| by Upul Joseph Fernando
( September 10, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi visited Japan much before the Japanese Premier, Shinzo Abe came to Sri Lanka. Modi and Abe centred their discussions on the Chinese expansion in Asia. Had Sri Lankan affairs surfaced during those talks, it would certainly have been India's fear on the pattern China was flexing its muscles on the Sri Lankan soil. India is aware of the soured relationship Colombo has with the West but knows the relations with Japan are mutual and strong. Moreover, the historic speech by J.R. Jayewardene at San Fransisco in 1951 to offer peace to Japan, binds Japan with Sri Lanka closely. That had paved the way for Japan to become the leading nation funding Sri Lanka all the time.
In the wake of Mahinda Rajapaksa's Government being accused of war crimes by the West led by America and other nations and the battle heating much, Japan also faced pressure from the West over the close relations it has with the island nation. Such pressure on Japan was mounted by the United States and the global Human Rights Organizations. Japan is also a close ally of America. Japan was told to examine the human rights record of Sri Lanka when affording monetary assistance to the island nation. However, Japan pointed out that, at a time the West was exerting much pressure on Sri Lanka on the human rights issues, Japan was treading on a soft policy to get Sri Lanka to follow a path to protect human rights. India convinced the West that Japan was following a correct policy towards Sri Lanka. India's problem was that China's attempt to take indirect residence in Sri Lanka.
China pretended to be the saviour of the island nation who could exonerate Sri Lanka from the war crimes and human rights charges and followed a process to flex its muscles in the island nation. That was not to the liking of India. Furthermore, the ethnic relations between the South Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils is another reason that prevents India being the saviour for Sri Lanka,if it was to oppose America. India's tactic was to employ Japan for that purpose. They plan to get Japan to pressurize Sri Lanka to consent to the war crimes probe and through that process to resolve the grievances of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. However, Japan holds a different view and a plan. It wants to build up a healthy relationship between the West and Sri Lanka to sideline China. China's expansion and power in Asia is not to the liking of Japan too. Japan does not want to confront China, but it plans to draw back countries which China poses as a saviour. Hence, Japan is ready spending more Yen than China's Yuan.
Japan absented itself from voting during the UNHRC motion against Sri Lanka in Geneva last March as a tactic. America did not take offence over Japan's stand. America is aware that India alone cannot combat the pressure of China in the Indian Ocean. That is why it gets Japan to assist India. In that perspective, Japan executes an India agenda more than an American Order Paper. India is opposed to any international investigation on Sri Lanka war crimes. President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed international experts into his Commission probing Missing Persons last July. That was done at the request of Japan. That position was substantiated by Shinzo Abe's statement last Sunday while in Colombo .He told the media; "Sri Lanka's war crimes probe would silence its critics". It was India that used Japan to pressurize Sri Lanka to initiate a domestic war crimes investigation. That was done to free Sri Lanka from the clutches of China. That was the opinion following Modi's talks with Abe in Japan. In addition, Abe and Mahinda discussed to strengthen maritime links between the two countries. That happened in the wake of India and America focusing to counter the China's 'String of Pearls Strategy'. During the Second World War, German dictator Adolf Hitler entrusted Japan to use Sri Lanka as a base to consolidate power in the Indian Ocean. That fact was contained in a letter addressed to Hitler by German Admiral, Reader.
The Chinese President is due in Colombo this week. After visiting Colombo, he is expected to meet Narendra Modi in India. There is a possibility that both leaders may discuss Sri Lankan issues. Earlier, on the advice of India, China gave instructions to Mahinda asking the latter to begin a domestic investigation on war crimes to evade international pressure. Modi must be eagerly waiting to know what the Chinese leader will tell Mahinda this time!
( The writer is a senior journalist based in Colombo, who works with the Ceylon Today, an independent daily, where this piece was originally appeared. )