FB   
 
Powered by
 
 

 
Regional Focus
Can Sri Lanka be a hub – and haven – in the Indian Ocean?
Updated:Jul 1, 2012
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

In the context of shifts in the global balance of power and the new emphasis on the Indian Ocean as a region of strategic importance, there has been an urgent need for broader discourse in Sri Lanka on the impact of these developments, particularly in relation to foreign policy formulation.

The unfortunate consequences of the lack of such discussion have been keenly felt in recent times, with policy being shaped in an ad hoc manner, in reaction to situations rather than in anticipation of them.

The tilt towards India and China as emerging power centres in global politics, and how Sri Lanka adjusts to its ramifications, have not been a special focus of attention. This is in spite of the country having had links with both Asian powers going back to ancient times, and friendly relations strengthened by people-to-people contacts and other bonds of religion and culture down the ages.

In a new series of open-ended discussions launched on Friday, the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) has attempted to address this lacuna.

The first session was attended by a group of around 30 comprising mainly BCIS students, a few academics and even a few schoolchildren.  They engaged in a spirited discussion on the topic of the “Future of the Indian Ocean – Geopolitics and Sri Lanka.”  The informal monthly gatherings to discuss issues relating to international relations, or “IR evenings” as they are called, are open to the public.

There were no policymakers or diplomats present at this discussion. Policy makers especially stand to  benefit from the research-and-analysis related resources of institutions such as the Kadirgamar Institute and the BCIS. Prof. W.I Siriweera, BCIS Director, mentioned the hope of developing the BCIS as a main ‘think tank’ on international relations issues.

Dr Harinda Vidanage, former BCIS director who led Friday’s discussion, set the tone with his assertion that Sri Lanka is ‘at the centre of the Indian Ocean,’ but that ‘centres’ are not just geographical. Centres are made discursively and through connections that are made. Sri Lanka’s aspirations to be a ‘hub’ in the region could be ‘a little problematic’ if it was assumed that this would come about simply by virtue of geographic location, he suggested.

Sri Lanka would have to market itself as a hub, and show what it could offer that others (e.g. India) could not. We are competing with other hubs, such as Myanmar which is generating much interest .Hillary Clinton has flown to Myanmar more times than to any other state in the recent past he said. Myanmar was ‘not a democracy but everyone is supporting it’ he observed, with a hint of irony. He suggested that for Sri Lanka in the post-war context there was a need for a policy shift ‘more aligned with China, Russia and Latin America.’

On the concept of Sri Lanka as a hub, he argued that the idea of a ‘peace zone’ is something ‘embedded in us.’ “We should promote (the idea of) a hub as a haven.”  This would be in the context of a security policy that ensures co-existence in the Indian Ocean. Owing to its geographical location Sri Lanka has historically been a meeting place for all kinds of peoples, and their rivals.

Dr. Vidanage outlined the developments that made the Indian Ocean the ‘most active global space,’ sandwiched between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. There seemed to be echoes of Robert Kaplan (‘Monsoon – The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power’) in his references to the ‘choke points’ in the energy supply routes, located at the Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of global oil cargo passed, and the Strait of Malacca. A tremendous increase in naval and merchant sailing could be expected with the energy requirements of both India and China due to triple in the next 50 years, or less.

There was a major energy race taking place with both states scouring for oil all over the world. The Chinese, Indian and US navies were also competing for supremacy in the region Vidanage said. The US was deploying 60 per cent of its naval assets in the Asia Pacific, China was sending ships, India was re-fleeting.

These states were also engaging in surveillance operations in the region using cutting edge technology. In diplomacy there was a shift from ‘hard power’ to the concept of ‘smart’ or ‘soft power.’

The question of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy priorities repeatedly came up during the discussion that followed.  How realistic was the shift towards Russia and China, when there was trade dependency on the West?

How relevant was the concept of Non Alignment in the light of new developments? There were comments on the Western emphasis on reforms in governance etc for Sri Lanka, and the fact that this was not a priority for China, which was not concerned with other countries’ mechanisms of governance.

It was observed by one participant that the concept of the Indian Ocean as a Peace Zone was originally proposed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike, but that ‘others hijacked it.’ “We did not define it properly’ he noted. Other points commented on were, the need to ‘identify our friends,’ the need to understand the changes in and around the Indian Ocean, the need to understand how the West functions, and that alliances are never stable. India’s focus on projects in the North and East of the country and the government’s decision to turn down India’s offer to develop the Palali airport were also touched on.

