[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]ri Lankan regime, committed only to protect and promote majority Singhalese, continues to attack the helpless Tamil fishermen on sea but Lankan-Tamil relations have been very old. The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old with both countries having a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction.
On the positive side, in recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence.
Generally, both countries share a broad understanding on major issues of international interest. In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has helped further cement the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) comprise Sindhis, Borahs, Gujaratis, Memons, Parsis, Malayalis and Telugu speaking persons who have settled down in Sri Lanka (most of them after partition) and are engaged in various business ventures. Though their numbers (10,000 approximately) are much lesser as compared to Indian Origin Tamils (IOTs), they are economically prosperous and are well placed. Each of these communities has their organization which organizes festivals and cultural events. According to unofficial statistics, it is estimated that around 14,000 Indian expatriates are living in Sri Lanka. The IOTs are mostly employed in either tea or rubber plantations in Central, Uva and Sabragamuwa Provinces though the younger generation has been migrating to Colombo in search of employment. A fair number of IOTs living in Colombo are engaged in business. According to Government census figures (2011), the population of IOTs is about 1.6 million.
The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE – Lankan war on Tamils – came to an end in May 2009. During the course of the conflict, interestingly, India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against so-called Tamil terrorist forces- LTTE, though it also conveyed its deep concern at the plight of the mostly Tamil civilian population, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE.
For unknown reasons, Indian government transferred Katchatheevu islet where Indian and Lankan fishermen have been fishing for making livelihoods, to Sri Lankan control, thereby putting Indian interests at bay. Indian Tamil fishermen have been attacked regularly as a major policy of Srilanka. .
Even as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an investment of Rs 12,000 crore to upgrade eight state highways to National Highways in his home state Gujarat as the state would go to polls soon, the Sri Lankan government reportedly shot dead 22-year-old Tamil Indian fisherman was on Monday the 06 March while he was fishing in a mechanized boat near Rameswaram Dhanushkodi at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. One fisherman, K. Britjo, was killed. Another who was injured was awarded in a hospital in Tamil Nadu. The tragedy has ignited tensions in the state but Colombo insisted its Navy was not involved. Sri Lanka says Indians fish on Lankan waters and six fishermen from Thangachimadam in Ramanathapuram district were fishing near the Katchatheevu isle…
Interestingly, Indian government is yet to properly react to Sri Lankan criminal arrogance; ignoring the fact SL killed an Indian on Indian sea. The 22-year-old Indian fisherman was shot dead while he was fishing in a mechanized boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. Local fishermen alleged that he was killed by the Sri Lankan navy while another was injured.
Sri Lanka declined to take responsibility for the murder of a Tamil fisherman. But the Sri Lankan government on Tuesday said that an initial probe report has ruled out its navy’s involvement in the shooting of an Indian fisherman, an issue raised by India with Sri Lanka’s prime minister.
Indian fisherman Bridgo along with others were fishing near the Katchatheevu islet when the Sri Lankan naval personnel arrived at the spot and opened fire, fisheries department officials in Tamil Nadu had said. Bridgo was shot in the neck and died on the spot and another fisherman, Saravanan (22), suffered leg injuries in the firing. Other fishermen who went along with them escaped unhurt and returned to the shore.
Katchatheevu is located in the narrow Palk Straits dividing India and Sri Lanka. The sea near the island is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.
The riots in Sri Lanka were common and one-sided against the Tamils and hence meet the definition of a pogrom. The book also explores into the manifestation of Sinhalese nationalism in the form of anti-Tamil movement in a large-scale pogrom as a result of closely coordinated action of politicians, Buddhist monks, and rural Sinhalese
1958 anti-Tamil pogrom and riots in Ceylon, also known as 58 riots, refer to the first island wide ethnic riots and pogrom to target the minority Tamils in the Dominion of Ceylon after it became an independent country from Britain in 1948. The riots lasted from 22 May until 27 May 1958 although sporadic disturbances happened even after the declaration of emergency on 1 June 1958. The estimates of the murders range based on recovered body count from 300 to 1500. Although most of the victims were Tamils, some majority Sinhalese civilians and their property was also affected both by attacking Sinhalese mobs who attacked those Sinhalese who provided sanctuary to Tamils as well as in retaliatory attacks by Tamil mobs in Batticaloa and Jaffna. As the first full-scale race riot in the country in over forty years, the events of 1958 shattered the trust the communities had in one another and led to further polarization.
Sinhalese gangs attacked Tamil laborers in Polonnaruwa farms. The Tamil laborers in the Polonnaruwa sugar-cane plantation fled when they saw the enemy approaching and hid in the sugar-cane bushes. The Sinhalese mobs however set the sugar cane alight and flushed out the Tamils. As they came out screaming, men, women and children were cut down with home-made swords, grass-cutting knives and katties, or pulped under heavy clubs. Those who fled were clubbed down or hit by machetes. In Hinguarkgoda, rioters ripped open the belly of an eight-month-pregnant woman, and left her to bleed to death. One woman in sheer terror embraced her two children and jumped into a well. It has been estimated that 70 people died the night of 25 May.
As the usual international practice, Sri Lanka used some prominent Tamils work against Tamil interest and to promote Singhalese domination and attacks on Tamil community. Pseudo-patriotism a hallmark of Indian system to deny justice to many sections of populations, has been applied by Lankan government and military to injure and insult Tamils. .
