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Sybil : the colourful nonconformist

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Sybil Wettasinghe was not merely an example of an imaginative, quality illustrator of her generation, but much more. A journalist, a creative artist, a woman of many roles, she was a trendsetting global-Lankan. As the first death anniversary of this well known writer/illustrator approaches, we remember her life and times.

by Randima Attygalle

The six-year-old Sybil de Silva who left Gintota for her English convent education in Colombo with a head full of ‘aththamma’s folk tales’ and memories of Seedakka’s hopper-making and Yakdehi Muththa’s devil dancing found wrestling with forks and spoons in her convent refectory a futile effort. She wouldn’t compromise the flavour of her favourite lunch of rice with prawns and murunga and would wait till the nuns left the dining room and relish the meal, eating with her fingers amid protests from her schoolmates who would threaten to report her! During art class, she would horrify the Irish nuns at Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya, replicating her sculptor-grandfather’s female figures.

Despite resistance from school, teachers and her mother, Sybil continued to defend her dream of becoming a professional painter. She was not impressed by her mother’s efforts to make her an architect. Her father who encouraged his daughter’s art, submitted her work for an exhibition at the Colombo Art Gallery. The 15-year-old’s work impressed H.D. Sugathapala, Headmaster of the Royal Primary School, who handpicked Sybil to illustrate his Nava Maga Standard 5 Reader. The book which launched her artistic career was also the first book to be printed in colour here in Sri Lanka.

‘Sybil’ was a prophetess in Greek mythology – a woman who claimed to be able to interpret the wishes of the gods through their oracles. But this Sybil Wettasinghe was her own prophet. She was a rebel too. At 19, she knew she was ready for much more than pottering around with paint and brushes. Journalism was her next calling. It was on April 1, 1948 that draped in a new saree her mother had bought for the occasion, her hair in a formal konde, the 19-year-old was presented to D.B.Dhanapala, the Chief Editor of Lankadeepa.

The youngest and the only female staffer then at Lankadeepa, she was assigned a weekly ‘Saturday Strip’, giving life to characters and tales from her Gintota childhood. “Most readers believed the creator of this strip of folk poems and illustrations was a man, misreading my name and when news spread that it was a young girl, there were inquisitive visitors to the Lankadeepa office,” she once recounted.

The visits ended when Dhanapala ran a newspaper account of his gifted new recruit with her photograph. Turning a deaf ear to those who urged the editor to ‘drill some sense’ to the girl who was sketching ‘gibberish, nonsensical figures’, he cheered her on to discover her own metier, never altering her style to please the masses. “Some even proposed Heywood mentoring for me and Mr. Dhanapala wouldn’t hear any of it,” the self-taught artist would say.

Bored with just her weekly Lankadeepa strip and with enough time to spare to buy books with her monthly salary of Rs. 60, Sybil one day boldly strode into the offices of Sita Jayawardena who compiled the then Times of Ceylon Women’s Page and asked for additional work. Soon she was illustrating Sooty Banda’s caricatures of Colombo socialites for The Times.

Moving to the newly launched Janatha Sinhala evening paper of the Lake House Group in 1952 was a turning point for Sybil both personally and professionally. While the Chief Editor Denzil Peiris gave her free rein, young Chief Sub Editor, Dharmapala Wettasinghe implored her to write a children’s story for his sake! Not only was a story born which still keeps girdling the globe, but a romance too bloomed culminating in the nuptial knot between Dharmapala Wettasinghe and Sybil de Silva in 1955. “He was my best fan and my best critic,” Sybil would often say and credit her fame as a globally acclaimed writer to her late husband.

The children’s story Kuda Hora (Umbrella Thief) which Sybil initially wrote and illustrated for ‘his sake’ in the Janatha, became a book which is now translated into several languages. In Japan it was once judged the best foreign book published there and also the most popular children’s book. At a time when Sinhala literature for children meant direct translations of European children’s stories and school texts with a ‘scattering of illustrations’, Kuda Hora with its unforgettable antics of the mischievous monkey ushered a new era in children’s literature. Critic Regi Siriwardena once remarked that, ‘Kuda Hora was the first Sinhala book to completely marry words and pictures.’

