No doubt, India invited the NPP leaders for the current visit (a privilege that was not awarded even to the official Opposition in Parliament), on the premise that the party is going to form the next government. The outcomes of a series of opinion polls conducted by the Institute of Health Policy (IHP) since late 2022 which have not been challenged yet even by the ruling parties, indicated a rapid progress in the popularity of the NPP
In case the election results and the opinion polls coincide, the NPP has to deal with India, as India has already chosen economic interests in the Trincomalee oil tank farm, Mannar wind power project, Sampur power plant, and many more which the NPP does not agree with
When Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa criticized the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) citing a clause in the latter’s “Policy Declaration” published in 1977 about confiscating “means of production” belonged to private institutions, the leader of the JVP and the National People’s Power (NPP), Anura Kumara Dissanayake advised him to get himself updated as it was a document published about half a century ago when there was a socialist bloc of countries in the world.
He might tell almost the same to those who now remind of the JVP’s old theory “Indian Expansionism” against the backdrop of the NPP leaders’ visit to the Indian Capital on an invitation by the Indian Government this week.
The JVP is a party that indoctrinates its new members with a series of lectures which they call “classes”, and one of the five classes that were conducted before the party’s first insurrection in 1971 had been named “Indian Expansionism.” The general idea of the class was that India has a policy of swallowing smaller countries around it, in the long run. They cited Sikkim, a onetime Buddhist Kingdom becoming a protectorate of India in 1950, as a case in point. Sikkim later in 1975 became the 22nd state of the Union of India.
Many seem to recall this now to find it in contradiction with the JVP’s current relationship with India. Yet, the party was not the authors of this theory. It was the then Chinese Communist Party (CPC) that had developed it. All parties that toed the line of the CPC in the region then, including the JVP, accepted and propagated it. However, JVP leaders who had been imprisoned subsequent to the brutal suppression of their insurrection in 1971 went through an ideological transformation during their incarceration, and moved to a middle point between Maoism which they followed till then and Trotskyism.
This and the allegation that the JVP propagated anti-Tamil rhetoric through the lecture “Indian Expansionism” pressed the party leaders to drop the idea by 1972, and another highly theoretical “class”, the “Role of the Revolution” replaced it. Therefore, people who remind the JVP of “Indian Expansionism” now have to “get themselves updated” as Dissanayake advised the Opposition Leader.
There was a time after that when the JVP was in fact defending the regional interests of India, deeming it as a strong ally of the socialist bloc. In 1984, after the party was unfairly proscribed and sent underground by the United National Party (UNP) government, in July 1983, JVP leader, Rohana Wijeweera in a Q & A document - which the party described as an interview by an anonymous foreign journalist with its leader, accused President J.R. Jayewardene who was once called “Yankee Dicky”, for assisting the US to encircle India which is already flanked by two more US allies, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Nevertheless, the notion that the JVP is an anti-Indian party is deep rooted among the Sri Lankans, especially due to its violent opposition to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, and the resultant provincial councils system. However, the party was not consistently an anti-Indian party. The relationship between the two has been having its ups and downs.
The party which viewed the northern neighbour as a friend in the early eighties, used the provisions of the Indo-Lanka Accord and the deployment of Indian troops in Sri Lanka, to whip up anti-Indian feelings among Sri Lankans, and thereby wage a long-drawn-out guerrilla war against the state. The Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya, (DJV), the JVP’s military wing in 1989, launched armed attacks against the Indian forces which were then officially called the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). Kumar Gunaratnam, the current leader of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) was said to have been assigned with this task.
This second JVP insurrection ended in November 1989 with the decimation of all but one member of the Party’s Polit-bureau. Somawansa Amarasinghe who so escaped death, fled to Britain ironically through India. The irony is so vivid when Amarasinghe, after a 12-year exile, returned to the country in another November in 2001, as the successor of Wijeweera, to thank Indian authorities including former Indian Prime Minister V.P. Singh at a massive rally in his home town Kalutara, for helping him to leave the country defying death.
No doubt, India invited the NPP leaders for the current visit (a privilege that was not awarded even to the official Opposition in Parliament), on the premise that the party is going to form the next government. The outcomes of a series of opinion polls conducted by the Institute of Health Policy (IHP) since late 2022 which have not been challenged yet even by the ruling parties, indicated a rapid progress in the popularity of the NPP. The latest Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTS) by the IHP in December last year showed Anura Kumara Dissanayake surpassing the Constitutional benchmark of 50% at a future Presidential election. His closest rival Sajith Premadasa had scored only 33 percent of public preference.
This seems to have prompted not only India but several other powerful countries to approach the party. US Ambassador, Julie Chung who had met the NPP leaders during the early days of the Aragalaya, visited the JVP office in Pelawatta again on October 20, last year, which was followed by a meeting between former Indian High Commissioner, Gopal Baglay and the NPP leaders on November 17, at the Indian High Commission.
Representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited the JVP office on January 19 this year, as a part of their efforts to study views of various parties in the country. New Indian High Commissioner, Santosh Jha and German Ambassador, Dr Felix Neumann also met the NPP leaders on January 23 and 31 respectively.
However, the New Delhi visit by the NPP leaders, especially on an invitation by the Indian government, and the itinerary of the visit which included meetings with highest level authorities of the country such as the External Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Vinay Mohan Kwatra and National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval seem to have sent shock waves across the main political parties. It prompted them to ridicule the NPP, recalling the “Indian Expansionism” and the attack on the IPKF, which the JVP then called ‘Monkey Force.” Even NFF leader, Wimal Weerawansa - who as a former JVP stalwart very well knows that the party has never and nowhere used the term “Indian Expansionism” since 1972 - had questioned the visit on the same ground.
However, predicting election results through opinion polls is not so prudent always in a highly corrupt country at a time when the Executive gives its own interpretations to the Constitutions. Yet, in case the election results and the opinion polls coincide, the NPP has to meet an India with the same ups and downs in relationship, as India has already chosen economic interests in the Trincomalee oil tank farm, Mannar wind power project, Sampur power plant, and many more which the NPP does not agree with.
Only time will tell how competent the party is in diplomacy, not as an opposition party but as a ruling party.