Monday, April 17, 2017

Sri Lanka’s foreign policy - Security Architecture

Sri Lanka’s foreign policy has often been termed as being fundamentally nonaligned. But what does ‘nonaligned’ really mean in the post-cold war era? Since the end of the cold war, academic and scholarly publications have oft criticized the ambiguity surrounding both the term and the membership of the nonaligned movement. In this brief speech I don't intend to discuss or decipher what form of nonalignment Sri Lanka followed in the past. I'm sure the diplomats present here today have a better understanding than I do of the varied nuances of previous administrations foreign policy. Instead I intend to re-define the meaning of nonalignment as I perceive in the present administration’s foreign policy. 
The present administration of Sri Lanka is focused on building amicable relations with all countries. This has been repeatedly iterated by the president, prime minster and the foreign minister on numerous occasions. I believe that the present administration has redefined the import of the term nonaligned. This new form of ‘nonalignment’ is not centered on a cold war mentality but instead, is more focused on developing friendly ties with great and small powers to an equal degree. As a small developing state, Sri Lanka’s friendly foreign relations have supported the country's image as a peace-loving country which wishes to engage with all states. 
The crux behind this foreign policy can be illustrated as one which encompasses; a unified and interconnected security architecture.  Establishing relations with great and small powers - to a more or less equal degree - has enabled Sri Lanka to obtain significant economic and financial support as well as other forms of assistance. This new security architecture enables the island to have amicable relations with all the major and small powers without being seen as being aligned to any. Not only does this enable Sri Lanka to escape from creating a security dilemma among the great powers but it also circumvents any external pressures from neighboring and distant great powers.
I also intend to briefly skim through some of the highpoints I have discerned over the recent weeks with regard to Sri Lanka’s relations with the following great powers: U.S.A, China, Russia and India.
Since the regime change of 2015, relations with America have noticeably improved. This is undoubtedly reflected in the government’s action of co-sponsoring two resolutions on Human rights, accountability and reconciliation with the U.S.A. Present cooperation on one of the most contentious issues between the former Sri Lankan government and U.S.A; are a testament to this enhancement of ties. The first-ever Pacific Partnership goodwill mission to Sri Lanka by America as well as the inaugural US – Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue reflects the American administration’s desire to reset its relations with the island. 
Relations with Russia have also been amicable. Naturally the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to which the present president belongs to, have had considerably good ties with Russia since the cold war. The recent visit of the Sri Lankan president to Moscow to meet President Putin and the latter’s gifting of a royal sword; is symbolic of the enduring relationship between the two countries. I perceive the timing of the visit as especially emblematic of the present presidents desire to appear nonaligned; not only to the international community but also to the domestic public.
2017 marks 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sri Lanka as well as 65 years since the signing of the rubber-rice pact between the two countries. This clearly emphasizes the historic connection between the two countries. Although the present administration has recalibrated its ties with China in contrast to the previous regime, ties are still strong and will continue to remain so. General Chang Wanquan’s (Minister of Defense and State Councilor of the People’s Republic of China) official visit to Sri Lanka last week is a clear signal of this unchanging rapport.
Ties with India and Sri Lanka have historically had its ups and downs. However a noticeable feature of late is the strong personal ties that exist between the Indian Prime Minister Modi and the Sri Lankan president. Although the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India has had a recent spurge of public protests I do not believe that the relationship between the two governments and especially between the two presidents will undergo any impairment in the foreseeable future. India’s decision to sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with United States in 2016 (which gives the militaries of both countries access to each other’s facilities for supplies and repairs) as well as India's desire to enhance its maritime defense strategy gives added reason why Sri Lanka should adopt a balanced foreign policy of maintaining friendly ties with all countries; both near and far. 
Among the most important components of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy considerations must be its closer great powers; China and India. While China’s economic assistance is extremely important for the development of the country, India’s security concerns must also be factored in such considerations. Conducting joint military exercises with both countries - especially joint naval exercises - would be a step that Sri Lanka could take to balance its ties with both countries.
To sum up; the present regime has fashioned an altered formulation of nonalignment which is aptly suited to the 21st century’s geopolitical challenges.  This security architecture which is focused on building amicable ties with great and small powers to an equal degree is indubitably one of the best foreign policies that a small state such as Sri Lanka could apply at present. 