Lankan regime fought a historic war to end rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka mainly because majority Singhalese population looks down upon Indian Tamils as semi-humans who should not enjoy any rights in that island nation.
Rajapaksha used the military excessively against Tamil minority fro demanding equal rights. In decimating Tamils, Colombo sought the support of all major powers and neighboring India whose population is Tamils.
War crimes perpetrated by Sri Lanka could silence Tamils and Indian regime at the same time. But Rajapaksa fell in the general poll that brought a new Singhalese regime in 2015 under Maithripala Sirisena as President, a member of Rajapaksa’s inner circle, who announced “reconciliation” with Tamil community but nothing has happened to that effect as Sirisena also is keen to promote Singhalese domination in the nation. . .
The need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the ethnic issue has been reiterated by India at the highest levels. India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka and which also talks about democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights. Sirisena has not done even single thing to show that he is really keen for any reconciliation.
Political Relations President Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the new President of Sri Lanka in the presidential election held on 8 January, 2015. He succeeded former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Following parliamentary elections on 17 August 2015, Ranil Wickremesinghe, a close ally of Rajapaksha, was reappointed as the Prime Minister by President Sirisena on 21 August 2015.
Notwithstanding Singhalese-Tamil conflict, political relations between India and Lanka have been marked by high-level exchanges of visits at regular intervals. Even after military attacks and even murders of Tamil fishermen by Lankan regime, mutual visits continued even as Indo-Pakistani relations continued to fluctuate on account of Kashmir issue.
Mutual tours as part of betrayal of Tamils
Apparently, both Sri Lanka and India have forged an illicit nexus to target Tamils. India helps Lanka economically while targeting people of Tamil Nadu.
From Sri Lanka, President Sirisena visited India on a four-day starting 15 February 2015. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited India in September 2015, in fact his first overseas visit after being appointed as Prime Minister. President Sirisena and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi also met on the margins of 70th session of UNGA in New York in September 2015 and at the COP21 meeting in Paris in November 2015. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited New Delhi in January 2015 on his first overseas official visit. Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga visited New Delhi in September 2015 to attend the “Samvad-Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness” organized by Vivekananda International Foundation. The Sri Lankan Air Force Commander visited India from 27-31 July 2015.
Earlier, the Sri Lankan Navy Commander visited Goa in May 2015 to participate in the keel laying ceremony of the 2nd Offshore Patrol Vessel being constructed for Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Mr. Karunasena Hettiarachchi led a delegation to India for the 3rd Annual Defence Dialogue which was held in New Delhi in September 2015 at the Defence Secretary level. From India, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka on 13-14 March, 2015. He also travelled to Anuradhapura, Talaimannar, and Jaffna. External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj was in Colombo on 6-7 March to prepare for Prime Minister’s visit. Former President Dr. Abdul Kalam visited Sri Lanka from 25-27 June 2015 to participate in the “International Energy Symposium titled Energy Challenges in the Knowledge Economy”. The then External Affairs Minister of India Shri Salman Khurshid, visited Sri Lanka in October and in November 2013.
BJP’s External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj led a 12-member Parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka from in April 2012 as the then Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Congress party enabled that visit. Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. K. Dhowan visited Sri Lanka on 22-25 November 2015 to participate in the annual International Maritime Conference ‘Galle Dialogue’, while Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag visited Sri Lanka from 29 November – 4 December 2015. Commerce Secretary Shri Rajeev Kher visited Sri Lanka on March 4, 2015 for the third round of Commerce Secretary level interactions. Commercial Relations Sri Lanka has long been a priority destination for direct investment from India. Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading-partner in SAARC.
India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally. Trade between the two countries grew particularly rapidly after the entry into force of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in March 2000. According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade in 2015 amounted to US $ 4.7 billion. Exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2015 were US$ 4.1 billion (up by 2.1%), while exports from Sri Lanka to India were US$ 645 million (up by 3.2%). India is among the top four investors in Sri Lanka with cumulative investments of over US$ 1 billion since 2003. The investments are in diverse areas including petroleum retail, IT, financial services, real estate, telecommunication, hospitality & tourism, banking and food processing (tea & fruit juices), metal industries, tires, cement, glass manufacturing, and infrastructure development (railway, power, water supply).
A number of new investments from Indian companies are in the pipeline or under implementation. Notable among them are proposals of Shree Renuka Sugar to set up a sugar refining plant at Hambantota (US $ 220 million), South City, Kolkota for real estate development in Colombo (US $ 400 million), Tata Housing Slave Island Development project along with Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka (US $ 430 million), ‘Colombo One’ project of ITC Ltd. (ITC has committed an investment of US$ 300 million, augmenting the earlier committed US 140 million). Dabur has already set up a fruit juice manufacturing plant (US$ 17 million) in May 2013. On the other hand, the last few years have also witnessed an increasing trend of Sri Lankan investments into India. Significant examples include Brandix (about US$ 1 billion to set up a garment city in Vishakapatnam), MAS holdings, John Keels, Hayleys, and Aitken Spence (Hotels), apart from other investments in the freight servicing and logistics sector. Developmental Cooperation The conclusion of the armed conflict saw the emergence of a major humanitarian challenge, with nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians housed in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The Government of India put in place a robust programme of assistance to help the IDPs return to normal life as quickly as possible as also consistently advocated the need for them to be resettled to their original habitations as early as possible. India’s immediate humanitarian assistance to IDPs included supply of 250,000 family relief packs, establishment of an emergency medical unit which treated over 50,000 IDPs, supply of over one million roofing sheets, as well as 400,000 bags of cement for constructing temporary housing and provision of 95,000 starter packs of agricultural implements. India also assisted in revival of agricultural and economic activities in areas affected by the conflict.