It was observed that there was no single centre of power now, but that the traditional hegemon is ‘still there.’ The waning of western power is not happening as fast as we think. Vidanage noted that the US finds India the ‘last line of defence’ for democracy, in the matter of containing China and also the spread of fundamentalism. A participant observed that there was a need to establish diplomatic relations with many more countries – in Africa and Latin America for instance – if Sri Lanka was to market itself as a true hub.  Sri Lanka could not ‘fight’ with any.

The Sri Lankan Guardian, 1 July 2012

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
Subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter
 
 

SAARC Summit 2014

 
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, begin their two-day meeting in Kathmandu on today. The ratification of the SAARC-related agreements on railway connections and movement o...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg The focal theme of the 18th SAARC Summit being hosted by Nepal in Kathmandu from Nov 26-27, 2014 is ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’. This summit can take a hard look at infusing vigour and vitality into economic diplomacy...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Concept of cooperative security evolved particularly after the end of Cold War. This is a concept which emphasizes more on prevention of war by creating multilateral security framework between the states than by focusing on war.

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg   SAARC, created at the height of the Cold War, as an organization hasn’t lived up to its promise of promoting regional well being. 

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Today in Nepal, the 18th SAARC Summit kicks-off bringing together the leaders from Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. As regional leaders assemble for the summit, South Asia pulsates with optimism ...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg In October 2014, as a follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August, the two countries inked a Power Trade Agreement (PTA) that reportedly allows for the exchange of electricity and the opening up of new areas of coope...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Keeping true with illustrious South Asian custom of procrastination and then making a hasty last-minute arrangement, finally Kathmandu is all decked up to host 18th SAARC Summit with fresh blacktopping of major road systems, overnight transplanted...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg SAARC began as a childish prank to corner the big boy in the neighbourhood. Gen Ziaur Rahman who conceived it and Gen Hossein Mohammed Ershad who hosted the first meeting in Dhaka both bore a baffling grudge against India.

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg The upcoming SAARC summit on November 26-27 in Nepal has already caught the spotlight in being one that will lead to “greater regional integration” in terms of connectivity. 

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg SAARC, regrettably, has yet to develop into a conflict-mediating or resolving institution on multilateral and bilateral issues. While it has succeeded in evolving as a forum, it does not have the capacity to devise instruments for consultations on...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Terrorism in South Asia in the past few years has grown more grisly. Terrorists appear to be looking for bigger and more dramatic actions to draw regional and world attention to their twisted causes. 

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg The 18th SAARC summit Nepal is hosting comes during a state of turmoil — a mix of domestic political flux and concerns in some member countries, including India, about the safety of their leaders.

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg India must lift its game for SAARC’s rescue and resuscitation. It must lead by example, building trust with its neighbours, showing solidarity, and forging with them a habit of cooperation.

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg The two-day 18th SAARC Summit is scheduled to begin on November 26 with the heads/governments of the eight countries in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu.

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Despite its economic and political capabilities and global reach, South Asia, as compared to other regions, has remained behind especially in maintaining mutual and effective regional co-operation for economic uplift of the region. 

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Although China is not a member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), its relationship with the organization is incredibly intimate. Its geographical connection and ascending cooperation on economic, political and security sp...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg In a few days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Nepal, his second time in a short span. Though this visit is for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, it is the bilateral relationship and meetings with the Nep...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg After being in the SAARC agenda since the 13th SAARC Summit in Dhaka in 2005, the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS) was finally signed at the 16th SAARC Summit in Thimpu in April 2010. 

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg When talk turns to SAARC among South Asian and foreign politicians, diplomats, businessmen and academics, there is usually a note of cynicism and even derison in their comments. SAARC has become a byword for successive high sounding summit declara...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Despite his commitment to greater regional cooperation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have his work cut out for him at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu. SAARC declarations have made considerable progress on a range of issues, from trade and conne...

 
read-more
  
sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/saarc_0.jpg Interview of Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, ahead of SAARC Summit in Kathmadu, by Suhasini Haidar  

 
read-more
  
By Najmuddin A Shaikh     Last week, I had promised to write about the measures Muslim countries are taking to counter the threat of the Islamic State (IS) virus infecting people in their countries. Perhaps, the best place to start is the meeting of the regional countries conv...

 
read-more
By changing the name of India’s Asia policy from “Look East” to “Act East”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was signalling that he would be more proactive and purposeful than his predecessors in the region. 

 
read-more
One hopes that the call for ‘change’ includes changes in gender issues as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an economic vision for India, which calls for greater particpation of women. However, continued gender issues might just threaten the realization of that end writes Sourajit Aiyar...

 
read-more
Groundbreaking 3D mapping of previously inaccessible areas of the Antarctic has found that the sea ice fringing the vast continent is thicker than previous thought.

