Did Sri Lanka ignore the warning signs of the defeat in Geneva last evening?
‘Strategic foresight’ is what it is termed in English, though the French who invented it in the ’50s, call it ‘strategic prospective’. Strategic analysis and anticipation – not to be confused with ‘security’-- are major aspects of it. Other events can be anticipated if preceded by accurate analysis. The Indian turnaround and its effects were not only predictable; they were predicted and therefore preventable, and yet weren’t. Six months ago, in the pages of this paper, I wrote the following, ringing the alarm bell regarding the UN Human Rights Council when there was time enough to do something:
“If one has to identify a single critical or crucial variable for Sri Lanka, it is India, but our strategy cannot be reduced to Indian support...A few weeks after we fought and won our battle in Geneva in May 2009, Myanmar lost in the same forum though it had the votes of India, Russia and China. So the secret of our victory in 2009 was not simply and solely India...We will find it almost impossible to win without India’s support, and we cannot win if India ever turns against us, but we cannot win only with India’s support. We must always remember that many Asian, Middle Eastern, African and Latin American states will take their cue from India. India has a wide presence and is widely respected among Sri Lanka’s friends. We must rally our neighbourhood in our support. We must have the solid support of our continent, Asia. We must balance the South against hostile sections of the North, and the East against hostile sections of the West. India is pivotal in all these defensive moves and it is difficult to implement any of them if India is against or conspicuously on the sidelines. If, as some critical commentaries assert, India’s position has changed, or is changing, or might possibly change, from that of our May 2009 UN HRC victory, we must seek out the reasons and rectify them jointly.
We must certainly strive to countervail the mounting anti-Lankan opinion in Indian civil society and the media, militant opinion in Tamil Nadu and the lobbying of certain Western elements. We must secure Delhi’s support and swing Indian public and political opinion firmly over to Sri Lanka’s side. This cannot be done by purely verbal means but by policy reforms. As a UN based top official of Sri Lanka’s firmest, most powerful international friend told me once, ‘short of capitulating on or compromising its vital security interests, Sri Lanka must do what it takes to help its friends to help it’.” (‘Defending and Protecting Sri Lanka’, Daily Mirror, September 29th, 2011, my emphasis, DJ)
My warning six months back was no one-off flash of foresight. The danger of an Indian shift and what should be done to forestall it was set out in cold print by me as long as three years ago. In an article that appeared exactly three months BEFORE the death of Prabhakaran, entitled ‘The Indian Reality in Sri Lanka’s Existence’ I wrote:
“...India cannot afford recrudescent Tamil Nadu separatism which thrives on the charge that New Delhi is insensitive to Tamil Nadu’s feelings for their ethnic kin in Northern Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu... is an important and influential component of the Indian Union, and when push comes to shove, carries far more weight than Sri Lanka and the Sinhalese, in New Delhi...If faced with a serious strategic choice, Delhi will choose Chennai over Colombo. It is up to Sri Lanka to prevent matters coming to that...” (‘The Indian Reality in Sri Lanka’s Existence’, The Island Feb 16, 2009)
I had quickly returned to the theme in the next month, again before the war was won, in a piece significantly entitled ‘Winning Locally, Winning Globally’:
“The Sinhalese and Tamils are in a Mexican standoff. Locally, the Sri Lankan armed forces have surrounded the Tigers...Meanwhile, globally, from the US Senate to the UN Security Council, from Ottawa to London, from Brussels to Pretoria, from Delhi to Dili, Sri Lanka is under pressure and scrutiny as never before. Are we being encircled globally just as we have encircled the Tigers locally?...The Tigers have no exit from military defeat, but do the State and society have an exit from the crisis?” (‘Winning Locally, Winning Globally’, The Island Midweek, March 11, 2009)
In June–July 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the military victory and, more topically today, our diplomatic success in Geneva at the UN HRC, I repeatedly stressed the point in what turned out to be a polemical exchange.
“...The full, if reasonably graduated implementation of the 13th amendment is the cornerstone of our post-war relationship with India, the relationship with which is the cornerstone of our international relations.
As the paradigmatic victory in Geneva showed, we can win against the Tiger Diaspora and the Western European bloc influenced by it, when we are supported by our neighbours, our continent and our natural constituency the developing world plus Russia.
In this strategy the support of India is critical. Without India’s support, the rest will distance itself from us, leaving us wide open to Western pressure and coercion. China alone cannot carry the weight...” (‘13th Amendment: Why non-implementation is a non-option’, The Island, 13th June, 2009)
“..Sovereignty not only has to be asserted, it has to be defended and defensible. Sri Lanka cannot defend its sovereignty against all comers from all points of the compass, North and South, West and East. It can defend its sovereignty only by power balancing in a multi-polar world. Starkly put, if we lose India, we even lose the Non-aligned Movement, and (as we saw in 1987) we are left naked.” (‘The 13th Amendment, Indo-Lanka, Sovereignty’ The Island, June 27, 2009)
Even persistently forewarned thus, we were hardly forearmed.