BJP in Sri Lanka: India distances itself from Tamil Nadu-NDA-LTTE and Eelam
by Shenali Waduge on 30 Jul 2014 7 Comments

The seminar, ‘India under Modi: Relevance for the Region and the World,’ organized by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies and held at the BMICH, was moderated by former foreign secretary HMGS Palihakkara. The panelists were introduced by Sunimal Fernando, Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka and Chairman/Board of Studies of the BCIS.


They included Prof Madhav Das Nalapat of Manipal University, Dr. Suresh Prabhu, a former Union Minister under the Vajpayee Government and member of the Shiv Sena, Dr Swapan Dasgupta, a senior journalist and political commentator, Dr Seshadri Chari of the RSS and National Convener of the Foreign Policy cell of the BJP, and Dr Subramanian Swamy, former Union Minister & Chairman, BJP Committee for Strategic Action, who, as Sunimal Fernando said, would win with a resounding victory if he contested an election in Sri Lanka!


The Modi victory


Swapan Dasgupta commenced the discussion by drawing attention to a startling resemblance that the audience in Sri Lanka could relate to - the manner in which the English speaking elite of India was unanimous in the view that Modi had to be stopped. It was the ‘elite’ factor on both sides that continues to play a role against the leaders of the two nations. Dasgupta showed that it was the age group between 18-25years that voted for Modi in the belief that change would happen. The change factor was directed more at an economic revival in India rather than foreign factors. Concerns of Indians and Modi were more directed towards generating employment, dealing with corruption, upgrading infrastructure, removing foreign investor fears; Dasgupta asked that Modi not be looked as a Milosevic.


Seshadri echoed similar sentiments that investors had been backing off in view of the poor opinion on India and it was only Chennai and Gujarat that made a difference. Modi’s characteristic departure from conventional governance appealed to the people and he eventually became the choice of the people. Seshadri cited the invitation to SAARC leaders to attend the swearing-in as an example of Modi’s unconventional stand. He recalled how Sri Lanka entered international records by electing the first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike.


The logic of prosperity was also highlighted as being mutual and this thought was mooted with another welcome suggestion to consider building a collective commonwealth of Asian nations. The reference to Sinhalativu by Indian poet Bharatiyar in 1905 was welcomed by those continuously claiming that Sri Lanka was a Sinhala Nation.


Subramanian Swamy’s speech covered Modi’s personality aspect and reminded the audience of the unique difference in India selecting as Premier a person belonging to the backward caste, unlike all his predecessors. He cited how in spite of 14 of the 15 councils voting for Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi's choice was Nehru.


Nalapat reiterated the Modi mantra as being Minimum Government and Maximum Governance, a lesson Sri Lanka needs to take a leaf from. He urged Sri Lanka to encourage English learning and build upon the entrepreneur skills of Jaffna while reminding the power of Buddhism and its soft power reach. He also predicted a golden period in Indo-Lanka relations.


Suresh Prabhu proudly reminded the audience that Modi was the first Prime Minister chosen by the people. Thus, India under the BJP was articulated by the BJP leaders as:


Defeating Terrorism


-     ‘We (India) are proud that your President was able to defeat terrorism, which could have grown into even a more threatening menace’.

-       ‘We are very proud of your President for decisively finishing a sinister terror organisation that was a threat to our country too.

-    Dr Swamy says he wonders whether human rights issues are contrived to ‘belittle the importance of this decisive victory’.

-         ‘No country has had a clear success in eliminating terrorism the way your country did’.


Subramanian Swamy’s eloquence in pointing out the achievement of the Sri Lankan forces being the only country in the world to successfully eliminate such a dangerous terrorist organisation completely was nothing that the members of the TNA present  (Sambanthan and Abraham Sumanthiran) would have liked to hear.


Nor would they have been pleased to hear Dr Swamy’s reference to the ongoing Supreme Court case wherein an affidavit has been sought from the ITAK to assure it is not aligned to a separatist agenda. Swamy also pointed out that there was no genocide in Sri Lanka and only the Tamils living in UK and elsewhere were claiming there was genocide. The fishermen issue also was cleared and appreciation shown to fishermen being released but confiscating the trawlers.


Foreign Policy


-         Indian foreign policy will be guided by national interest which supersedes the interests of the States.

-         India to cooperate and partner with countries of the region.

-         Modi desires to strengthen relations with SAARC nations – SAARC will be restructured to play bigger bilateral role. Dr Swamy assured a new paradigm change would occur and Modi’s first visit overseas to Bhutan signified the importance given to SAARC.

-         Seshadri described India’s new foreign policy as departing from Pakistan-centric to looking east as far as Israel, Japan and Indonesia.

-         India to adopt policy of equidistance with both US and China believing in a tripartite role.

-         Nalapat spoke of the BRICS bank being an alternative to the monopoly of the World Bank/IMF.

-         Suresh Prabhu suggested a SAARC satellite where India could partner with SAARC nations for growth.

-         Partnerships with India will depend on mutual benefit and exchange of infrastructure.




-         Human Rights being selectively used by the international community (examples cited on lack of justice for killings by US on Hiroshima, killings by British in Dresden, Germany). Collateral damage cannot apply only to the West. Countries accusing Sri Lanka had worse human rights records. Swamy declared there was no need for Sri Lanka or India to be defensive.

-         India assured Sri Lanka that India will be far more supportive of Sri Lanka’s position at the UNHRC than ever before.