Persecution of Lankan Tamils and Indian money for Colombo
The main impetus for stepping up of India’s development assistance flowed from the commitments made during the visit of President of Sri Lanka to India during June 2010, when the then Prime Minister of India announced a Development Package for Sri Lanka. This included construction of 50,000 housing units, rehabilitation of the Northern Railway lines, wreck-removal and rehabilitation of the KKS Harbour, establishment of Vocational Training Centres, construction of a Cultural Centre at Jaffna, setting up a 500 MW coal power plant at Sampur, restoration of Thiruketheeswaram Temple, establishing an Agricultural Research Institute in the Northern Province, expanding the scholarship program for Sri Lankan students to pursue their higher studies in India, setting up Centres for English Language Training and providing technical assistance for the National Action Plan for a Trilingual Sri Lanka.
The Housing Project, with an overall commitment of over INR 1372 crore in grants, is the flagship project of Government of India’s assistance to Sri Lanka. It is perhaps the largest such project undertaken by the Government of India overseas.
The first stage of construction of 1,000 houses in the Northern Province was completed in July 2012. The second phase of constructing or repairing 45000 houses in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is being implemented under an innovative owner-driven model, wherein the owner-beneficiaries undertake the construction/repair of their houses themselves and Government of India arranges technical support and financial assistance. This phase was launched on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October 2012 and has made excellent progress since its launch. As on 31 December 2015, a total of 43,800 houses have been completed. During 2015, 13,827 new houses were constructed in the Northern Province, and 2,051 in the Eastern Province.
In addition, 502 damaged houses were repaired in the Northern Province. Only 2,200 houses remain to be constructed or repaired in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, which is expected to be completed during the next few months. The third phase, to construct 4,000 houses in the Central and Uva Provinces through an innovative community-driven approach, will be launched very shortly.
Sri Lanka is one of the major recipients of development credit given by the Government of India. Under a line of credit of $167.4 million, the tsunami-damaged Colombo-Matara rail link has been repaired and upgraded. Another line of credit of $800 million for track laying and supply of rolling stock to support construction of Medawachchiya to Madhu, Madhu to Talaimannar, Omanthai to Pallai, Pallai to Kankesanthurai railway lines and setting up of signaling and telecommunications systems in Northern Sri Lanka is already operational. In October 2014 the Pallai-Jaffna reconstructed railway track and signal system was inaugurated thereby reconnecting Jaffna to Colombo by rail. India also continues to assist a large number of smaller development projects in areas like education, health, transport connectivity, small and medium enterprise development and training in many parts of the country through its grant funding. Cultural Relations The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the Government of India and the Government of Sri Lanka on 29 November, 1977 at New Delhi forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries. The Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo actively promotes awareness of Indian culture by offering classes in Indian music, dance, Hindi and Yoga. High Commission organized an event on 21 June 2015 to celebrate the First International Day of Yoga at the iconic ocean side promenade Galle Face Green. The event was attended by two thousand yoga enthusiasts. Every year, cultural troupes from both countries exchange visits.
Pursuant to an announcement made by the Prime Minister of India during his visit to Sri Lanka, a Festival of India in Sri Lanka was launched in November 2015, with ‘Nrityarupa’, a scintillating dance medley from different parts of India performed in Colombo, Kandy and Galle. The theme of the Festival is “Sangam”: a confluence of cultures of India and Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka commemorated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (SambuddhatvaJayanthi) through joint activities. These included the exposition of Sacred Kapilavastu Relics in Sri Lanka that took place in August – September 2012.
During the exposition, approximately three million Sri Lankans (nearly 15 percent of the total population of Sri Lanka) paid homage to the Sacred Relics. The Indian Gallery at the International Buddhist Museum, Sri Dalada Maligawa, was inaugurated in December 2013. The Gallery highlights the shared heritage and close Buddhist links between India and Sri Lanka. The two Governments jointly celebrated the 150th Anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala in 2014.
The India-Sri Lanka Foundation, set up in December 1998 as an intergovernmental initiative, also aims towards enhancement of scientific, technical, educational and cultural cooperation through civil society exchanges and enhancing contact between the younger generations of the two countries. Education is an important area of cooperation. India now offers about 290 scholarship slots annually to Sri Lankan students. In addition, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme and the Colombo Plan, India offers nearly 200 slots annually to Sri Lankan nationals.
State terrorism and tourism
Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka. Government of India formally launched the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) scheme for Sri Lankan tourists on 14 April 2015. Subsequently, in a goodwill gesture, the visa fee for eTV was sharply reduced. The new eTV fee for Sri Lankan nationals is only US$ 25 (plus bank charges of 2.5%), instead of US$ 60 (plus US$2 bank fee) charged earlier. In 2015, out of the total tourist arrivals, 316,247 were from India constituting 17.58% of the total number of tourist arrival to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan tourists too are among the top ten sources for the Indian tourism market. In 2014, around 200,000 visas were issued by the High Commission and other posts in Sri Lanka to facilitate travel between Indian and Sri Lanka.
