THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 January 2020 (Moving towards a Colombo reset (The Hindu))

Moving towards a Colombo reset (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: New dimensions of India – Sri Lanka Relations

Context:

  • Even before the new president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was sworn in, the narrative about Colombo’s renewed “tilt” towards China and against India had taken root.
  • The headline misrepresents the complex power play involving Beijing, Delhi and Colombo.

Background:

  • The Great Game in the Subcontinent is not limited to just India and China.
  • It is quite easy to forget the considerable interests and influence of many other powers in the region, including the US, European Union, Japan and Russia.
  • The exclusive focus on major power rivalry masks the agency of South Asian political elites and their capacity to manoeuvre among the major powers.

About Rajapaksas:

  • Although the Rajapaksas had blamed India for their defeat in the 2015 elections, they have sought to make up with Delhi in recent years.
  • India has been engaging all the major political formations in Sri Lanka.
  • The stage, then, is ready for a reset in the bilateral relations between the two strong governments in Delhi and Colombo.

China’s movement:

  • India is acutely aware that China’s economic and strategic salience in the Subcontinent will continue to grow and is not tied to the regime leadership in its neighbourhood.
  • Delhi can’t expect its neighbours to shut down economic and commercial engagement with Beijing, notwithstanding the many questions about the terms of China’s assistance on projects, including those under the Belt and

Road Initiative.

  • But Delhi will be right to ask Colombo not to take steps with Beijing that threaten India’s security.
  • That reset involves addressing the structural factors that have complicated the relationship between Delhi and Colombo.

Develop India-Sri Lanka relationship:

  • Delhi and Colombo need a clear understanding of mutual red lines relating to national security and a political comfort level to discuss cases that fall within the orange zone.
  • That should help prevent the recurrence of the controversy over Chinese submarines in Colombo port that generated so much bad blood between the two nations in 2014.
  • As the world rediscovers the geopolitical value of Sri Lanka at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, Colombo has huge opportunities to leverage its location for national benefit.
  • A prudent and important part of that strategy would be to avoid provoking India.
  • Delhi too would be wise to be mindful of Colombo’s security concerns and find ways to develop long-term strategic cooperation with Sri Lanka.

Resolve disputes

  • Delhi needs to invest some political capital in resolving problems such as the long-standing dispute over fisheries.
  • Beyond its objection to China’s BRI projects, Delhi, either alone or in partnership with like-minded countries like Japan, should offer sustainable terms for infrastructure development.
  • Delhi also needs to contribute more to the development of Colombo’s defence and counter-terror capabilities.

Shaping India’s relations with Sri Lanka:

  • The structural factor shaping India’s relations with Sri Lanka is the Tamil question.
  • India’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s tragic civil war has been far more consequential than the China factor in complicating Delhi’s relations with Colombo.
  • Delhi has certainly learnt the dangers of being drawn too deep into the domestic conflicts of neighbouring countries.

Way ahead:

  • The Rajapaksas have declared that they will not bend before foreign pressures.
  • India knows that too much heat from the West will automatically increase China’s leverage in Colombo.
  • If the Tamil question continues to have a big impact on Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, Delhi needs to look beyond old formulae to try and encourage reconciliation within Lanka and across the Palk Strait with Tamil Nadu.

Conclusion:

Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Who among the following was involved in the most famous incident of “Kakori train robbery”?
A. Ashfaqulla Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil
B. Bhagat Singh and Shivaram Hari Rajguru
C. Surya Sen and Khudiram Bose
D. Manabendra Nath Roy and Hutatma Madan Lal Dhingra

Answer: A
Mains Questions:

Q.1) How India can shape their geo-political relation with Sri Lanka?


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