The Influence of the Civil War on Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Foreign Policy in Sri Lanka during 2005- 2015
Comparative Foreign Policy Analysis
Term Paper 2016 27 Pages
2. Comparative Foreign Policy Decision Making And Civil War Factor:
3. Foreign Policy Towards SAARC Region
4. Foreign Policy Toward The Western And Eastern World
5. Foreign Policy Toward China
6. Foreign Policy Toward The Middle East And African Region
Harsha Senanayake acquired BA honours degree in International Relations from the University of Colombo. Presently, he is reading for a masters degree in International Relations in South Asian University, New Delhi India. He worked at Indian High Commission in Colombo, Embassy of the United States of America in Colombo, Center for Peace Building and Reconciliation - CPBR in Colombo Sri Lanka. He contributed to various researchers as a research associate. The main research interests are on Security Studies, Foreign Policy and Comparative Politics. Harsha Senanayake is an academician, freelance writer, journalist and the author of “The Changing Patterns of USA- Japan Security Relations: Case Study of Okinawa” hardcover as well.
Mahinda Rajapaksa elected as a fifth executive president of Sri Lanka on 19th November 2005. Rajapaksa government terminated thirty years-long civil war in Sri Lanka under the pressure of various internal and external dynamics. Mainly, the military concerns of the country directed Rajapaksa regime to formulate a strategic foreign policy to maintain the foreign relations. The government subjected to many foreign accusations including war crimes and human rights violations. Rajapaksa government exercised several foreign policy tactics to reach the world including the western world. This sporadic feature of the foreign policy shaped by the civil war influence of Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa foreign policy since 2005 to 2015 was a critical juncture of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy decision-making process. With these concerns, the research paper opens the flow of analysis on Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign and the civil war influence to Rajapaksa foreign policy formulations.
Keywords: Comparative Analysis, Foreign Policy, Mahinda Rajapaksa, National Interests, Civil War, Strategic study
President Mahinda Rajapaksa sealed the presidential victory in 2005 with the massive promise over the political arena. During the election campaign, Mahinda Rajapaksa had being assurance that he will terminate the Peace Agreement which signed by, Ranil Wickramasinghe government with the LTTE in 2002. Though he promised to abolish the peace agreement, during the Geneva summit in 2006 President Mahinda Rajapaksa provided a written assurance to the international community to ensure the commitments of the regime to continue the peace process in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa government signed a memorandum of understanding with United National Party (UNP) to ensure the infallible commitments to pursue a political solution, according to Peace agreement of 2002.
With concern of all these primary factors, President Mahinda Rajapaksa instantly decided to terminate from the Peace agreement. (National Peace Council, 2010: 721)
The decision of the government directly influenced to the foreign policy behaviour of the country and highlighted that how domestic political factors and the personality of the leadership shaped the foreign policy decision-making process. The sudden shift of the foreign policy was able to gain the world attention toward Sri Lanka and it was scratch the critical juncture in Sri Lankan foreign policy roadmap. Expressly, civil war stimulus the foreign policy in Sri Lanka since the establishment of executive presidentship. Thus, the researcher identified the civil war or else the protracted internal conflict as a primary and necessary concern of the foreign policy process since 1978 to 2009.
The forth Elam war started after the oath of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the 5th executive president in Sri Lanka. This war alongside LTTE was taking place on 21st July 2006 as a consequence of the LTTE decision to out an embargo over the Mavil Aru Dam. (Mahindapala, 2006) Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered directly to initiate the forth Elam war against the LTTE as an immediate humanitarian war to secure the water supply to civil needs in particular area. This presidential decision changed the dimension of the military surface of Sri Lanka. The war mentality influenced to the policymakers of the country to re-evaluate the national interests in terms of state security, national integration and national survival. The LTTE organization had been violated the peace agreement several times since 2005 and threatened to the national integration. To encounter these aggressive actions and to secure the national interests, the government of Sri Lanka decided to withdraw the participation from the peace agreement.
This decision challenged to the prime standards of the foreign policy decision-making process of Sri Lanka. Though the pre-assessments and the decision-making ethics tested by this unilateral decision, it indicated the propensity of the civil war in term of foreign policy concern.