Fishermen issue and Indian Community
Sri Lankan government attacks local Tamils as well as those Tamils from India on the sea.
Sri Lanka treats Indian fishermen fishing at Katchatheevu. Given the proximity of the territorial waters of both countries, especially in the Palk Straits and the Gulf of Mannar, incidents of straying of fishermen are common. Both countries have agreed on certain practical arrangements to deal with the issue of bona fide fishermen of either side crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line. Through these arrangements, it has been possible to deal with the issue of detention of fishermen in a humane manner.
Tamils see some apparent secret deal between Indian and Lankan regimes to deal sternly with Tamils and therefore, Indian government allows all atrocities by Lankan military on Indian Tamils. In a civil war earlier, Lankan military committed crimes against humanity by committing genocides of Tamils as part of their goal of holocaust of Tamil population in Lankan Island.
Conspiracy against Tamils?
The new regime in Colombo under Sirisena had declared loudly that it would go for reconciliation but now it has presided over the murder of a Tamil fisherman in Tamil Nadu, breaking all provisions of intentional law.
Is Lankan regime blood thirsty or is it just an isolated tragedy?
When Indian military keeps killing Muslims of occupied Jammu Kashmir it is strange why it is unable to put an end to Lankan arrogance towards Indians. Are Muslims so cheap for Indian regime?
Time is running out for India to make sure seas of Indian Territory are soverign and belong to India.
Sri Lanka fires all shots while India watches the show as a festival firework. Indian deliberately let the Sri Lankan military attack and even kill the Tamil fishermen. When Indian military keeps killing Muslims of occupied Jammu Kashmir it is strange why it is unable to put an end to Lankan arrogance towards Indians. Are Muslims so cheap for Indian regime?
Time is running out for India to make sure seas of Indian Territory are soverign and belong to India. The Modi government has to wake up before Sri Lanka invades Tamil Nadu if they have a hidden plan for that as Tamil people are divided because of the plotters led by Sasikala have divided the ruling AIADMK in order to promote her private interests and control both party and government?
Let the sacrifice of life of fisherman Bridgo resolve the issue of fishing rights of Tamils at Katchatheevu.
The Modi government has to wake up before Sri Lanka invades Tamil Nadu if they have a hidden plan for that?
Perpetual Lankans attacks on defenseless Tamil fishermen on sea are a serious crime committed by the state. India and Lanka must wake up to solve the issue in the best possible manners, preferably through peaceful sincere negations at top level.
Sri Lanka seems to be provoking India for a bloody war.
A war may not necessarily result in peace!
What ails Modi’s relations with its own people and neighbours?
The veneer of “democracy” cloaks “autocratic and hypocritical” style of Modi’s government. Modi first tried every Machiavellian trick to suppress the farmers’ protest movement against the three farms laws. He tied to sow seeds of discord among them by portraying them as “Khalistani” through a multitude f fake social media accounts. He then tested the protester’s patience by letting the movement linger on for a years. He allowed police to beat them mercilessly. Tried to turn the Supreme Court hostile to them. And finally a farmer was mowed down under a vehicle (Lakhimpura incident). About seven hundred farmers including some women lost their lives. But, Modi shrugged off the claim saying their deaths were due to natural causes. He kept insisting that the laws were enacted for farmers’ welfare. And they would repent their repeal. The farmers saw through the ruse and stayed put. The laws were finally withdrawn without any discussion. This gesture strengthened the opposition’s allegation and farmers’ perception that the laws were meant to surreptitiously benefit the crony capitalism (Adanis, Ambanis, et al).
Modi deprived the disputed Jammu and Kashmir of even its nominal statehood without caring a fig for sentiments of the common man or the politicians. He is unwilling to repatriate the Occupied Kashmir widows or wives of so-called militants. Instead of repealing draconian laws, he is killing innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters (Hyderpora encounter being the latest). In 1990s, India’s reign of terror forced large number of Kashmiri natives to cross over into the Azad Kashmir. India launched operation ‘Sadbhavana’ to lure back the refugees. Some refugees even married the Azad Kashmiri nationals. Those who returned mostly wives or divorcees had been suffering immeasurably being without nationality documentation. Indian government could have deported them back to Azad Kashmir. But, India flouted its own promise of rehabilitation and international norms by denying them nationality. Defying restrictions, hundreds of wives protested in Srinagar and held a press conference (November 21, 2021) to highlight their plight. Modi is unwilling to repatriate the widows or wives. Be it observed that Pakistan immediately returns innocent border crossers back to India.
Modi imposed a corrupt friend (Patel) as governor of Lakshadweep (32 square kilometers), a predominantly Muslim archipelago of 36 islands (10 of which are uninhabited). It is sparsely populated with population of 63000, growing at about six per cent against national average of 17 percent.