‘Kosgama kuda ne, minissu kuda dekalawath ne’

(Kosgama people don’t have umbrellas nor have they ever seen any) set the scene for Kuda Hora. From Habarala leaves which served as umbrellas, a half eaten bunch of bananas in the village tea kiosk, the bulath heppuwa, hiramanaya to the cat on the Sinhala ulu-tiled roof, all her work breathed and celebrated the Sri Lankan flavour at its best. She often lamented that these ‘roots’ were missing in most contemporary Sri Lankan children’s literature.

Challenging the West-aping, servile mentality, the writer who defined the shape and form of Sri Lanka’s children’s literature for nearly 70 years, was bold enough to question, “why glorify apple trees and snow-capped mountains when we are part of a rich heritage.” In all her scores of much loved books including Hoity the Fox, Weniyan kalu weniyan, Sooththara Puncha, Runaway Beard, Poddai-Poddi and Meti gedara lamai, the authentic Sri Lankan flavour had been her credo. In a digital era where aththamma’s kitchen is only an image from the past, ‘googled’ and found, her documentation of an era gone by is priceless. Moreover her work impel a generation living in a cultural vacuum to revisit a value system fast eroding.

Sybil’s proficiency in English, her convent education and her exposure to English speaking circles of Colombo did not drive her to become yet another Anglo-Sri Lankan, a trait she shared with her journalist-husband. On the contrary, she would be skeptical of elaborate hats, gowns and parasols. Her social satire built around the character of Kusumalatha which she wrote and illustrated for the Sarasaviya paper was an index of this. In taking the authentic Sri Lankan landscape in which a distinct value system thrived, to the global platform, she would not compromise her style for any affinity with a particular ideology. For this, she was lauded by the world. She was one of the earliest Lankan writers and illustrators to go international long before ‘international citizenry’ became a buzz word.

Besides several state literary awards, and honorary titles, her work won a number of coveted international awards including the Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture 2012, Isabel Hutton Prize for Asian Women Writers, the Best Foreign Book Award in Japan in 1986 (for Kuda Hora). Her documentation of her childhood- Child in Me won the Gratiaen Prize for the most Creative English Book in 1995. She also won a Guinness world record in 2020 with her book Wonder Crystal a few months before her death at the age of 92, for having the most number of alternative endings which were solicited from young readers.

Accepting the Nikkei Asia Prize 2012 in Tokyo in recognition of her ‘magnificent contribution to enrich people’s lives in the region’ and first time bestowed on a Sri Lankan, Sybil remarked that although she had five grandchildren of her own, she considered all the world’s children hers. “Children are the spice of my life,” she remarked. Deeply moved by her love for children, Nikkei Inc. President & CEO Tsuneo Kita noted that her presence ‘bestowed a magical atmosphere’ at the event.

A woman with a fiercely independent mind who called herself her own ‘best friend’, Sybil did not bend the rules by which she lived. This was true of her artistic style as well. While most of her contemporaries would align themselves with a particular ‘school’, Sybil remained unaware of ‘current trends’ as she hardly stepped into Colombo’s galleries. She was never an understudy. “It never bothered me not to belong to any school or group,” she would say. With only her artistic DNA in her, the gene passed down by her sculptor-grandfather, Sybil went on to evolve her style of ‘talking pictures’ enthused by the fine nuances of a childhood spent in the South and people and places of her everyday life. A strong promoter of nurturing the inherent talent of children and allowing it to evolve naturally, she believed that ‘green skies’ and ‘blue trees’ were very much a part of this process.

Knowing Aunty Sybil or Sybil nenda as a nation of children called her, was a journey of discovery. Her cozy little home was my sanctuary. With each passing hour in her wise, wonderful company I rediscovered a phenomenal woman of iron will living in a slight frame. Seated at her weathered kitchen-table, I would spend many happy hours with her. “If only this table could talk,” she would often gleefully tell me. From the cat family which she lured with her ‘magical recipe’ of milk, sprats and bread to floating saucepans in her flooded drawing room (as a result of a tap left running throughout the night) her mischievous wit offered me constant amusement. Neither of us had any inkling that the breakfast of kiribath, lunumiris, ginger-tea and hakuru she treated me to a few weeks before her death was to be our last shared meal.