In Collaboration with TERRE Policy Centre

 
read-more
Column-image

Kiran Ahuja’s historical novel, set in the Amritsar of 1900-1940, traces the contrasting destinies deriving from two separate but identical acts of two classfel...

 
Column-image

“Pashtuns are very hospitable and friendly, if you are mindful of their customs and traditions.” — Dr Hassan Abbas

 
Column-image

The First World War was probably the last war that soldiers went to with a sense of glory and the feeling that something good may come of it. The war itself was to prove otherwise, particularly as the ...

 
Column-image

Through ages nations have been torn apart and much of it due to internal turmoil that has wrecked civil societies cutting across cultures and civilizations. By the same token families have been put thr...

 
Column-image

Jerusalem comes alive through the story of an Indian family we did not know existed.  

 
Column-image

The Pakistan military believes parliamentary democracy is inappropriate for the country and sees itself as its saviour.

 
Column-image

The book details the life of Mujib and the various transitions he underwent - from a young man who vigorously championed the cause of Pakistan, a homeland for South Asia's Muslims in the 1940s, to his joining the fledgling Awami Muslim Leag...

 
Column-image

Can five seemingly unrelated stories spread across four countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka - have anything in common? Yes, seems to say journalist author Meenakshi Iyer, as she unveils gripping tales of hu...

 
Column-image

New Delhi: For close to a century, many generations of an Indian family have been looking after the Indian Hospice, a symbol of India`s heritage, in the old city of Jerusalem. This existence...

 
Column-image

The latest book by the former New York Times contributor and author Arif Jamal meticulously describes why there should be little expectation of a trial and due punishment in November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

 
Column-image

When enacted, a written constitution takes on a life of its own. It has its own ethos, and its own philosophy. It ultimately guides the destiny of the country for which it is written. In the long and detailed Constitution o...

 
Column-image

The packed hall at the Galle Literary Festival was stunned into silence by a series of abuses hurled on a Sri Lankan human rights activist by a member in the audience. 

 
Column-image

Few countries get the kind of international political and policy attention that Pakistan draws. The nation’s pivotal role in shaping the global war on terror and the American occupation of Afghanistan after 9/11 has g...

 
Column-image

Fair’s assessment of the Pakistan army is out: it is an ideological war machine that is not amenable to any inducements or assuaging of its security concerns.

 
Column-image

The attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's Herat Friday brings into sharp focus a book, written by an American journalist and published this year, that traces Pakistan's lin...

 
Column-image

Penguin Books India is proud to announce the publication of one of the most sensational books of the year: 

 
Column-image

Some titles like Evolving Dynamics of Nuclear South Asia will never go out of fashion. And, if a much-awarded former fighter pilot were to offer a manuscript, most publishers may not even read it before committi...

 
Column-image

Even as India elects a new government, some of the most important figures in its strategic establishment have been making the time to read a new book on China: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his aides say, has been through journalist Shishir Gu...

 
Column-image

A colleague recently visited Lahore to cover a fashion show. She enjoyed her sojourn but experienced a poignant episode when returning which she immortalised on Facebook.

 
Column-image

The great Indian election continues to generate global interest and wonder, partly on account of its uninterrupted success and partly because of the obvious challenges of demography, geography, and the mind boggling...

 
Column-image

Ms Gall’s account of Dr Mohammed Najibullah’s lynching, a war crime by any standard, matches what many Afghans and Pakistan’s Pashtun nationalist leaders have said all along. She also chronicles that the ISI...

 
Column-image

As the world's largest democracy gears up for the general election, political parties are literally promising the moon. Amid this extensive wooing, a few books have done honest postmortems of Indian governance, highlighted grievances of peo...

 
Column-image

It is frequently described as the most dangerous place in the world. With suicide bombings and shootings, terrorists camping on its territory, high and entrenched levels of fundamentalism and anti-Western sentiment, rampant social, ethnic and s...

