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How India used CHOGM diplomacy to defeat Medamulana diplomacy

| by Upul Joseph Fernando 

( July 10,2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Political analysts studying Indo-Lanka relations generally feel that with the end of the war, India had lost its clout for leverage in Sri Lankan affairs. Some interested parties put the blame for this state of affairs on the then Indian Defence Adviser, M.K. Narayanan. Still others believe the Gandhi family's determination and commitment to ensure the destruction of their enemy number one, Velupillai Prabhakaran, deprived India of the opportunity to retain some latitude in manipulating Sri Lankan affairs to suit its purposes.

Evidently, India at present, cannot be said to show any sign of possessing even a whiff of diplomatic clout to be used to compel the Sri Lankan Government to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which it promised to do time and again.

Window of opportunity created

If one were to get down to the nitty-gritty, in the first place, the near three-decade war was foisted on the country by India to create a window of opportunity for it to manoeuvre Sri Lankan affairs to suit its agenda. The J.R. Jayewardene Government was getting too close to America for India's comfort, and India needed something with which it could exert pressure on Sri Lanka. Thus the war was an Indian creation, paving the way for the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord, which in turn facilitated the establishment of Provincial Councils.

India undoubtedly used the war to achieve its ends. To India's extreme chagrin, Prabhakaran, the LTTE supremo, chose to upset the apple cart. He rejected the peace agreement and Provincial Councils in toto, and turned against Rajiv Gandhi, the architect of the Accord and the Amendment, and cruelly assassinated him, subsequently. This changed the game for India, which had till then sought to shackle Sri Lanka's independent State craft. It now wanted Prabhakaran's blood with more urgency; and a force through which to achieve that end. With the ascension of the Congress Party to power, under Rajiv's widow, Sonia Gandhi, this need grew in proportion. And Mahinda Rajapaksa was considered the most preferable Sri Lankan Leader to finish the task of destroying Prabhakaran.

Held in brotherly trust and esteem

Thus India extended its fullest cooperation to Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the war and did not worry in the least that it would lose its influence with Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the war. Hence, it was not prepared for that eventuality. India held the Rajapaksa Government in brotherly trust and esteem.

India trusted the Rajapaksa regime so much that its earlier insistence, made in 2005, that the regime should agree to a federal solution to the ethnic problem in the country was toned down to the implementation of the 13th Amendment, even before the war came to a finish. That was the biggest mistake India made. If India had steadfastly held onto the demand for a federal solution, it could have at least got 13A+ without much ado.

The Rajapaksa regime would have agreed to it while vehemently rejecting a federal solution. The regime could have then easily persuaded ultra nationalists in its political alliance for a 13A+ solution, rejecting federalism outright. What later transpired was that when India insisted on the 13th Amendment, the Rajapaksa regime had to agree to whittle down some provisions in it to satisfy the nationalist factions in the government party.

Still, India's dilemma continued. Even four years after the war, it continues to be unsuccessful in its effort to compel the Sri Lankan Government to go ahead with its promise to implement 13A. It used the Tamil Nadu protests and its own anti-Sri Lankan position at the United National Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, to help succeed in this effort. However, all efforts have been to no avail.

At this stage, it had suddenly dawned on India that the Sri Lankan Government was highly motivated; in fact, it strongly craved the opportunity to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the country as a matter of high priority, purely for the privilege and the recognition it carried. India assessed its potency as a bargaining tool correctly, and hence helped garner for Sri Lanka the opportunity to host CHOGM. India's South bloc's calculations after the war were mostly off the mark; but this one hit right on the head of the nail.

Matter of conjecture

When the matter of hosting CHOGM came up for discussion at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), just before the decision was taken, Mahinda Rajapkasa announced September elections for the Northern Provincial Council. Thereafter, when moves were afoot to introduce amendments to 13A, reportedly, India had threatened to pull out of CHOGM. Again on the eve of Basil's visit to India, Sri Lanka issued a public announcement to the effect that Northern Provincial Council election will be held without any change to the 13th Amendment.

The inevitable conclusion which can be drawn from the foregoing is that CHOGM diplomacy has knocked out Medamulana diplomacy quite impressively.

But for how long this state of affairs will last, is a matter of pure conjecture, as Medamulana diplomacy like any good weather report, can change without warning.

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