President Rajapakse has been maintaining a healthy relationship with China since he came into power in 2005. During the first few years of his term of office neither India nor the US was too worried about this new friend of Sri Lanka.
“Although Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa trumpets the importance of Sri Lanka’s friendship with China, the relationship is very lopsided in terms of trade. For example, in 2008 Chinese exports to Sri Lanka constituted 96% of total bilateral trade. In terms of investment, Hong Kong has become a key source of foreign direct investment to Sri Lanka, while China proper focuses on direct government aid. In contrast, Sri Lanka investment in China consists of a few tea shops. Though at times the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) asserts it does not need the U.S. and the West since it can turn to new friends such as China, there is no indication that China can replace Western export markets. In terms of investment and trade importance, Sri Lanka’s new friends cannot compete with her old ones in the United States and EU.” -the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington in 2009 on http://www.colombotelegraph.com/–
However, the question lies whether Sri Lanka’s new friend actually commenced competing with its old one unexpectedly. As a middle income country that doesn’t continue to be a ‘donor darling’ further was rescued by China’s massive development loans not only from the international economic pressure but also from human rights abuses and other International pressure. By 2011, China became the biggest lender to Sri Lanka by 2011 pledging more than $3bn for infrastructure development, maintenance and other projects, BBC Sinhala Service reported. This novel relationship brought an unexpected state for China in terms of Sri Lankan affairs.
USA and India; good old friends of Sri Lanka that never expected such consequence were disheartened by the whole scenario and were looking forward for means and ways to regain their significant influential capacity in terms of Sri Lankan affairs. The critical question that I raise in this regard is whether the US resolution that was brought-up at the 19th UNHRC session using the support of the Tamil Diaspora was another such attempt to regain their influential power and in the presence of the USA’s scapegoating, whether the Tamil Diaspora also gave up their initial demands for an Independent International Investigation on Sri Lanka’s war crimes.
From the inception of LLRC the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora had been extremely critical about each and every aspect of the commission: its members, its structure, the hearings, the interim-report etc. including its final outcomes. Their demands were strongly in line with an International Independent Investigation on war crimes committed by the Government of Sri Lanka as recommended by the UNSG’s Panel Report on Sri Lanka. This whole paradigm shift is a dilemma for me as yet. How did this shift in the thinking and believes of the Tamil Diaspora go through such a sea-change within such a short period? I can think of two main aspects to it: it could be because anything against the government of Sri Lanka keeps the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora motivated or it could have been that USA was extremely smart enough to manipulate their strong network and worldwide political communication for the benefit of their cause. Was this whole drama on ‘UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka’ actually created to stop the whole wave and demand for an Independent International Investigation on Sri Lanka that would have imposed allegations on the Defence Secretary and the then Army Commander who are also citizens of the USA on one hand and to regain the trust of the Sri Lankan government? In this whole context, have ‘Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora’ been fooled in the middle of diplomacy and politics?
However, at the end of the drama I see the ties between Sri Lanka and its old friends re-gaining…, but are they strong enough to compete with her new friend, China as yet?