Sunday, 3 May 2015

SL Sheds Anti-Western Dogma: Nail in the Coffin for Separatists

The US secretary of state John Kerry's visit to Sri Lanka this week sent the message that US-SL relations which reached an all-time low during the last nine years or so is back on track. As much as President Mahinda Rajapakse should be commended for resisting pressure exerted by the west to stop the war during the final stages of the war, President Sirisena and PM Wickemasinghe should win kudos for finally putting Sri Lanka's foreign policy on the right track.

Anti-Western sentiments were very much in fashion during the course of the Rajapakse regime, not only did it won him a lot of votes locally, it also gave a plausible justification for dealing almost exclusively with China when it came to development projects carried out in the country. SL had to put a lot of time and effort trying to deal with the UN resolution against SL which was engineered by the western powers who were sulking after the way they were snubbed during the latter stages of the war in 2009. Although it was woefully ineffective, this 'taking the bull by the horns' kind of approach made waves in the local political arena, President Rajapaksa was unstoppable winning election after election. Only real beneficiary of this exercise of  continued distancing from the west was the Tamil Diaspora who are hellbent on creating a separate state for Tamils within Sri Lankan soil. What the ultra-nationalists did not understand was the fact that if SL is to put and end to separatism it had to fight its battle at the right front which is in the west, but all they did was harping on anti-western rhetoric to reinforce local vote base.

It appears that this new approach to dealing with the west will alleviate some of the difficulties faced by SL in the international arena related to war crimes, one can also speculate that SL will win over significant economic and military assistance from the west. Another remarkable aspect of Sri Lanka's refreshed foreign policy is that it acknowledges the importance of keeping good relations with key players in the region like India, China and the rest, in keeping with the non-aligned policy which brought significant benefits to the country in the past.

There will no doubt be harsh criticism by ultra-nationalist political forces within the country regarding the new policy, but it is of profound importance for SL to engage with the west so that they can negate any threat of separatist forces rising its head and concentrate on economic development that was hindered by a three decade long civil war. It is however important that Sri Lanka make sure they do not over compensate in the process of mending fences with the west, like the previous regime did with China, bending over backwards for the military assistance they gained during the civil war.