This note is an adapted version of the views expressed by Shakthi De Silva at the invitation of the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States of America to the diplomatic staff and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials on 03-04-2017.  
Shakthi De Silva was the recipient of the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial award for excellent performance at the XIII Diploma in Diplomacy & World Affairs Course of the BIDTI in 2016.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Panda Diplomacy

China has used its pandas to help foster relationships with other countries for more than half a century. This unique way of diplomacy has been practiced by Chinese rulers since the Tang dynasty. The Chinese view the Pandas as a national treasure.Chinese policy makers employed a soft power strategy to improve its relations with countries all over the world by gifting Pandas. These Pandas were gifted to countries like the United States, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union to ease tensions and to build new diplomatic relationships. Yet this all changed when the Panda’s became an endangered species. Nowpandas are only loaned to friendly, geopolitically and economically important partner countries of China. From the late 50’s to the early 80’s, China has gifted 28 pandas to nine countries.

The First Panda Diplomats 

Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were gifted to the United States in 1972.This was a generous gift of friendship offered to the United States by the Chinese government after the first historic state visit by an American president to People’s Republic of China. President Richard Nixon and his delegation re-opened the Sino-American partnership which thrives to this day after Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and top US diplomat Henry Kissinger laid the foundations during the height of the cold war.

Panda Loans 

The role of the Panda has changed since the early 80’s.These furry animals are no longer used purely as diplomats. China offered pandas to other countries only on loans.A 10 year loan terms includes a fee of $ 1 million per year and a requirement that cubs born during the loan period be the property of the People's Republic of China.A team from the Oxford University has found out that panda loans coincided with trade deals for valuable resources and technology. This new strategy is based on a Chinese term called "guanxi" loans which is used to describe personalised networks of influence, trust, reciprocity and loyalty.
In the present day the Chinese does not use Pandas purely as diplomatic tools to capture the attention of governments but to build a relationship with citizens of foreign countries while using the finances they earn through panda loans to preserve the endangered pandas. Panda still remains one of the most important Chinese symbols and an icon of Chinese soft power.

G.M. Lahiru Chamara Doloswala

The South China Sea

Some say it is the most important area of ocean in the world, the South China Sea is rich in natural resources and 30% of the world’s shipping trade flows through this area. The rising super power, People’s Republic of Chinaclaim to South China Sea has been a highly debated issue in international affairs.
There are rich oil and gas resources in the South China Sea. It is also called “the second Persian Gulf” by experts. An astonishing amounts of oil reserves are buried in the South China Sea. It is estimated that around 7.7 billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas reserves of around 266 trillion cubic feet are up for grabs. A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2013 raised the total estimated oil reserves to 11 billion barrels.
Five countries lay claim to parts of South China Sea and most of these countries base their claims on the United Nations: Law of the Sea Art.57 Breadth of exclusive economic zone; “The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of territorial sea is measured”. Sovereign Countries have exclusive rights for all the trade and resources in the Exclusive Economic Zones (UN: Law of the Sea Art.56).
Looking through the filters of China, Chinese argue that they have a historical claim to the South China Sea and they have their own explanation for their claims to major parts of the South China Sea. The so called NineDash Line refers to the demarcation line used initially by the Government of the Republic of China and subsequently also by the Government of the People's Republic of China.
After the Japanese Empire was dismantled in the end of the Second World War, Japan lost all of the claims to the South China Sea and the Government of the Republic of China exploited the moment to expand their claims to the South China Sea. The Republic of China claimed Spratly Islands, Parcels Islands and Pratas Islands. In the San Francisco Conference on 1951, China asserted their rights to the islands, Vietnam and Philippines followed. Even after the UN established the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone in 1973, the People’s Republic of China stood their ground and held their claim to the South China Sea.
The Philippines in January 2013 initiated arbitration proceedings against China's territorial claim by saying it is unlawful under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China refused to participate in the arbitration. The five arbitrators of the tribunal agreed unanimously with the Philippines on 12 July 2016.The arbitrary tribunal concluded that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources, hence there was "no legal basis for China to claim historic rights" over the Nine Dash Line. The tribunal also determined that China had violated the Philippines' sovereign rights and caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment”. The Chinese government rejected the ruling by the arbitrary tribunal. The Chinese are in a position that China's territorial sovereignty and marine rights in the South China Sea would not be affected by the Philippines South China Sea ruling while doing their utmost to resolve disputes with their neighbors. Even though it is said the South China Sea dispute is a melting pot or an international crisis, disputes still remain peaceful and are being negotiated legally and diplomatically to find a peaceful settlement to all parties involved.