There were ‘story times’ too when the child in me would surface true to her mantra that ‘there is a wonder child living in all of us’. I would sit at her feet, she in her rocking chair telling me stories in her beautifully modulated story-teller voice. The one of the mermaid living six lives and realizing she is made only to be a mermaid remains one of my favourites. “A child is like that, we cannot make them live the lives we want, we have no right to realize our unrealized dreams through them, for they have their own destined paths,” she would tell me in the end. Then there were stories to which I was treated beyond her illustrated pages; trials and tribulations of a mother and a career woman, her measure of hurt and betrayal and so much more.

Long before ‘work-life balance’ for women was heard of, at a time when most of her contemporaries would abandon their vocations to raise a family, Sybil juggled both. To use a present day cliché, she ‘shattered the glass ceiling’ unconsciously. She was among the pioneering professional Sri Lankan women to have pioneered a path that generations of young women could follow. When her husband, the famous editor, Dharmapala Wettasinghe, became a political victim and lost his job, it was Sybil, then a mother of four young children, who kept the home fires burning. The batik business she set up during their dark hour not only helped her make ends meet but eventually rose to be an enterprise in which many took delight.

Sybil herself was a chronicle of history, her life intersecting with almost a century of changing socio-political and cultural milieu of the nation. Soon to turn 93, Sybil nenda kept herself busy at her desk everyday immersed in the child’s world, surrounded by her pots of ink and birds who would chirp outside her window. A verse from her popular book Child in Me would resonate;

 

A child and a grown up

Live as one

In perfect, perfect harmony

Within me.

She remained the six-year-old ‘Gintota girl’ until the very end…..



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Antics of State Minister and Pohottu Mayor; mum on chemical fertiliser mistake; The Ganga – a link

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Reams have been written in all local newspapers; much comment has traversed social media and persons have been bold to call for justice on two absolutely unrestrained and yes, evil, SLPP VIPs who have recently been dancing the devil as the saying goes. These evil doers seem to be pathologically unable to control themselves and behave as human beings: heads outsised with hubris and apparently bodies often pickled with liquor.

Very succinct comments have been made on Lohan Ratwatte, one being: “a leopard never changes his spots” referring to the many crimes supposed to have been committed by him, and the other that he is a gem of a man who may make a jewellery heist soon enough. He has the audacity to say he did nothing wrong in barging into two prisons; in one to show off to pals the gallows and in the other, to brandish a gun and place it against the heads of two shivering Tamil prisoners. All done within the week when world attention was focused on Sri Lankan human rights violations directed by the UNHRC

Cass’ comment is that Lohan Rat was committing hara-kiri (minus even a trace of the Japanese spirit of self sacrifice) and taking the entire country on a suicidal mission through his inability to hold his drinks and destructive hubris and murderous inclination. Cass particularly favoured Don Mano’s summation in his comment on the unlawful prison intrusions in the Sunday Times of September 19. “Any semblance of a shabby cover-up to enable Lohan Ratwatte to retain his position as State Minister of Gems and Jewellery will not only endanger the economy by depriving the nation’s dollar bare coffers of a GSP benefit of nearly 2.7 billion dollars, but will risk putting 21 million Lankans from the frying pan into the fire and test their tolerance to the core.”

The visit to the Welikada prison by the State Minister of Prison Reform and … was said to be with some men and one woman. Identities were kept under wraps and confusion raised by making the dame a beauty queen or cosmetician. But who she was, was soon known along the vine of gossip. One report said the person in charge of the prison or its section with the gallows, cautioned Lohan Rat and tried to dissuade his advance with friends in tow since the lady companion was in shorts and them walking through where prisoners were, would cause a commotion. But no, the State Minister advanced to show off the gallows with his short-shorts wearing woman companion and imbibing mates.

Cass is actually more censorious of this woman than even of the State Minister himself. Is she a Sri Lankan, so vagrant in her woman-ness? Doesn’t she have even an iota of the traditional lajja baya that decent women exhibit, even to minor level nowadays? Is associating with a State Minister and his drinking pals such a prized social event? Shame on her! She, if people’s assumption of identity is correct, has boasted political clout and been elevated by it too. Such our young girls! Do hope they are very few in number, though this seems to be a baseless hope as social events unroll.

Pistol packing – correction please – toy pistol packing Eraj Fernando is aiding the ex State Minister of Prison Reform to deface, debase and deteriorate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. He is interested in land and not in gallows or scantily clad gals. With thugs in tow he trespassed a property in Bamba and assaulted two security guards. Repetition of an incident he was embroiled in – a land dispute in Nugegoda a couple of weeks ago. He was taken in by the police and before you could say Raj, he was granted bail. What quick work of police and courts.