The governor issued many orders which were perceived as anti-Muslim. For instance, no-one could slaughter a cow without a permit but liquor was allowed in all the islands ostensibly to promote tourism. The government could acquire any piece of land from inhabitants in national interest. The isles are in COVID grip and the people used to airlift the sick to nearby Kerala. The governor ordered that no sick shall be flown out without the governor’s permission. The people interpreted the governor’s move s as an effort to impair their life style and links with Kerala. He wanted to facilitate the isles link with Mangalore (Karnataka). The islanders are convinced that the Centre is trying to depopulate the island and convert into a naval base. Within framework f QUAD, the Modi government wants to strengthen “Chagos-Lakshadweep-Maldives choke”.
India’s volatile North East
At the time of partition, India was in grip of countless insurgencies and separatist movements (Dravidstan, Khalistan, Bodo, Nagas and Mizos). It is still a simmering cauldron. India’s north east was a porous border. Through deceit, coercion, and financial incentives, India mellowed some of the insurgencies. Ambushes and confrontations still take place in some north eastern states. Indian bowed to insurgents’ demands for the creation of new states. And, insurgency leaders became chief ministers! India forgot yesteryear when they used to burn to ashes copies of the Indian constitution and uproot rail tracks. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and East Punjab merged into the Union.” India has become synonymous with a thousand insurgencies waged by mysterious outfits, known only by their acronyms. It has become synonymous with grandiose announcements by successive prime ministers of many thousand crore packages that disappear without trace, leaving a handful of political brokers very rich. And in the Indian bureaucracy, a posting in the Northeast is treated on par with incarceration in Siberia” (Swapan Dasgupta, India’s Siberia, Rediff dated October 2004).
Modi‘s “might is right” style is conspicuous from India’s policies towards her neighbours. India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran (How India sees the World) thinks none of the disputes with Pakistan are intractable. They were almost solved except for lack of political will to sign the final draft deals. To pander to the galleries, India’s home minister Amit Shah roared in Parliament that “Aksai Chin and POK (Azad Kashmir) are part of India. And we would lay down our lives to get them back”.
To topple KP Sharma Oli’s government, Indian embassy in Nepal had been bankrolling corrupt politicians and other members of Nepalese society. Oli was ultimately ousted by Supreme Court of Nepal and appointed the new prime minister until the next elections. Oli
debunked India’s conspiracies during a ceremony to commemorate sixty-ninth anniversary of the Party’s popular leader Madan Bandari. He claimed, `Conspiracies were being plotted against him since the constitutional Nepali map amendment’. No-one thought that a prime minister would be removed from office for printing a map’.
Be it observed that Nepal amended its map when its objections fell flat on India. India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh, went ahead to inaugurate an 80-kilometer-long road connecting the Lipulekh Pass in Nepal with Darchula in Uttarkhand (India). Indian army chief insinuated that Oli was being prodded by China against India.
After being ousted by the Nepalese Supreme court, Oli continued to criticise India’s machinations. Inaugurating the 10th general convention of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) in Chitwan, Oli claimed if his party comes back to power it will “take back the disputed territories such as Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek from India through dialogue”. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory — India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district. (‘Will ‘take back’ Kalapani, Lipulekh from India, If…’ KP Sharma Oli. One India, November 27, 2021).
Indo-Maldivian relations are no longer hunky-dory. They are rather in a state of flux. India reneged on contract to supply a hundred thousand doses of corona virus vaccines to Maldives. So did India despite that fact that it views the current president Solih as pro-India as compared to Yameen the previous president. India withheld supplies thoughMaldives had already paid the cost. In perhaps a tit-for-tat, Maldives banned all Indian tourists including films stars.
Fluid political situation in Maldives
There is a widespread impression in Maldives that India has subjugated the country’s sovereignty through a host of treaties. The present president Solih is perceived as an Indian stooge. People resent granting immunity to Indian forces in Maldives and allowing construction of military infrastructure. The subsurface resentment led to “India out” social media campaign. The Indian High Commission became terrified of the ferocity of the protests. And, it sent a note verbale to the Maldivian government for protection of its staff.
President Solih is up against opposition from within his party. Through a tweet, Nasheed, the former President and at present Parliament Speaker, has highlighted corruption scandals against President Mohamed Solih9 (‘ventilator-import scam). Nasheed tweeted “I see the government colluded in this… I do not want the MDP to stand by a government that steals,” adding that he would ‘not budge’ against attempts to put a lid over the scandal. He alluded to the Health Ministry MVR 34.50 million (US$ 2.2 million) contract to Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators. The Auditor General’s office found out that nearly 90 percent of the contracted amount was paid in advance without any ‘performance guarantee.’ It was found that only 15 of the 75 ventilators were received.
The ruling party’s internal rift portends that it may be ousted in next general elections. Mr. Nasheed is likely to put himself as a presidential candidate. Already, the -ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) could not sweep the municipal elections. It secured 43 percent of all seats, with opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) having won 34.9 percent.
India is not sincere even with Bangladesh. At India-Bangladesh Business Forum, in Delhi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina expressed grief (Oct 4, 2019) on the onion crisis in her country. Hasina taunted, `We are facing crisis on the onion issue. I don’t know why you have banned onion export. Maine cook ko bol diya ab se khana mein pyaaz bandh kardo. (Indian Government had banned export of Onions on September 29).
India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to Bangladesh. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.
In retaliation, Bangladesh’s involved the Chinese in a proposed $300 million project in the downstream of Teesta River.
