‘please’ and ‘thank you’ of Indo-Lanka relations
a thoughtful piece titled ‘For a treaty of peace,
friendship and cooperation with India’ in The Island
of Saturday, November 27, 2010, former ambassador, K
Godage, has laid out the basis on which Indo-Lanka
relations should be developed.
He has considered the history, the geopolitical
realities, the today-factors and outlined the ‘ought
to be’ in cogent terms.
Godage refers to the ‘Gujral Doctrine’ and suggests
that India should revert to that progressive and
far-thinking document when considering for relations
with other South Asian countries.
He has pointed out that there is a complete
trust-breakdown at present between India and other
South Asian countries and this is true.
India has not been the good-hearted neighbour at
all times and even when it helps out (as some claim
it did during the last stages of the war), such
largesse has been considerably outweighed by India’s
pernicious history of fermenting division and
orchestrating destabilisation, not to mention the
natural and legitimate moves to secure economic
benefit in overall engagements with Sri Lanka. The
Gujral Doctrine insists that India gives and
accommodates without demanding reciprocity. That’s a
The reality is the opposite and indeed one where
there is little ‘giving’ or ‘accommodating’.
This is not surprising because one really cannot
expect much from a nation that cannot ‘give’
anything to nor ‘accommodate’ the vast majority of
people in Kashmir and indeed has limited its giving
to maiming and killing.
Godage says that Sri Lanka should not anger or cause
concern in India by appearing to undermine India’s
strategic regional interests. This is sensible
We do not live in a flat world and we must keep in
mind that we don’t have the military might to back
us in a self-righteous shouting match with India,
even though India, after the IPKF fiasco must know
that a military adventure in Sri Lanka will cost it
dearly (India, we note, is hard pressed to keep her
own terrorists at bay and ‘Kashmir’ ought to have
taught them that an irate citizenry will harass an
invader to the point of tears and beyond). We need
to keep things in perspective, yes.
Bilateral relations, however, is a two-way street
even between parties of unequal strength. India’s
non-Gujral ways of operation can push Sri Lanka to
seek non-intruding help from other sources.
There is no help that comes without strings, of
course, but there are strings and there are strings.
Some come with the tag ‘reasonable price’ and some
with the ugly sticker ‘blackmail’.
Relations with India, sadly, appear to be more of
the latter type whereas the China and Iran strings
seem more palatable.
There is a reason why Sri Lankans are wary of
India and this is not just because of Indira Gandhi
breast-feeding Eelamism and terrorism and her son
Rajiv playing J R Jayewardene every way he could.
There is a reason why Pakistan is seen as a friendly
country. There’s a reason why External Affairs
Minister G L Peiris has to say ‘we haven’t taken
devolution off the agenda’ when his Indian
counterpart, S M Krishna says ‘Sri Lanka must sort
out her outstanding issues including finding a
political solution for the Tamil people’, even
though devolution was not mentioned in the
I can’t imagine G L Peiris responding in this manner
if for example Makhdoom Shah Mahmoon Qureshi, the
Pakistani Foreign Minister said ‘it would be nice if
Sri Lanka sorts out all outstanding issues
pertaining to grievances and aspirations articulated
by the Tamil people’.
It will take statesmanship of a far superior kind
and one which necessarily includes a high degree of
humility on the part of India to come anywhere close
to the Gujral Doctrine.
As of now, India has got the rhetoric right and
that’s such an easy and such a tiny part of the
Godage was a diplomat and this shows in the tone of
He says, ‘Please allow us to sort out our problem
and do not seek to impose external solutions to
problems we understand best and need to sort out in
our national interest’. Yes, India wants us to say
‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Even when they kick us in
our national gut. Until a time comes when civility
and respect underline all bilateral relations
between India and her neighbours, niceties will be
surface-made and will not have any depth in
political, economic or any other reality.
I doubt if S M Krishna will hear Godage. I am not
hopeful he will hear me. That’s the crux of the
matter, isn’t it Godage. We need dialogue and we beg
for it. India wants monologue.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who
can be reached at email@example.com