As the editor of The Island opined in the lead article of September 20: “The Rajapaksas have created quite a few monsters who enjoy unbridled freedom to violate the law of the land.” A convicted murderer known for his thug ways was presidentially pardoned a short while ago.

The good thing is that people talk, write, lampoon, and draw attention to these heinous crimes and do not seem scared for their necks and families. White vans have not started their rounds. And very importantly the memories of Ordinaries are not as fickle as they were. Wait and see is their immediate response.

New fad – jogging lanes on wewa bunds!

Some monks and men gathered recently on the partly torn up bund of Parakrama Samudraya and had the foolish audacity to say the bund needed a jogging lane. Tosh and balderdash! Then news revealed that other wewas too were being ‘attacked and desecrated’ to construct jogging lanes. In such remote rural areas which even tourists do not visit? Is there illicit money-making in this activity? Otherwise, no explanation is available for this sudden interest in farmers’ and toilers’ physical well being. They get enough exercise just engaging in their agriculture, so for whom are these jogging lanes?

Sharply contrasting persons

As apposite to the former two, are superb Sri Lankans up front and active and giving of their expertise, albeit unobtrusively. Consider the medical men and women and their service to contain the pandemic; farmers who protest to ensure harvests are not damaged too severely by false prophets who won the day for the banning of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. The latest blow and justification of what so very many agriculturists, agrochemists, have been saying all along – organic is good but to be introduced very slowly; without importing compost from overseas, is the Chinese import containing evil microorganisms. Experts have categorically stated that chemical fertilisers are sorely needed for all agriculture; more so paddy and tea; and if used prudently cause no illness to humans or injurious side effects.

The four experts who comprised the panel at the MTV I Face the Nation discussion monitored by Shameer Rasooldeen on Monday September 20, agreed totally on these two facts and went on to say that it must be admitted a hasty decision was taken to stop import of chemical fertilizers. We listened to the considered wise opinions backed by true expertise of vibrantly attractive and articulate Dr Warshi Dandeniya – soil scientist, of Prof Saman Seneweera from the University of Melbourne, Prof Buddhi Marambe – crop scientist, and Dr Roshan Rajadurai – media person of the Planters Association. Listening to them, Cass swelled with pride and told herself see what sincerely-interested-in-the-country’s welfare eminent scientists we have in this land of rowdy politicians and uneducated MPs. They labeled the sudden banning of chemical fertilisers and insecticides and pesticides as “very dangerous and causing irreversible harm. It is not too late to reverse the decision, even if admitting fault is not possible.”

Garlic

Oh dear! The stench! Never ending series of scams; executed or approved by politicians and all for illicit gains. Even the tragedy of the pandemic and suffering of much of the population does not seem to have curbed selfish lust for money.

Focus on the Mahaweli Ganga

Interesting and deserving of thanks. Chanaka Wickramasuriya wrote two excellent articles in the Sunday Islands of September 12 and 19 on the Mahaweli Ganga, imparting invaluable facts of the present river and its history, as for example which king built which wewa or anicut. He ended his second article by hoping the waters of the great river will feed the north of the island too: “Maybe then this island will be finally uplifted. Not just from north to south, but across class and caste, language and philosophy, and political partisanship. Hopefully driven by a newfound sanity among its denizens, yet symbolically attested to by the waters of the Mahaweli.”

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These humans are Crazy!

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Those of us who grew up reading the “Asterix” comics by Goscinny and Uderzo will no doubt remember the resonant words of Obelix, the menhir delivery man. So many times, he has observed the actions of characters ranging from Roman Emperors to Goths and made the statement “these humans are crazy” often accompanied by a few taps from his forefinger to his ample brow. These words remain a universal truth and valid even today when looking at what is going on around us.

Let’s start in Aotearoa – New Zealand with the continuing saga of the young man of Sri Lankan origin who went berserk in a supermarket and stabbed so many innocent people. Despite many assurances from the government and almost all the Kiwi friends and even acquaintances we have in this country that we Lankans are not responsible, we feel deep down inside us that we are in some way, shape or form, responsible for this person’s behaviour. Articles not only from people of my (archaic) generation but young upstanding millennials and those even younger have expressed this emotion in their own characteristic fashion. Also, we feel responsible that our network of ex citizens of the Pearl living in Aotearoa have been unable to offer any support or counselling to this person or others of his ilk.

