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.

The President 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.

Clearly, the 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.

The politics 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.

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