-         UN has become an instrument and public relations agency of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), according to Madhav Nalapat, UNESCO Chair for the Promotion of Peace and Nonviolence/Director Geopolitics and International Relations.  If UN was nothing but a wing of NATO and does what NATO wants it to do, it resonates the same message that Bolivia’s President voiced on the need to replace UN with a global entity that is not looking after the interests of only the West and its Allies.

-         The conclusion to be drawn from this was that Sri Lanka would not have faced any resolution if Colombo had been servile to Western nations. That Sri Lanka refused to cave in led to the successive Resolutions. Many share Nalapat’s stand – the West was behaving like a woman scorned! This type of vengeful diplomacy is not what we would expect from civilised western democracies!

-         Nalapat’s statements that the UNHRC was an ‘international joke’ and selects countries depending on whether the government is dominated by the West or not is a clear indication that the UNHRC is now a spent force.


Dr Swamy’s statement ‘targeting of Sri Lanka over human rights issues has gone too far and has to stop’ was no music to the TNA members present. He went on to say that India would give Sri Lanka ‘more support than ever before’.


Tamil Nadu


-         Tamil Nadu factor will no longer come between Indo-Lanka relations.

-         Tamil Nadu no longer has veto power on Indo-Lanka relations.

-         Tamil Nadu factor a creation by political classes funded by LTTE money raised by drug smuggling

-         Subramanian Swamy explained to the audience that apart from a fringe group voicing anti-Lanka slogans, the Tamil people were not anti-Sri Lanka and even cited how Tamil cricket fans had travelled to Bangalore to cheer the Sri Lankan team when banned from playing in Chennai.

-         He went on to show how the same anti-Lankan politicians had been defeated repeatedly at elections so Sri Lanka was never an election issue for Tamil Nadu (another example of Media manipulating news against Sri Lanka)

-         Subramanian Swamy even urged Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to visit Sri Lanka and ‘get a reality check’.


Assurance to President Rajapakse


-         Let’s delink Indo-Lanka relations from Tamil Nadu and problems of the Tamils

-         Narendra Modi made a symbolic gesture in overruling the opposition to the presence of President Rajapakse at the swearing-in ceremony (which Tamil Nadu chief minister boycotted)

-         Problems of Sri Lanka are for Sri Lankans to solve


Dr Swamy’s advice to Sri Lanka


-   Remove reference to ETHNIC conflict – Sri Lanka had a terrorist conflict. All State publications should make the necessary changes to speeches, statements and all official documents

-         Swamy admitted the fault made by Indira Gandhi in training LTTE

-      Swamy’s reference to Sri Lanka not delivering on the agreement with Chelvanayagam requires to be clarified and questioned as to how Sinhala Only opposition should lead to signing an agreement to devolve powers.


13th Amendment


-         Reference to the 13th amendment by Indian delegations makes one wonder whether the Sri Lankan authorities have failed to explain to the Indian counterparts exactly what has already been devolved, which has been done with no special treatment to any province, and that all nine Provincial Councils have not been given land or police powers. Hence it is wrong for India even as a friend to refer to these two aspects as being ‘unnecessarily unresolved’. What needs to be added is that the GoSL has very clearly indicated that police powers would not be granted to the provinces while the status of land was bestowed upon the State by a recently concluded Supreme Court verdict.  


-         The Northern Province is just one of nine provinces created under the 13th amendment and thus it cannot have any special treatment nor have foreign nations taking any special interest in it. That would be a direct interference of Sri Lanka’s national security. Moreover, given the TNA links to a Christian Eelam lobby that India is well aware of, it baffles us why India wishes to promote a dangerous scenario which India may not have the power to control if Western influence is directed at a new territory they hope to create in Asia. Therefore, the two nations should decisively decide whether the 13th Amendment is a viable slogan in the context of geopolitical realities.


Investment Opportunities


-         Former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu suggested that Sri Lanka enter the energy market of India; he compared how India had invested in Bhutan and now buys electricity from Bhutan. He suggested that generating power from wind power would be a win-win strategy for both Sri Lanka and India. This next raises the interest and persistence in signing the Sampoor coal power plant with India when both countries know the environmental aspect and studies have revealed that Sampoor is not a worthwhile investment economically or politically for Sri Lanka and is likely to lead the populace to extreme poverty and minus electricity given the rising electricity rates.

-         Swamy also touched on the trade aspect highlighting the increase in FDI’s and tourists.

-         Suresh Prabhu mooted the idea of a common tourism circuit where India and Sri Lanka could partner in marketing tourism.

-         A contentious area was the suggestion to sign the CEPA considering Indian interests only; it is left for Sri Lanka’s decision makers to put the country’s interests before anything else.


The floor was open for questions and Dr Nalapat declared that Modi’s logic was simply ‘If you are good to me, I will be good to you… if you are not… I am not obliged to be good to you’. It was advice well worth remembering.


Attorney Senaka Weeraratna posed a question on how keen India was to protect territories outside of India where Indian civilisational influence prevails on account of aggressive Abrahamic incursions and Buddhist and Hindu space is shrinking. He pointed out that neither Buddhists nor Hindus have external funds to defend or protect their space. The need for Buddhists and Hindus to build a block comparable to that of the OIC and EU was suggested. The panel welcomed the suggestion but chose not to elaborate, but assured that Prime Minister Modi’s attention would be drawn to it.


The promise overall was of good days to come under Modi. The Sri Lanka audience was happy to hear of India’s stand vis-à-vis the Tamil factor as it would silence the TNA in more ways than one. At the same time the stand on 13th amendment, unless it was simply to show an open difference, is an area that India must realize the implications of in view of plans to break up India. The stand taken by India on the UNHRC and Resolutions is a relief; the stand India should take is in India’s own interest and not because of Sri Lanka.   

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