The mass support to Mahinda Rajapaksa government tested in 2015 and with the result of the presidential election on 2015 citizens of Sri Lanka choose a new president to lead the country. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa still powerful character in the domestic political procedure. Thus, the researcher found a demanding situation to gather information to evaluate Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign policy and the civil war influence over the decision-making process.
Many scholarly documents dogmatic and depict the partial reality of the war. Some of the government officials reluctant to discourse freely without any political pressure. The researcher found difficulties to gather empirical and substantial details over the research area. Therefore the researcher conducted discussions with academicians, civil servants and government officers to verify the information to avoid unnecessary domestic interests. With the collaboration of primary and secondary data, the researcher was competent to provide an empirical and substantial conclusion to this paper.
This paper addresses the Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign policy with the concern of two particular time periods. The researcher discusses major concerns of the foreign military relations during the civil war period and the second part of the paper discusses the post-civil war foreign relations. The researcher is attempting to identify the basic principles, common doctrines, weaknesses, harmonic and strategic concerns of Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign policy with the concern of the civil war behaviour. Sri Lankan foreign relations with neighbouring countries, regions, a Western and Eastern world sustained during Mahinda Rajapaksa time period based on the military factor. The researcher investigates these relationships and rationale of these relations through this academic paper.
2. Comparative Foreign Policy Decision Making And Civil War Factor:2005-2015
For the academic purposes, the researcher ascertains two communication periodization on Mahinda administrative period with the concern of three foreign ministers. Nevertheless, the researcher counted peace rounds which took place under the Rajapaksa regime before the outbreak of forth Elam war in 21st July 2006. The following figure illustrates the time frames of the Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign policy since 2005.
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Figure: 2.1: Ministerial Structure and Time Frame of the foreign policy decision-making process under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration (Cooke, 2016)
Since 1987 civil war behaviour, concerns over the LTTE propaganda gained the attention of the foreign policy decision makers. Particularly Rajapaksa government was able to overcome the Indian hypocrisy. With the geopolitical realities and Indian supremacy over the region directly influenced to the foreign policy in Sri Lanka. The historical factors highlighted the Indian authoritarian foreign policy during the 1987 and how it influenced the Sri Lankan foreign policy and the civil war. Geopolitical locations and Indian military concerns violated the sovereignty rights of Sri Lanka during the J. R. Jayawardene regime. Indian military forcibly entered to the Jaffa peninsula, some controversial political activities related to Indo Sri Lanka Agreement and the presence of Indian Peace Keeping Forces- IPKF in Sri Lankan soil highlighted the power exercised by the Indian government over Sri Lanka with the concern of civil war.
Rajapaksa regime secured the strategic composition with the Indian government. These strategic foreign relations with India abetted to end the civil war with the blessing of the Indian central government. Rajapaksa regime addressed the geopolitical realities in the South Asian region with the special concern over the Indian power interests within the regional politics. Therefore Rajapaksa government appreciated positive intervention and advocates of Indian government which related to the civil war and other regional issues. Sri Lankan government officials had regular visits to India and these visits strengthen Indo- Sri Lanka relations to endure the civil war with the consecration of Indian government. Indian central government appreciated peace dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and LTTE with the mediation of Norwegian government during the Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe’s administration. With the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE, Indian government dramatically transformed their position related to Civil War in Sri Lanka. This transformation and strategic utility of foreign policy by Mahinda Rajapaksa regime won the blessings of the Indian government to continue the military policy of Sri Lankan army.
Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed the protagonist role of India and regional intervention to eradicate terrorism from Sri Lanka; throughout the peace dialogues as well as in the forth Elam war. Sri Lankan foreign relations was polished Indian centric power relations throughout Rajapaksa government adroitly. For instance, during the 5th Hindustan time's Leadership, Summit President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed, Indian leadership and the regional support is a necessary factor to eradicate terrorism from Sri Lanka. India should need to take the prompt position to sustain the regional peace and harmony. Mainly the behaviour of LTTE influenced to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and India, thus Indian government provision to terminate terrorism in Sri Lanka highly appreciated by the government of Sri Lanka. Territorial integrity is essential for any country. Thus, India as a regional power supreme needs to lead the South Asian region toward peace and prosperity.
