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Geopolitical Cartographer: A puzzling name

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By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

I blamed myself for not knowing the term, Geopolitical Cartographer, but on inquiry found that none of my friends had heard of it either!

I was under the impression that Baroness Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was in Sri Lanka for the 75th Independence Day celebrations but was surprised to learn from some media reports that she addressed a meeting convened by Geopolitical Cartographer on 3rd February in Colombo. Although her address was given wide publicity, only a few mentioned Geopolitical Cartographer. I wondered what she had to do with cartography; the science or practice of drawing maps! As far as I am aware, the Commonwealth, started by King George VI but enlivened by the late great Queen Elizabeth, has no intentions of redrawing the territories of the 54 countries already in the association or many countries awaiting to join and, therefore, has no need for a cartographer. Interestingly, Patricia Scotland’s Twitter-feed makes no mention of this lecture though reference is made to the attendance at the Independence celebration and meetings with the president, foreign minister and the leader of the opposition, which was intriguing.

Geopolitical, as defined in Oxford English Dictionary is “the political relations between countries and groups of countries in the world, as influenced by their geography; the study of these relations”. However, Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia most of us use nowadays, has this extended definition: Geopolitics is the study of the effects of Earth’s geography (human and physical) on politics and international relations. While geopolitics usually refers to countries and relations between them, it may also focus on two other kinds of states: de facto independent states with limited international recognition and relations between sub-national geopolitical entities, such as the federated states that make up a federation, confederation, or a quasi-federal system.” This extended definition tied up with cartographer meaning ‘a person who draws or produces maps’ intrigued me immensely. Thanks to the world-wide-web, free for use due to the foresight of its inventor Tim Berners-Lee, I was able to find the answers quick enough.

Geopolitical Cartographer calls itself an Indian Ocean Think Tank and states the following as the background “For over 8,000 years, the Indian Ocean has been a focal point of trade and contact between groups of people, and in recent centuries has been a focal point of International Economics. Today over one third of the global population resides in the Indian Ocean’s littoral states, 40% of global oil resources, and most goods loaded and unloaded in its connected landmass. As we move into 2023 of the 21st Century we can clearly see that the Geopolitical reshaping of the Indian Ocean will not only define populations and economics, but also the Century as a whole. The Indian Ocean continues to connect West to East, and as we enter the second half of the century the East to West trade will continue to grow, and will be more evident as these economies look to new markets for trade and contact. What will this mean for the Ocean, the Indo-Pacific, International Economics, Maritime Affairs, and regional trade groupings?”

Hold it! Have we in 2023, as highlighted above, already entered the second half of this century? Miscalculation perhaps or is it a projection for what is likely to happen in 28 years? Unlikely, as East to West trade and, in fact, West to East trade is continuously growing!

Its mission statement reads: “The Geopolitical Cartographer shall promote the study, research, and analysis of the geopolitical, geo-economic, and maritime affair developments in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the connected landmass, which are redrawing the global political order. The primary focus will be on the Indian Ocean and its littoral states including: 1) its emergence as an epicentre in the remaking of the global political order; 2) the creation of a single strategic maritime space resulting from the interconnection with the Pacific Ocean; and 3) other global developments having an impact on the mission of the Institute.

Having seeing that such a high goal has been set, I was very keen to find the personalities behind. The board of directors consist of Mahinda Haradasa, Channa Wickremesinghe and Rajaratnam Selvaskandan. I am not aware of their achievements and, unfortunately, the website simply mentions their names without giving any details. However, the following is stated about the executive director, Rishan de Silva: “Raised in the Western Indian Ocean littoral State of Kenya, Rishan completed his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in New York, USA, specialising in International Politics. Rishan then went on to work for a Tech company in the “Silicon Savannah” initially as Expansion Director and later as General Manager before moving to the University of Oxford to read a Masters in Social Anthropology.”

When Tech and Silicon were mentioned, I instinctively thought he had worked in Silicone-Valley but as the company was not named, I googled ‘silicone savannah’ andfound this on Wikipedia: Silicon Savannah is a term used to refer to the technology ecosystem in Kenya. The term is a play on Silicon Valley and the grassland savanna ecosystem that is a dominant feature of Kenya’s ecology.” Thanks to Geopolitical Cartographer, I learned another new term!

The founder and the patron of Geopolitical Cartographer is none other than President Ranil Wickremasinghe, who has stated: “It is the emerging geopolitical cartography of the Indian Ocean that will play a dominant role in shaping the equilibrium of power in the Indo-Pacific, the emerging global power house”.

True, as India is fast approaching superpower status, having displaced its former coloniser to be the fifth largest economy in the world, emerging geopolitics in the Indian Ocean will play a dominant role in shaping the equilibrium of power in the Indo-Pacific region. However, I find it hard to imagine cartography having anything to do with it; unless, Ranil is planning to redraw maps of the littoral states in the Indian Ocean! Threatening to impose 13A and giving an undeserved appointment to Erik Solheim, who is alleged to have a hand in the cartography of South Sudan, it is not difficult to imagine where Ranil is likely commence his new venture. Afterall, Geopolitical Cartographer may not be a puzzling name if the motive behind is sinister!



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Features

Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric

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Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers

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Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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Features

A mask of DATES…

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Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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