• Friday 10th April 2020

Regional Affairs: Is Beijing-Islamabad-Colombo alliance possible?

  • Published on: December 4, 2019

  • By N.P. Upadhyaya

    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 China — the declared enemy of the Indian establishment as coined by former Indian defense minister late George Fernandez.
    Shankar met the President and may have also told him to “reconcile” with the Tamil population while discharging his official duties or else face the music.
    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. Mahinda and Gotabaya are brothers.
    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.
    This means Minister Shankar may think “big” for Colombo if President Gotabaya ignored the Indian requests.
    Is he hinting of the possible emergence of the LTTE again in Sri Lanka?
    President Gotabaya is made up of a different political stuff though, we have been told.
    Let’s presume he is not bowing to the Indian dictates as the India indoctrinated and trained Nepali leaders have been doing since the early months of 2006.
    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.
    Definitely, the President in an oblique manner hinted the visiting Indian national that he would not discourage the Tamils of Indian origin in his upcoming national dealings whom he had decimated keeping in view of the larger ‘security interest’ of the Island nation.
    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.
    Now talking on Sri Lanka again, a Pakistani journalist recently claimed through his Twitter account that “Modi government seems jolted by the recent victory of Gotabaya Rajpaksha in Sri Lankan Presidential elections. The new President is pro-China and has strong ties with Pakistan dating back to his army career when he was trained in Pindi and later graduated from Quetta Staff College”.
    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.
    Nepal PM Oli talked of the need of the SAARC on June 1, 2019.
    Nepal’s Ambassador Nilambar Acharya reiterated the same on June 8, 2019 and the Bhutanese Prime Minister, June 16 spoke on the need for the restoration of the SAARC body much to the discomfort of the Indian establishment.
    If Nepal is the current Chair then it is the turn of Pakistan to hold the stalled Summit of the SAARC.
    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.
    Despite the international pressure, Indian occupation unfortunately in Kashmir continues.
    Finally, China-Pakistan-Sri Lanka trilateral friendship will be the desired political deterrent to the India’s regional hegemony.
    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.
    Needless to say, Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoy close, cordial ties based on mutual trust and understanding. The bilateral relationship is broad-based and multifaceted, covering diverse fields including political, trade, commercial, defense, people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges. High-level visits are a regular feature of Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations, reports the Colombo page December 1, 2019.
    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, informs Outlook December 2/19.
    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. That’s all.


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