India claims that Bangladesh is her close strategic and economic friend within its `Look East, neighbour’s-first policy”. But, the history of broken promises indicates that India looks to its own interest. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship.
India backed out of its agreement (December) with Bangladesh to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine.
Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over the responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.
Modi government is insincere not only in dealing with its own people but with also its neighours.
China’s rise in power and India’s rise in fear: Strategic hedging amidst growing threat
India, the nation long being under colonial oppression started its journey of foreign policy with the ideology of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s Non-Alignment; abstaining from taking sides of the bipolar power blocs and securing its newly gained national sovereignty and independence. But soon after, it realised the crux of surviving in the internationally interlinked world that the countries were fast approaching towards. Therefore, in 1971, India joined hands with the Soviet Union in a Treaty of Friendship, but with the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 and the United States emerging as the sole superpower, India felt back into the state of isolation and helplessness.
As the famous saying goes on to say “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, India soon learnt from its mistakes to not put all its might and trust into one entity as concepts such as ‘trust’ and ‘no strings attached’ are non-existent elements of global politics and international relations.
Today, the 21st century is largely seen as an ‘Asian century’, the century where Asia’s burgeoning economy and demographic dividend will make it rise to everyone’s notice and be the talk of the center stage. This is what is envisioned by experts and to no surprise it is what is slowly molding to be the fact; a fact that is greatly favoring the People’s Republic of China.
Despite the pandemic’s birth from Wuhan and the global economic stagnation in 2020, China managed to log 2.3 percent growth for 2020, becoming the only major economy that grew during a year when the virus exacted a devastating global toll (Gerry Shih, 2021). This shows the success rate of the country into turning its far-sighted ‘China Dream’ a reality. It is of no surprise that the rise of China is rampant, aggressive in some instances, strategic and far-sighted into changing the existing world order; posing a threat to the rest of the major power houses today.
India, being the largest rival neighbour to China has a lot at stake, for which it has shifted its foreign policy from hedging for to strategically hedging against the collective threat imposed by China. Contemporary geopolitical and strategic circumstances present a multifaceted challenge to India’s foreign policy, with regards to its neighbourhood, border and the Indian Ocean region, for which incorporating a pragmatic realpolitik approach is the need of the hour.
What balancing China means is to strengthen India’s capacity and linkages in order for it to be well-equipped to counter Chinese aggression. India has been working towards this aspect in the following ways-
-India has embarked on its own “Diamond Necklace” policy to counter China’s ‘String of Pearls’ through which it is building ports in strategic points such as Singapore, Indonesia, Oman, Seychelles and Iran and strategically cooperated with Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam and the Central Asian regions.
-India-Russia and Indo-Pak relations although sour, have been tried to reconcile in the recent past as maintaining a somewhat cordial relationship with China’s ally should be one of India’s priority as both the nations are militarily heavy. India has built its defence cooperation with Russia and Putin recently told that “there is no contradiction in the relationship with India”, giving it a stronger tie. Russia has also managed to show great support to India during its fight for Pandemic. Maintaining this cordial relationship is of great benefit to both and is a way towards balancing relations.
-In addition to all this, what is more important today to withstand international threat is the coming together of like-minded states that are willing to support each other and target China with a common motive. India has therefore, signed bilateral and multilateral agreements on different fronts to achieve its hedging goals, which will be further looked upon ahead in the paper
-Along with external ties, India needs to be well-equipped domestically as well by building up its defence capabilities. It is here that India’s ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) initiative plays importance.
However, on the flip-side, India cannot manage independently without China. The two being giant players in Asia with the two largest populated countries in the world and more so, being geographically in close proximity and economically dependent on each other, it is inevitable for them to have zero contacts. Therefore, whilst battling China’s String of pearls and border disputes, India must also be wary of having a middle ground with China wherein it can conduct its peaceful coexistence and continue its trade relations.
Overall, it can be said that New Delhi’s policy of strategic hedging works on a mode of attempting to find a modus vivendi with Beijing, while also slowly moving towards building security and political links with other regional and international powers as an insurgence against China. The Modi government has adopted a mixed strategy towards asymmetric rival China by maintaining a relationship of cooperation at the regional level (the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), competition at the regional level (Indo-Pacific), rejection of China’s unilateral initiatives (Belt and Road Initiative), and deterrence along the Himalayas and in the Indian Ocean (Manjeet S. Pardesi, 2021).
When the survival of a state is threatened by a hegemonic state or a coalition of stronger states, they seek to join forces with other states and establish an alliance to preserve its own independence by keeping in check the power of the other state. This is the Balance of threat theory (Stephen M, 1985), wherein the threat levels can be affected by geographical proximity, offensive power, and aggressive intentions and when all this is together met with one nation alone, the severity of forming coalition and strategically hedging speaks for itself.
The United States
If the rise of China poses a direct threat on someone, it is United States’ hegemony. US being the super power in the globalized multipolar world, while India being the largest democracy, an emerging economy and a key important player in Asia proves both the states to be in a mutually benefitting coalition.