 
Column-image

In his latest novel, Romesh Gunesekera zooms in on post-war Sri Lanka, grappling with the ghosts of its troubled past.

 
Column-image

“My father came back in early August 1947 to take us away from Lahore. ‘I don’t like the stampede and the rush,’ he said. But he couldn’t leave because of the riots,” recalls Khalid Chima, ...

 
Column-image

Targeted killings of terrorists in badlands of the world has been taken to a new high by the US and looks likely to intensify in the foreseeable future amid indications that other major powers may also adopt th...

 
Column-image

Let me confess that this is not the book I set out to write. The book I had in mind was about the unchanging face of Muslim fundamentalism in India. But barely a few weeks into research, I discovered I was completely on the wrong track. The big...

 
Column-image

Authors: P.V.S. Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013 

 
Column-image

Book: 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh, Author: Srinath Raghavan, Permanent Black Pages: 358, Price: Rs 795

 
Column-image

Authors: Husain Haqqani Publisher: PublicAffairs; November 5, 2013 Hardcover: 432 pages Language: English Price: US$ 28.99

 
Column-image

Author: Rajmohan Gandhi Hardcover: 400 pages Publisher: Aleph Publishers

 
Column-image

Archer Blood was the American consul general in Dhaka (then Dacca) in 1971-72. He not only witnessed the slaughter of thousands of civilians by the Pakistani Army and dutifully reported on the genocide to his government but also, when the US co...

 
Column-image

A rare insider’s narrative on the world’s fastest growing nuclear complex

 
Column-image

Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller   Author: Raza Rumi   Pu...

 
Column-image

More than Maoism: Politics, Policies and Insurgencies in South Asia   Edited by: Robin Jeffrey, Ronojoy S...

 
Column-image

Pakistan: Moving the Economy Forward Publisher: Lahore School of Economics, 2013

 
Column-image

Ishtiaq Ahmed’s interesting book demonstrates how and why a weak and apolitical army evolved into the most powerful institution in Pakistan, virtually having de facto veto power over politics. It also controls Pakistan’s nuclear wea...

 
Column-image

A Sri Lankan constitutional amendment done with Indian backing to devolve autonomy to provinces remains "historically significant and indispensable", says a new book by a well known political scientist from the island nation.

 
Column-image

Ishtiaq Ahmed’s latest book is another outstanding piece of scholarship by an erudite scholar. This intellectually stimulating work is an important addition to the corpus of writings on modern and contemporary Pakistan, which by design an...

 
Column-image

Contrary to popular wisdom in India, a new book on Ravana, the 'demon king' in the Ramayana epic, says he ruled a rich and vast kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka, wrote books and built a maze of underground tunnels to protect his empire....

 
Column-image

A courageous, comprehensive and no-holds-barred account, by a veteran journalist, of a 66-year-old nation that is still trying to find its identity and fighting its own demons…

 
Column-image

The 30-year-old ethnic conflict in the Sri Lankan state, an essentially Sinhalese majoritarian preserve, and the uncompromising and relentlessly violent Tamil leadership claiming a separate state, Tamil Eelam, on behalf of the Tamil minority of...

 
Column-image

Book: India's Foreign Policy: A Reader; Edited: Kanti P. Bajpai and Harsh V.Pant Critical Issues in Indian Politics Series; Publisher: OUP Price: Rs 1095; Pages: 464

 
Column-image

Such a massive tome (663 pages) on a country that calls itself India’s only permanent friend in South Asia demands serious attention. Bhutanese scholarship is so rare and scholarship on Bhutan has been so scanty since M...

 
Column-image

India and China have shared historical ties and, as immediate neighbours, have seen many ups and downs in their relations. As a result, bilateral ties between the two countries...

 
Column-image

Delhi-based poet Sudeep Sen has been invited to address the Nobel Laureate Week being held in Saint Lucia, a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea, in January. Mr. Sen is the first Indian, and the only one thu...

 
Column-image

Book: Fountainhead of Jihad Author: Vahid Brown and Don Rassler Publisher: Hachette India Price: Rs 650

 
Column-image

'Imperialists, Nationalists, Democrats: The Collected Essays of Sarvepalli Gopal'  edited by Srinath Raghavan. Permanent Black, 444 pages, Rs 895....

