India must be looking at Rajapaksas as possible future leaders of Sri Lanka
Swamy is a strong opinion maker in India despite him being highly controversial at times
Even recently, there was an occasion where a strong loyalist of Rajapaksa provoked Indian leaders
It is not a love affair, but a business deal
Rajapaksa’s dealings with Dr Swamy may jeopardize his moves to win Muslim vote
If there had been issues between the Indian Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and if Modi’s Government was willing to refresh the relationship with Rajapaksa now, the best broker for the purpose would be none other than Controversial Indian politician Dr Subramanian Swamy.
Swamy, who is also a senior leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by Modi, visited the former President at the ancestral house of the latter in Medamulana, Hambantota when Rajapaksa’s younger brother Chandra passed away last month.
The first impression given by the visit was that Swamy had arrived at the island to express his condolences to Rajapaksa over his brother’s death.
However, Swamy had extended an invitation to Rajapaksa to visit New Delhi, it was later revealed.
The invitation had been extended on behalf of Virat Hindustan Sangam, a Hindu Renaissance Organization founded by Swamy himself and Rajapaksa was also invited to deliver a public lecture on India-Sri Lanka Relation: the way ahead in the Indian capital during his three-day visit starting from September 10.
He attracted a considerable Indian media attention as well this time and The Hindu newspaper assigned two most senior journalists to interview him.
Incidentally, one of the two journalists happened to be Dr Swamy’s younger daughter Suhasini Haider.
Suhasini got the Haider tag by marrying Nadeem Haider, a Muslim and a son of former Indian Foreign Secretary and External Affairs Minister Salman Haider, despite Swamy being a strong Hindutva leader whose economic courses were terminated by the Harvard University in 2011 after he wrote two articles to two Mumbai based newspapers that were said to have demonized Muslims.
If the Indian Government had some hand in the invitation to Rajapaksa for his latest visit to New Delhi, their choice for the brokerage seems to be ideal, given the relationship between Dr Swamy and Rajapaksa.
Swamy, a strong opinion maker in India, despite him being highly controversial at times and a strong Hindu nationalist has been a close friend of the former President since the latter was in power.
He claims that he admires Rajapaksa as he was able to eliminate the Tamil armed group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Expressing his zeal over Rajapaksa’s visit on his invitation Swamy told News18 in India that he had invited “great friend” Rajapaksa in his individual capacity.
Giving Rajapaksa’s visit a national importance he said “Ties with Sri Lanka have been weak over the last two years and I think we need to strengthen them,” and added that an association with Rajapaksa would help improve ties between the two countries.
On September 10, Dr Swamy tweeted saying “Today Fmr. President of Sri Lanka and probably the next President is arriving in New Delhi at the invitation of Virat Hindustan Sangam”
He also said during his Sri Lanka visit that Mahinda Rajapaksa should be awarded India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna for exterminating the LTTE.
He argued that the former Sri Lankan President deserved India’s highest and most prestigious honour since he decimated the outfit which was also anti-Indian.
This was the second time he had made this suggestion, first time he made it in February 2012. However, both times it drew ire from the Tamil Nadu leaders.
Despite the invitation to Rajapaksa having been made in Dr Swamy’s personal capacity, he was awarded the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Modi and Government officials.
The former President also met Indian Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi and several other Congress leaders like former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on September 13.
Unlike the earlier visits by Rajapaksa to India the visit this time created an impression in both countries that he and the Indian Government had mended fences after a few years’ wrangling between them.
Towards the end of Rajapaksa’s regime, the relationship between him and the Indian Government had begun to strain as Indian Central Government was under pressure by the Tamil Nadu leaders to act against Sri Lankan Government over the alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the war.
Besides, President Rajapaksa, after promising Indian leaders that he would go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution went back on his word. He accused the Indian foreign intelligence arm, the RAW for his defeat at the 2015 Presidential Election.
He made this allegation even during an interview with an Indian media, The Hindu in March 2015, apart from another statement he made to South China Morning Post where he said that the Americans, the Norwegians, Europeans and the Indian intelligence agency RAW were openly working to defeat him in the election.
However, in the later years, he was careful not to accuse India.
In an interview with Japan Times during a visit to Tokyo in 2016, the former President said he was defeated by the Muslims, which was more accurate, given the voting pattern at the last Presidential Election.
Even recently, there was an occasion where a strong loyalist of Rajapaksa provoked Indian leaders.
National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa called for a black flag protest during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka to take part in the celebrations marking the UN Vesak Day.
Speaking at the Joint Opposition’s May Day rally last year Weerawansa alleged that Modi was to discuss a deal on Trincomalee during his visit which must be opposed.
However, Rajapaksa, having apparently realised the seriousness of the call by Weerawansa made a request to the Indian High Commission for an audience with the Indian Premier, when he was in Colombo in the same month for the Vesak Day celebrations, which was granted.
Indian leaders and Rajapaksa seem to have felt the need of each other’s embrace when it was apparent with the results of the Local Government elections in February, this year that the political trend had considerably changed in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in which Rajapaksa acts as the de-facto leader had captured more than 230 out of 340 councils for which elections were held, giving fresh hopes of a comeback by Rajapaksas.
These hopes are being vindicated with the bickering in the ruling coalition which seems to be at its peak with President Maithripala Sirisena openly rolling back so many decisions of the Ministers affiliated to the UNP led by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Therefore, India must be looking at Rajapaksas as the possible future leaders of Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, Rajapaksas too need the friendship of the Indian leaders given the capacity India has in influencing the Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka, especially those that represent the people of Indian origin, at the future national elections.
Hence, what is blossoming is not a love affair, but a business deal.
Incidentally, Rajapaksa’s dealings with Dr Swamy have a potential to jeopardize his moves to win over the Muslims again, given the latter’s provocative attitude towards Indian Muslims and Islam.
Swamy had suggested to demolish hundreds of mosques in India and to declare “only those non-Hindus can vote if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors are Hindus” in his above-mentioned articles published in Mumbai based Daily Newsand Analysis. However, Muslim vote would be essential for the SLPP as it had failed to garner 50 per cent of votes at the LG Elections, despite having captured 68 per cent of councils.