The two biggest democracies have joined hands on various fronts such as pursuing the joint interest in freedom of navigation in the highly contentious South China Sea where China has shown a great deal of interest as well. The US recently has shown a shift in their focus to the Asia-Pacific region through its new policy of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its decision to station 2500 marines in Australia. This has been regarded by China, who staked claim over South China Sea, as a hedging strategy if not outright containment by the USA. In 2020, Indo-US ties have elevated to a “comprehensive global strategic partnership”. This has been a great achievement in India’s vision for development. Moreover, both the nations have successfully concluded three 2+2 dialogues, wherein USA reiterates to support India in defending its territorial sovereignty against the “greater threat”, referring to China. In addition to these, the highlights also follow the four foundational agreements between the two nations, which are – Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). The two nations have also released a Joint Statement on shared Indo-USA goals in the Asia-Pacific region. The developments so far have been quite beneficial on both sides and are a great strategic hedging handling on India’s part. And to top this policy of strategic hedging is the establishment of QUAD (Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue) between the four members- United States, Japan, Australia and India with their common vision of securing global order, liberal trading and freedom of navigation between the countries. The informal dialogue between these four nations has seen to be a driving force is curtailing a ‘rising China’.
India’s foreign policy is built on its three foundational pillars, which are security, economic development and status and Japan plays quite a significant role in all three aspects. This bilateral relation is of great benefit to India. Japan and India’s upward trajectory gives it a status of being ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’, transforming the relation into a ‘cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy’. The relationship between Asia’s largest democracies is deemed to be Asia’s fastest growing relationship as well. Japan was the first country with which India held its 2+2 ministerial level dialogue which along with military and defence talks, also shared concerns of China’s rise in the region. As Japan acquires world class navy and high-tech capabilities; if the two countries continue to add concrete securities, a high hope is instilled in this strategic relationship of becoming a game-changer in Asia. The two countries have already deepened ties in the field of maritime defence and infrastructure such as the construction of India’s first high speed railway corridor between Mumbai and Ahmadabad.
The two nations have had a cordial relationship even before independence and continue to share common interests in trade, sustainable development, and student-to-student ties. It has been building its strategic partnership and recognizes India’s critical role in the Indian Ocean and therefore, the two nations are committed to working together to enhance maritime cooperation, along with engaging in a naval exercise called AUSIDEX since 2015. Trilateral engagements with crucial nations like Indonesia and Japan, deeper engagement with regional groups like the Indian Ocean Rim Association and East Asia Summit and the very efficient quadrilateral dialogue with Japan and US have all contributed in strengthening the ties between India and Australia. A cordial relation with Australia will help India in the long run as by 2027, India is expected to have world’s largest population and henceforth require the up-skilling of 400 million people. Australia is well-equipped to assist with this huge need for knowledge-sharing, education and skill development. The two countries also have enormous potential to build on their people-to-people links and thus their soft power influence (Parakkal, 2018). India is the third largest source of immigrants to Australia and the second largest source for skilled professionals. The pandemic is seen to have exacerbated Sino-Australian relations and this further strengthens Australia’s relations with India is managing China.
The recent past has seen a reboot in the relations between India and EU which have both embarked on the journey of resuming the long stalled talks on a free trade deal with an aim to strengthen their economic cooperation in the face of an increasing Chinese assertion.
In 2013, trade talks suspended between the two nations but today it rises together to hedge strategically amidst the pandemic. The nations aim to double the trade by 2030 which shows the optimism it withholds for the future endeavours.
In a speech, Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar highlighted how the pandemic has shown the necessity of diversifying supply chains, especially for the EU. He says “Europe is looking at strategic autonomy, looking at a multipolar world, which is actually hedging its risk” (Jaishankar, 2021). This was told in the backdrop of repercussions faced by EU and more so, for the majority of the world for being overly dependent on China for trade. Glorifying on this aspect, India has an edge to build connections in the European world and sustain Chinese growth.
In addition to the trade boon, EU countries also signed the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” that aims to impose greater European influence in areas of Chinese superiority. Keeping this in hand, the two nations remain steadfast on building infrastructure across Europe, Asia and Africa in the name of “connectivity” partnership. It doesn’t brand it to be an “anti-Beijing” plotting, but a mere alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative of china, a way of disallowing Chinese investments.
Today it can be said that the world has come up together, galvanised in order to counter China in the changing world order. This pushback against China has been manifesting itself in multiple ways and in particular, by the regional players who have been successful in persuading more coordinated actions along the way so as to create a more stable balance of power in these highly tumultuous world that we live in.
The complex rivalry between India and China has led to hedging strategically by a mixed approach of cooperation, deterrence and balancing, which is seen to be working efficiently for India till now. After all, India’s ultimate aim is to build its own capabilities without overtly provoking China and silently transform itself to be a competition. To achieve this, India is building its relation with China’s neighbours such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, along with maintaining a cordial relationship with Russia and mending relations with Pakistan and ultimately gaining support from the western nations in strategic cooperation with a common aim.
It is evident today how China’s belligerent agenda on regional states has caused it a greater pushback with the unity of the rest of the world against it. The BRI is confronted with numerous fault lines, the Indo-Pacific is well-established, QUAD resurrected and various regional players are beginning to engage with each other much more cohesively.
The only concern that remains today is the growing influence China has over India’s neighbours through its ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and its ‘aggressive wolf-warrior diplomacy’, for which India needs to make sure to make the neighbouring countries believe in the hidden agenda and bring unity with India in countering the spread and rise of China. India’s ‘vaccine-maitri’ initiative was a good way of handling the neighbourhood, but more needs to be done in this aspect.