Sri Lanka ready to negligence the political and ethnic disputes between two neighbour nations. The common trust over the democracy, religion bounds, historical affiliations and strong economic connections between India and Sri Lanka decorated the bound of two countries. Therefore, Sri Lanka ready to accept the dominant role of India, in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lankan government is expecting Indian support and advice to eradicate terrorism from Sri Lanka. (sl2kassa, 2007)
Mahinda Rajapaksa strategically deployed summit diplomacy and forum diplomacy to win the political support of India. Sri Lankan government recognized that with the geopolitical authenticities they should need to win the political and military support of India. The civil war concerns directly backed this political behaviour of Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to preserve strategic relations with India.
Tamilnadu factor frolicked important positions in Indo- Sri Lanka relations under Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign policy. The strong networks amid Tamilnadu and LTTE directly influenced to the bilateral relations between two countries. Therefore, Mahinda Rajapaksa government held solid connections with the central government of India to deter the Tamilnadu factor and balanced the comparative foreign policy process. To accomplish this strategic concern Rajapaksa presidency appointed special diplomatic officials to sustain Inda- Sri Lanka relations.
President Rajapaksa controlled the bilateral relations along with special personalities appointed by himself, including Secretary of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, President’s Secretary Lalith Weerathunga, Douglas Dewananda, and Arumugam Thondaman. (Chandraprema, 2012: 295) This elite team specially appointed by the President to sustain the diplomatic relations amid two neighbour countries. Before the outbreak of fouth Elam war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa made his 1st official visit to India as a newly elected executive president of Sri Lanka. This visit formulated by the escalation of civil war influence to the foreign policy decision-making process. The visit of the president to India provided fruitful results to the early success of government military activities against LTTE.
The government of India offered military assistance to Sri Lankan government including, new compact radar system, rak rak military weapons, MI 17 air fighter helicopters and new two military vessels to protect the coastal area. During the visit, political leaders of two countries agreed to initiate joint military exercises and coastal security patrol services. (Cooke, 2016)
This agreements and concerns shaped by the civil war and escalation of terrorist activities of LTTE in Sri Lanka. The relations between India and Sri Lanka counted the internal political struggles and power-political behaviour of both countries. Sri Lankan government agreed to launch deliberate and steady military missions against LTTE until the central government of India acquire the political power from the national election with the support of Tamilnadu. The central government recognized that popular support of Tamilnadu was compulsory to seal the victory of the national election. Therefore two governments agreed to win the internal political struggles with mutual support. During the visit, President Rajapaksa discussed political, military, terrorism activities of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan government used this opportunity to highlight the Indian supremacy in Sri Lankan foreign policy concerns.
For instance, Sri Lankan government agreed to reduce the tendency of military exercises until Indian government seal the political victory from 2006 general election. Sri Lankan government calculated the civil war influence to the foreign policy accurately. Therefore, Mahinda Rajapaksa handled Indian factor advantageously to end the civil war in Sri Lanka. (Epa, 2011:18-19) President Rajapaksa exercised personal diplomatic dimensions to achieve the military support from India. Mainly, to overcome the civil war influence which shaped the national policy-making process. The president of Sri Lanka used the personal diplomatic affiliations with India aptly.
On 23 April 2009, two Indian Diplomats: Shivashankar Menon and Narayan visited Sri Lanka. These officials had a special meeting with President of Sri Lanka in the Temple Treese. During the visit, Sri Lankan government were able to clear the doubts of Indian officials and questions related to war crimes. Especially during the time, Tamilnadu politician declared that Sri Lankan military subjects to genocide and war crimes. (Chandraprema, 2012: 478) Therefore during the meeting, both parties agreed to end the war with the blessings of Indian government and reduce the tendency of the heavy artillery use. These factors emphasized the comparative use of foreign policy in Mahinda Rajapaksa regime with the influence of civil war.