In the wake of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Teheran, Sri Lanka which has played a significant role in NAM since its inception needs to review its position because of the growing role of China and India in this country.
From 1956, Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and later his widow Sirimavo took bold steps to build NAM without being aligned to the superpowers the United States and Soviet Union during the cold war era. So much so Ms. Bandaranaike had the privilege of presiding over the 1976 NAM Summit held in Colombo and attended by about 75 heads of State or Government.
But in the past three decades NAM appears to have lost direction with its record being only a shadow of its rhetoric. The end of the cold war in the 1990s was probably the main cause for the decline of NAM, which is today neither dead nor alive if not a sham. Despite all the hype by Iran, only about 30 leaders attended the Teheran Summit. The final communiqué was vague, giving little room for enthusiasm or optimism, largely because most countries are having their own strategies or agendas.
What about Sri Lanka? President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his speech at the Teheran Summit pledged full support for NAM, though insisting that each country should have the freedom to work out its own local and international policy without interference.
The effects of the 30-year ethnic war and the current muddle in foreign policy have placed Sri Lanka on a tight rope in the struggle between China and the US for control of the Indian Ocean area with India backing the US.
In the Rajapaksa era, Sri Lanka has given several huge projects to China including the vast shopping mall complex opposite the Galle Face green. According to analysts, this site was originally to be given to India but later given to China in a move that caused grave concern in New Delhi. Sri Lanka has also been borrowing billions of dollars from commercial banks in China, raising questions as to whether we have pawned ourselves or become a pawn of Beijing.
Amid growing concern expressed by India about a possible Sri Lankan alliance with China, the President is now offering India a huge area of prime land in the Fort. An Indian company is to build a high-rise transworks tower in the site opposite the CTO. India also has other huge projects in Sri Lanka including the North, and analysts are concerned whether the foreign policy is leading to a crisis where half of Sri Lanka may by controlled by China and the other half by India.
If urgent and effective steps are not taken to sort out this crisis, Sri Lanka might face something worse than what the Tiger-terrorists threatened to do.