The way forward is to accept each other’s legitimacy in certain aspects and hedge accordingly in others. Military escalation such as in 2020 Ladakh is to be prevented in order for both to maintain its relations. To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping (1988), “unless China and India are able to co-exist peacefully, “there will be no Asian century.”
Why Nepal’s Maoist finance minister is talking about legalizing black money?
Despite being the oldest sovereign nation in South Asia, Nepal is also the most unstable nation of the subcontinent. For example since Nepal’s republican era of 2006, Nepal has got 12 Prime Ministers in 15 years. Even during multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy from 1990 to 2006, Nepal saw 15 Prime Ministers in 16 years. This tendency is reflected even in times of nondemocratic and transitional periods of past. If constant political history is an indication, Nepal is prone to repeated governmental build-ups and break-ups.
Nepal’s volatile governments naturally mean volatile plans and policies, which is reflected in the budgetary announcements. Interestingly, it is only Maoist and Maoist-background Finance Ministers in Nepal who have introduced budgetary provisions making provisions whitewashing black money.
Recently, Janardan Sharma, the Finance Minister representing CPN (Maoist Center) party of the coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, the President of Nepal’s oldest surviving party Nepali Congress, introduced a controversial provision for black money. On 10 September, while presenting his replacement bill to replace budget announced by erstwhile Government led by KP Sharma Oli, Finance Minister Sharma said investments in mega projects such as international airports, tunnels, roadways and railways do not necessarily require to disclose their sources of revenues.
Such provision, main opposition CPN-UML leaders and majority of Nepal’s economic experts say, would whitewash all black money assembled by Nepal’s power elites and comprador capitalists. Nepal’s largest-selling English daily The Kathmandu Post has termed it the ‘Thief’s Route’. Post editorial has talked about its domestic and international implications. It has written, ”this move comes at a time when the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a regional, inter-governmental, anti-money laundering body of which Nepal is also a member…. The ramification can be disastrous for Nepal.”
This budgetary provision of incumbent Maoist Finance Minister Sharma has gained critical uproar from all quarters. However, this gains vocal support from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist ideologue and former Vice-Chair of Maoist who defected Maoist in 2015 to form his party. During his tenure as Finance Minister when the Government was led by Maoist’s Chair Prachanda for the first time in Nepal in 2008, Bhattarai has also introduced similar provision. He had legalized illegal property of individuals by self-declaring the worth of their property. This specific program was called ‘Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source’ (VDIS).
Though not implemented owing to widespread ire, Dr. Bhattarai had introduced plans of hydropower investments with no mandatory provisions of revenue source disclosure. Supporting the provision of his former comrade, Dr. Bhattarai has said, ”It is nice to legalize black money. Here is the tendency to do illegal works by black money. Whether it is black or white, it is right to invest in productive and employment-generating sector.”
It was the 180-degree departure in Maoist principle coined by its ideologue Dr. Bhattarai himself. Before launching 10-year-long Maoist violent armed insurgency in 1996 which resulted in killing of more than 17 thousands Nepali, Bhattarai had handed over 40-point demand to the then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba on 4 February. In 39th. point, Dr. Bhattarai had written, ”Corruption, smuggling, black marketing, bribery and the practices of middlemen and so on should be eliminated.”
This starting demand opposing black money and ongoing defense of the same in the name of ‘productive investment’ displays how Nepali Maoist comrades have deviated from their own principles. Another coincidence is that they are the coalition partner of the Government led by the same Prime Minister Deuba to whom they have put forth their 40-point demand before launching violent Maoist armed insurgency before coming into mainstream politics in 2006.
Why Maoist and Maoist-background leaders are vocal supporters of black money?
Revenue nondisclosure provision mainly comes in tenures of Maoist Finance Minister like Janardan Sharma and Baburam Bhattarai. Other political parties have not vocally supported such malicious programs in Nepal.
Many suspects Maoist have huge illegal money grabbed in times of their 10-year-long violent armed insurgency when they did loot banks in capital Kathmandu and other economic centers of Nepal. Maoist had levied their ‘revolutionary tax’ to all working people and business activities in their vast swatches of base area. Forced donations and extortion further increased their revenues. Bartil Lintner, a famed Swedish journalist-turned-author, in his Oxford University-published book titled ‘China’s India War’described Nepali Maoists as ‘one of the wealthiest rebel movement in Asia.’
Maoists, even after their entry into mainstream politics after Comprehensive Peace Accord of 21 November 2006 and terrorist delisting by State Department of the US on 6 September 2012, have not disclosed their party transactions. Nor there is any extensive research about net worth accumulated by Maoist during their underground violent armed insurgency in Nepal.
This legislation, if implemented, will force Nepal to sleepwalk towards money laundering, black money funneling and possibly terrorist financing. If big chunk of black money is invested in big income-making and employment-generating productive sections, its long-term impacts would be skyrocketed. This results in opaque financial activities.
As an aid-dependent and remittance-receiving country from almost all economic powers of the world, legalizing black money does not bode well not just for Nepal but also for its immediate giant neighbors-India and China. Nepal does not deserve to be the South Asian heaven of black investment and terrorist financing in the name of mega infrastructural projects.
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