Just as we start clawing our way out of this mire of guilt somewhat reduced by finding out just how greatly the immigration and refugee systems of New Zealand have been duped, we are now told how a currency smuggler has been granted refugee status. Now currency smuggling happens all the time, mainly due to the punitive profits taken from customers by those licenced daylight robbers the banks, but more on that later. Apparently, a currency smuggler who arrived on a forged passport, evading arrest by the authorities in the Pearl has been granted refugee status! REFUGEE seems to be the magic word as far as the NZ authorities go. Those of us who have gone through the legal immigration channels and filled reams of forms and waited years for replies are left gasping at how those worthies in the government departments of Aotearoa have one set of rules and standards for us and another completely if one puts the word REFUGEE on one’s documents.

We move on to the pearl, if I were to attempt to apologise for the “offensive actions” of members of my family (bearing my “sir” name and direct relatives) that would take up a series of tomes resembling the encyclopaedia Britannica! It may also feature my name in a few volumes as well! The current antics of a kinsman with regard to using his position and power calls for a level of responsibility, on my part. The only caveat being a request to the fourth estate to use the person’s first name. Frequent displays of a family name which some have treasured and tried to bring enhancement to, associated with behaviour of this kind, brings dismay at a level that can only be understood by those who have tried to live up to the standards set by ancestors who held high office with honour in the past. There have been many articles some ranging from biting sarcasm (unfortunately not understood by the majority) to others simply parroting what they have read on the internet. The bottom line is standby O denizens of the Pearl, this maybe just another episode in the teledrama that is Lanka under Paksa rule! There are possibilities of scripting to distract the majority and even a wider spectrum involving human rights issues in Geneva. Also, scrutinize yourselves and remember that “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”?!

In Aotearoa, we call our Prime Minister by her first name and a PM that has gained the utmost respect of the people not to mention the world! Isn’t it time the Pearl followed suit? Of course, comments by the leader of the opposition like “Opposition Leader Premadasa said he vehemently condemned the disgraceful and illegal behaviour” reiterates the comments of Obelix. Especially when allegations and witnesses exist to “disgraceful and Illegal” behaviour by the person who uttered those very words. It may have been in a different context and “only” to do with the decimation of a national park in the Pearl but the behaviour had the same connotations. Looks like social media is the mitigating factor, as in those days, too, the fourth estate had to take care of continuing to exist and survive! Being the first party to spotlight such actions usually led to the “death of the messenger”.

As promised, back to the licenced daylight robbers of today, the banks. There is a “Robin Hood” tax in effect in some of the leading economies of Europe. The most “interesting” aspect for me being taxes on the profits of banks. The billions it could raise every year could give a vital boost to tackling poverty and climate change around the world and definitely in the Pearl. We call upon the “genius” in charge of the Central Bank as he is the “acknowledged” financial maestro of the Pearl (although he is never going to take RESPONSIBILITY for our plight) to look at this aspect if he has the cohunes to do it! But then again levels of corruption and obligations to high profit-making organisations that fund election campaigns, have to be taken into account in countries such as the Pearl.

Powerful efficient and successful economies like Germany and modern Demi-Gods like Bill Gates endorse this tax. Here is an idea for the government of the Pearl. Tax the banks on their huge profits and give some of that money back to the people without burdening an already insufferably burdened people! I fear ideas expressed in this column will meet their usual end either in the oblivion chaos and mayhem or the lack of mental fortitude that exists in the Pearl and her officials.However, one can only hope that people who wish the Pearl renewed status in the Indian Ocean region if not the world, continue to survive in these circumstances, as the village of indomitable Gauls in the face of the mighty Roman empire. We need an “Asterix” brave and quick-thinking warrior, armed with some magic portion from “Getafix” the druid. Instead, we seem to have plenty of pseudo “Getafix’s” concocting “dammika Pani” and such portions and far too many “Vitalstastix’s”- muddle-headed incompetent chiefs!

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Policy quandaries set to rise for South in the wake of AUKUS

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From the viewpoint of the global South, the recent coming into being of the tripartite security pact among the US, the UK and Australia or AUKUS, renders important the concept of VUCA; volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. VUCA has its origins in the disciplines of Marketing and Business Studies, but it could best describe the current state of international politics from particularly the perspective of the middle income, lower middle income and poor countries of the world or the South.