 
Column-image

Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific Author: C. Raja Mohan Publisher: OUP Price: Rs 895 Pages: 329

 
Column-image

Author: Raghu Rai Publisher: Niyogi Books Price: Rs 1495 Pages: 115

 
Column-image

BOOK: "False Sanctuaries: Stories from the Troubled Territories of South Asia", AUTHOR: Meenakshi Iyer;  PUBLISHER: Bibliophile South Asia (Promila & Co.);  PAGES: 282; 

 
Column-image

Like so much else in India’s recent past, the First Afghan War (1839-42) means little to India’s elites. But the military history of the British Raj has been a specially neglected domain. With their many other preoccupations, India&...

 
Column-image

Journalist-author Frances Harrison tells ANJANA RAJAN her book on the human suffering engendered by Sri Lanka’s “hidden war” is written with the belief that if people know, they will care

 
Column-image

"La Nueva India" ( The New India) is the first Latin American book on the rising of India in the twenty first century in the Spanish language. It was launched on December 4 at Santiago, Chile.

 
Column-image

After Joseph S Nye coined the term “Soft Power” (culture, language etc), it became a fad and, for some, an academic necessity to use it to discuss notions of ‘power’ in international politics. Though accepted, still unmo...

 
Column-image

This study seeks to solve the following puzzle: In 1947, the Pakistan military was poorly trained and poorly armed. It also inherited highly vulnerable territory vis-à-vis the much bigger India, aggravated because of serious disputes wit...

 
Column-image

Author / Editor: P R Kumaraswamy   Middle East Institute at New Delhi, 2012   Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon for MEI@ND, September 2012  

 
Column-image

Book: Ramkinkar: The Man and the Artist Author: A. Ramachandran Publisher: NGMA Pages: 168 + plates

 
Column-image

The middle class will decide the course of liberalisation in India which will become more micro-level in search of solutions to problems, says writer and journalist Hindol Sengupta in his new book, "The Liberals".

 
Column-image

The future of Afghanistan depends upon how it strengthens its fledgling democratic institutions and arrests corruption, says Sujeet Sarkar, the author of a new book on the war-ravaged country.

 
Column-image

Author(s): Bipul Chatterjee and Joseph George Publisher: CUTS International

 
Column-image

Author(s): Robert D. Lamb, Liora Danan, Joy Aoun, Sadika Hameed, Kathryn Mixon, and Denise St. Peter Publisher :Center for Strategic and International Studies ISBN 978-0-89206-738-1 (pb)

 
Column-image

Book: Afghanistan in Transition Beyond 2014? Author: Shanthie Mariet D`Souza (Ed.) Pages: 264 Price : Rs. 795 Publisher: Pentagon  

 
Column-image

Book: The Prabhakaran Saga Author: S. Murari Publisher: Sage Publishers Pages: 362 Price: Rs.425

 
Column-image

Authors: Rumel Dahiya and Ashok K. Behuria 2012

 
Column-image

Book: The Unfinished Memoirs Author: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Translated by Dr Fakrul Alam with a preface by Sheikh Hasina) Publisher: Penguin Viking Pages: 323 Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

The book is a chronological account of the partiation of Punjab Province of British India

 
Column-image

Book: Nepal in Transition: From People’s War to Fragile Peace Author: Edited by Sebastian von Einsiedel, David M. Malone and Suman Pradhan Publisher: Cambridge University Press Pages: 398...

 
Column-image

Book: The Taliban Cricket Club Author: Timeri N. Murari Publisher: Aleph Pages: 325 Price: Rs 595

 
Column-image

Burma has been ruled by a succession of military regimes which rank among the most oppressive dictatorships in the world.

 
Column-image

In these turbulent times, Jawaharlal Nehru's policies of non-alignment and mixed economy need to be revisited, says P.C. Jain, author of a book on India's foreign policy during the first prime minister's tenure.

 
Column-image

The killing of Osama bin Laden spotlighted Pakistan's unpredictable political dynamics, which are often driven by conspiracy theory, paranoia, and a sense of betrayal. In Pakistan, the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto famously declared, t...

 
Column-image

The growing English language publishing industry in India has taken a step north with three veteran publishers - David Davidar, Ravi Singh and Kapish G. Mehra - joining ranks to push high-end literary fiction from the subcont...

 
Column-image

The subcontinent can become a paradise in the region by retaining cultural, social and political identities of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, says former Pakistani Army officer, journalist, writer and commentator Abdul Rahman Si...