India to the defence
The SLFP-PA "Jana Sena'' rally on Deepavali
Day was tantamount to a deliberate provocation. This being so because
the rally was in the face of opposition by Hindu organizations on
an emotive issue such as the putative division of the country by
minority Tamil guerrillas.
But the Prime
Minister's visit to New Delhi earlier this week and his performance
by arriving at a virtual defense pact with India took the sting
out of the protest march.
Curiously, even the PA had to welcome the move given its concern
over the recent months on the security situation of Trincomalee
and the security of Muslims of the East. Despite the seeming differences
of the key actors in the South it seems that the President and the
Prime Minister this week acted quite decisively. Even though it
was not orchestrated, this march in tandem eased the concerns to
some extent of a vast segment of the population.
asked the head of the SLMM to leave for his allegedly treacherous
acts and the PM signed a prospective defence pact with India, clearly
aimed at securing the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity
from threats by the LTTE. On the face of it, at least, some sense
of security now prevails in the minds of people who feared that
the Government was allowing the security of the North and the East
to slip out of its grasp.
But as our
report on this page states, the need for India's protective umbrella
has been necessitated by the dropping down of our own guard. We
have had to go scurrying to India because this country's own armed
forces have been allowed to go to seed.
While it is salutary that we have reached some agreement with India
with regard to defence co-operation matters, by extension ensuring
the safety and security of the North and the East, and delivered
a significant blow to LTTE's grand designs of military adventurism,
it is yet another matter to keep relying on this "international
safety net'' to bail us out of any given situation.
There is some
logic in utilizing the national exchequer for economic development
and having a neighbour such as India come to our defence in case
things go badly wrong. But this amounts to an over-reliance on the
international safety net.
India was no
doubt concerned that being the biggest player in the region the
country was keeping aloof from this safety net far too long, isolating
itself even as Norway, Japan the EU, and even the US poached in
what India has long believed to be home turf. These concerns of
course were sharpened by the fact that the LTTE was showing flagrant
mala-fide in its attempts to shore up its military strength.
LTTE will be thoroughly displeased by the signal from New Delhi
- which says in effect "Don't you dare". But even so,
one thing is equally clear. In the ultimate analysis, irrespective
of the assistance of the Indian defence establishment, however welcome
it may be - any fighting will have to be done by our own Armed Forces
if the LTTE upsets the negotiating table and returns to open hostilities.
of India is subject to the customary swings and turnarounds as has
been regular since our Northerly neighbour originally sponsored
the civil war in our country. That cycle could come full circle
once more. While there is reason to rejoice to some extent at these
developments, there is reason not to be carried away on the other
hand. While India acts guardian angel, Sri Lanka is chasing after
Indian tourists, Indian investors, Indian three-wheelers and even
the fuel has a whiff of the Indian octane in it. Defence pact and
good neighbourliness notwithstanding, we really don't want to be
another Indian state do we.