. This very much speaks of the close ties of the two South Asian nations.

That the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has not wasted time become evident in that he has already met with Wu Jianghao, the Special Representative of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“I was pleased to meet with the Special Representative of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mr Wu Jianghao and had cordial discussions on China-LKA relations,” the Sri Lankan President tweeted.

The ground reality is that Sri Lanka’s deep ties with China in recent years is, arguably, a consequence of how the Tamil question played out between Colombo and Delhi.

Successive coalition governments in Delhi from 1989 to 2014, which were dependent on the support of the Tamil parties, struggled to balance the pulls and pressures from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, and Colombo.

Needless to say, Delhi fell between the two stools. Its intervention deeply angered the majority Sinhala community. And the sense of threat from India nudged Sri Lanka to turn to China and Pakistan to balance against its northern neighbor, writes veteran Indian journalist C Raja Mohan in his fresh article December 1/19.

And in fact it was Delhi’s intervention on issues related with the Tamils that Colombo had to make a drift towards Beijing, claim Nepali observers.

This meet with the high Chinese functionary has meaning underneath.

Lastly but importantly, it is no coincidence that President Gotabaya’s inauguration ceremony occurred at an ancient temple built by Sinhalese King Dutugemenu—who is best known for defeating an invading Tamil king from the Chola kingdom.

Has this some meaning underneath? Keep on guessing.

It is time when Delhi will for sure press Colombo to inch closer to it. However, how to balance the ties between a hegemon and a partner in development, China, should be at best be decided by President Gotabaya and his team of seasoned leaders.

Yet for the time being China-Pakistan-Sri Lanka must enhance their ties which could be the desired political deterrent to the India’s regional hegemony in South Asia. What Colombo decides should be final though. Question is: has Colombo the political stamina in keeping Delhi at a comfortable distance sans Beijing or for that matter Pakistan’s help?

String of Pearls: 

For the Road However, the Sri Lankan president’s comments after his meeting with Modi have raised concerns about how the new regime will handle the question of the country’s Tamil minority. Rajapaksa made it clear in an interview to the Hindu that devolving political rights to the Tamil-dominated areas will not be his priority. Rather, he will focus on the regions’ economic development, reports the December 5, 2019.  This hints that Delhi awaits a set back from Colombo. And whether the much publicized String of pearls already in existence?  Or it is in the making? That’s all. 


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