Thank you to Neville de Silva for another incisive piece on his homeland.
Sri Lanka has undergone tough times lately, so good to see the country being courted in diplomatic and trading terms by the West, China, Japan and India. And little wonder: it’s a crucial point on the Maritime Silk Road, extending from China to Africa, making it ripe for investment in infrastructure.
But, unlike in a romantic context, it should not feel the need to choose, despite this East-West ‘tug-of-love’. Sri Lanka needs all the help it can get. While China might remain a major ‘suitor’, Colombo can and should also look to India for a ‘special relationship’. The Indian middle class market alone is thought to be ten times the population of Sri Lanka, so the opportunities are vast. Along with China, India is Sri Lanka’s biggest import market, and is in the top three for tourism influx. India and China also provide an important share of foreign investment.
Game-playing over foreign policy would be foolhardy. As Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, has suggested, if Sri Lanka manages its policies wisely, it has the potential to become another Singapore or Dubai.
Policy, not pomp
I enjoyed Justin Huggler’s fair-minded piece in Asian Affairs’ July issue on Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the United States, yet can’t help but think too much is made in the media as a whole of Modi as showman.
One can’t doubt his importance in the newly burgeoning Indo-US relationship, nor the significance of the relationship itself for both parties. But why all the reportage on standing ovations, etc? Modi and Obama have already met many times before, and it would be difficult for the Indian PM to surpass the glitz and import of his first US visit in Sept. 2014, shortly after becoming prime minister, or Obama’s presence at India’s 2015 Republic Day celebrations.
Modi has done a great deal to re-strengthen Indo-US relations and his engagement with Congress was undoubtedly a major step during this visit, which should have a big impact on US policy towards South Asia. So let’s see more focus in the media on aspects of policy than on spectacle.
Closing the divide
As a proud and unrepentant Brexit voter, I was nevertheless touched by Lord Rana’s heartfelt words on the result of the EU referendum.
My own motivations for voting to leave were based on the EU’s intrinsic inability to be truly democratic and its encouragement of rentier capitalism, as well as its appalling treatment of Greece, among other reasons. At no time did I espouse any of the ‘dog-whistle’ racism Lord Rana cites, or the dubious demands for greater UK sovereignty. Rather I was (am) hoping for a rise in social justice, and a move away from a European electorate (including many in the UK) that is becoming increasingly xenophobic.
I do not agree with Lord Rana’s stance on Brexit, but utterly support his call for a ‘positive and progressive Britain that fully embraces its multiculturalism’. What sane person would not? I just hope, having got the referendum result I wanted, this bigger picture will follow.