Connect with us


Bhandari’s 13A to Shringla’s 13A



President Rajapaksa and Indian Foreign Secretary

by Austin Fernando
(Former High Commissioner of
Sri Lanka to India

Continued from yesterday

India’s security first

Lok Sabha Member Brajamohan Mohanty wished that the Sri Lankan Government would not stand any negotiations with foreign countries to invite foreign forces. Member Mohanarangam (Lok Sabha 27-2-1986) criticized Sri Lanka for inviting Americans, training, and President Zia’s visit.

Sri Lankans’ fear of Indians is deep-seated. When the British Cabinet delegation met PM DS Senanayaka, he had conveyed that he regarded the Indian problem as a danger, and therefore signed a military pact with the British in 1948.

The literature further reveals that India’s neighbours “should not seek to invite outside power(s). If anyone of them needed any assistance it should look to India. India’s attitude and relationship with her immediate neighbours depended on their appreciation of India’s regional security concerns; they would serve as buffer states in the event of an extra-regional threat and not proxies of the outside powers…” After 73 years, Indians’ position remains unchanged. This attitude is reflected in the Letters Exchanged in 1987.

Additional benefits to India

While the implementation of the Agreement is further clarified in the only Annexure in the Agreement, the ‘Exchange of Letters’ (not an Annexure) is concerned with security and economic benefits for India. In PM Rajiv Gandhi’s exchanged letter, reference is made to “the agreement reached.” President Jayewardene’s response mentions “the understanding reached.” The wording confuses the legal status, thus requiring interpretation.

However, the contents of the exchanged letters like broadcasting stations, ports, or airports reflect India’s security concerns. The Oil Tanks being serviced by Trincomalee Port will be of much anxiety for India. One may argue that the contents of Letters Exchanged demonstrate that India’s security interests took precedence over Lanka’s political and security issues in the Agreement. PM Gandhi has fished in troubled waters after the Bangalore meeting.

Flashback to 1986 from 2021

Focusing on the past, I refer to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart Jaswant Singh (Lok Sabha 13-5-1986). He posed seven questions based on Sri Lankan responses. They are relevant even today.

* What is the Indian stand in the debate on devolution and delegation?

* Where do India and Sri Lanka stand on the amalgamation of the North and Eastern Provinces?

* What is the stand on land use by the Indian Government, GOSL, and the Tamil groups?

* What is the status of the language?

* What is the stand on Law and Order?

* What is the time frame for reaching a solution?

* What is the Indian government’s stand on foreign threats emerging in the context of the Sri Lankan issues?

 Had he lived today, as a former Jawan (Soldier), he would have either joined P Kulandaivelu and V Gopalaswamy in demanding military action or questioned PM Modi and Minister Jaishankar about Indian inefficiency or ineffectiveness.

After 35 years the status in response to Singh is:

* Devolution is ‘paralysed’ by the partial implementation of 13A and delayed elections.

* The amalgamation of Provinces shelved, judicially disfavouring India.

* Land power-sharing, by Sri Lanka’s rejection, is in India’s disfavor.

* The language issue is constitutionally solved but partially failed in implementation.

* Sri Lanka has disfavoured Indians by rejecting the Law and Order issue.

* The time frame for a solution is abstract, even after crushing Tigers 12 years ago.

* Foreign threats have heavily increased in India’s disfavor.

* The background scenarios or environments have changed.

* No military operations in the north and east.

* Ceasing violence and power-sharing, as a remedy, was the then demand. Now the focus is on human rights and humanitarian violations, returning refugees, and participatory development with dignity, equality, and self-respect. One may question whether failed 13A is the best tool for the purpose.

* Interventions were limited to India then, whereas now GOSL is cornered internationally.

* Tamil demands circulated mostly between the TULF and India then, whereas now the Diaspora’s enhanced lobbying has created negative consequences. Nevertheless, the President wishes to discuss with the Diaspora, though some are listed. The need is a mechanism.

* Other than to gain politically in Tamil Nadu because BJP is weak there, the Modi government has much bigger stakes to focus on, for example, ‘Chinese expansionism’, international capital movements, and Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Alliance’s interests than to toil for Lankan devolution.

* BJP has alternatives to win the GOSL, e.g. Kushinagar aviation, 15-million-dollar grant for Buddhist affairs, financial swap deals.

Fresh thinking

 Based on Jaswant Singh’s queries, and the current situation, instead of pursuing the 35-year-old demand, will not a new power-sharing approach pay richer dividends? For India, in the present geopolitical context, the Exchanged Letter has more to gain than from 13A or the Agreement.

 President Jayewardene strategised by vacillating until 13A finally happened. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a military strategist, must be emulating political veteran President Jayewardene on a different learning curve, i.e., what Sun Tzu said, “In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed.”

 I believe the President’s terminology: “must look at” plusses and minuses of 13A is an excuse for procrastination. If Secretary Shringla has gauged this behaviour correctly, he may have the last laugh as his goal must be to gain from Trincomalee Oil Tanks, ports, and aviation, etc, (contents of Exchanged Letters) while pleasing Tamil Nadu and our Tamil groups with 13A.

 Sri Lanka won the conflict in 2009, but still, devolutionary goals set in 1987 are yet to be achieved. Prabhakaran was unhappy and felt he was tricked and revenged. Successive governments have not pursued devolution and debilitated the PCs. The incumbent government must be thinking about new strategies. Therefore, Secretary Shringla’s ‘full implementation of 13A’ demand is likely to be listed for operations.

 Since the war and 13A have not resolved the reconciliation issues, what remains from Secretary Shringla’s demand is what Rajiv Gandhi said in Lok Sabha (4-3-1987.) “We know that no ethnic problem such as this has a military solution.” War victory and peace efforts have not relieved the affected. The tool (13A) has failed to succeed with and without war. To consider it as an all-season remedy may not stand the test.

 Therefore, PM Modi, Minister Jaishankar, and Secretary Shringla can repeat PM Gandhi’s quote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 35- years later! What was considered appropriate during the war must be adjusted to suit the emerged environments.

Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe governments and the incumbent administration have wasted 12 years from 2009. From Bhandari to Shringla, and Rajiv Gandhi to Narendra Modi, India also has failed in moving the politico-development process to success. Best wishes Secretary Shringla’s turn!


Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News

Prices of sixty essential drugs to be reduced from 15th June




The Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal raised by the Minister of Health to reduce the maximum retail price of 60 medicines by 16% with effect from 15.06.2023 and review the price of medicines every three months

Continue Reading

Latest News

Cabinet approval to publish draft bill on contempt of a court, a tribunal or an institution




The Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to the proposal submitted by the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms for publishing the draft bill prepared by the Legal Draftsman which includes the clear and precise provisions and situational circumstances regarding the offense of ‘contempt of court’ , defense and easing the penalty as well as the procedure to follow when easing the penalty,  in the government gazette and subsequently to be tabled in the Parliament for its concurrence.

Continue Reading


Cabinet approves rationalization of VAT exemptions and abolition of SVAT System




The Cabinet of Ministers granted concurrence to the resolution forwarded by the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to remove most of the releases from Value Added Tax (VAT), further retaining releases that ease the pressure on low – income families to secure the fundamental sectors of the economy as well as the releases for sectors such as education, health and agriculture, as well as to revise the provisions applicable for the Value Added Tax (VAT) act so that the Simplified Value Added Tax (SVAT) methodology can be canceled with effect from 01.01.2024 by introducing a more formal methodology for repaying the Value Added Tax (VAT) and to instruct the Legal Draftsman to prepare a draft bill for the purpose.

Continue Reading