With the implementation of the pact, Australia will be qualifying to join the select band of nuclear submarine-powered states, comprising the US, China, Russia, the UK, France and India. Essentially, the pact envisages the lending of their expertise and material assistance by the US and the UK to Australia for the development by the latter of nuclear-powered submarines.

While, officially, the pact has as one of its main aims the promotion of a ‘rules- based Indo-Pacific region’, it is no secret that the main thrust of the accord is to blunt and defuse the military presence and strength of China in the region concerned. In other words, the pact would be paving the way for an intensification of military tensions in the Asia-Pacific between the West and China.

The world ought to have prepared for a stepping-up of US efforts to bolster its presence in the Asia-Pacific when a couple of weeks ago US Vice President Kamala Harris made a wide-ranging tour of US allies in the ASEAN region. Coming in the wake of the complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the tour was essentially aimed at assuring US allies in the region of the US’s continued support for them, militarily and otherwise. Such assurances were necessitated by the general perception that following the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, China would be stepping in to fill the power vacuum in the country with the support of Pakistan.

From the West’s viewpoint, making Australia nuclear-capable is the thing to do against the backdrop of China being seen by a considerable number of Asia-Pacific states as being increasingly militarily assertive in the South China Sea and adjacent regions in particular. As is known, China is contending with a number of ASEAN region states over some resource rich islands in the sea area in question. These disputed territories could prove to be military flash points in the future. It only stands to reason for the West that its military strength and influence in the Asia-Pacific should be bolstered by developing a strong nuclear capability in English-speaking Australia.

As is known, Australia’s decision to enter into a pact with the US and the UK in its nuclear submarine building project has offended France in view of the fact that it amounts to a violation of an agreement entered into by Australia with France in 2016 that provides for the latter selling diesel-powered submarines manufactured by it to Australia. This decision by Australia which is seen as a ‘stab in the back’ by France has not only brought the latter’s relations with Australia to breaking point but also triggered some tensions in the EU’s ties with the US and the UK.

It should not come as a surprise if the EU opts from now on to increasingly beef-up its military presence in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ with the accent on it following a completely independent security policy trajectory, with little or no reference to Western concerns in this connection.

However, it is the economically vulnerable countries of the South that could face the biggest foreign policy quandaries against the backdrop of these developments. These dilemmas are bound to be accentuated by the fact that very many countries of the South are dependent on China’s financial and material assistance. A Non-aligned policy is likely to be strongly favoured by the majority of Southern countries in this situation but to what extent this policy could be sustained in view of their considerable dependence on China emerges as a prime foreign policy issue.

On the other hand, the majority of Southern countries cannot afford to be seen by the West as being out of step with what is seen as their vital interests. This applies in particular to matters of a security nature. Sri Lanka is in the grips of a policy crunch of this kind at present. Sri Lanka’s dependence on China is high in a number of areas but it cannot afford to be seen by the West as gravitating excessively towards China.

Besides, Sri Lanka and other small states of the northern Indian Ocean need to align themselves cordially with India, considering the latter’s dominance in the South and South West Asian regions from the economic and military points of view in particular. Given this background, tilting disproportionately towards China could be most unwise. In the mentioned regions in particular small Southern states will be compelled to maintain, if they could, an equidistance between India and China.

The AUKUS pact could be expected to aggravate these foreign policy questions for the smaller states of the South. The cleavages in international politics brought about by the pact would compel smaller states to fall in line with the West or risk being seen by the latter as pro-China and this could by no means be a happy state to be in.

The economic crisis brought about by the current pandemic could only make matters worse for the South. For example, as pointed out by the UN, there could be an increase in the number of extremely poor people by around 120 million globally amid the pandemic. Besides, as pointed out by the World Bank, “South Asia in particular is more exposed to the risk of ‘hidden debt ‘from state-owned Commercial Banks (SOCBs), state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and public-private partnerships (PPPs) because of its greater reliance on them compared to other regions.” Needless to say, such economic ills could compel small, struggling states to veer away from foreign policy stances that are in line with Non-alignment.

Accordingly, it is a world characterized by VUCA that would be confronting most Southern states. It is a world beyond their control but a coming together of Southern states on the lines of increasing South-South cooperation could be of some help.

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