G.M. Lahiru Chamara Doloswala

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Artistic Elegance in Diplomacy

“Without music, life would be a mistake” These were the words spoken by German philosopher and poet; Friedrich Nietzsche.
After the end of World War two, Composer and Conductor Igor Markevitch created the the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra as a symbol of hope. In 1950 the U.S State Department promoted jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong to create cross cultural understanding in the middle of a cold war between the Americans and Russians. In 1958 despite his enemy status by the Russians American Pianist Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow and became and adorned figure in Russia. And in 1964 renowed cellist Mstislav Rostropovich played the notes Bach’s Suite No 2 of the praising God for the “miracle” in remembrance of the fall of the Berlin Wall which occurred in 1989.
The Ninth Symphony by Beethoven which hailed to be the National Anthem of the European Union had a statement to be made which avowed freedom for the declaration in favor of universal brotherhood. This hidden thread of art became Beethoven’s work for the quest for freedom both politically and expressively. And Freedom of mind and Spirit. Beethoven chose to adapt and recreate “Ode to Joy” or "An die Freude" written by Schiller. This Chorale celebrated the joyous melody when all men became brothers. The Motto of the European Union being “United in Diversity” one can understand that the use of this Symphony to be the national anthem apt quite well to the twelve star flag of the Union.
Classical Music became a muse in the promotion of peace and hope for the international arena in times of war and conflict as well as during the bountiful epoch of Peace and harmony. Music is the art and language of the feelings, the sentiments, the spiritual instincts of the soul and so becomes a universal language tending to unite, blend and harmonize all who may come within its sphere. No culture can exist without the form of Music. That is the truth. This has been a fundamental component for society. Wherever people gather to celebrate, mourn or participate life, music becomes a creation for ceremony and community. The pitch and rhythm which resonate in the design of the human auditory system cause people from different cultures to organize their music in much the same way. Tonal music and specific musical figures signify a certain emotion. The use of this kind of code becomes an essential feature of musical communication.
Plato said that musical training is a powerful instrument than any other because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace. This makes the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful. It was recognized to have influence over emotions, morals and beliefs. It became a comparison to the harmonious adjustment which is essential to the whole of human life and the world.
The Fourth Symphony by Beethoven is a piece written not only as a means of escape from the world. The Symphony provided a lesson of patience and humility. Barenboim, defined it as the potential to express human experience and teach people about their humanity. The violinist Yehudin Mehudin considered classical music as an art that could structure the personalities of young people with a view to open their minds, to instill the respect of others and the desire of peace. Music is the only pure art of expressing emotions. The capacity that this brings could convey the deepest emotions and create a sense of belonging to a unity. It is often performed at social gatherings and when at a concert or listening to music with a group we become aware that we are sharing a common experience. The UNESCO World Report Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue defines music as a pathway in cultural attitudes that leads from awareness to curiosity, to discover and hopefully ultimately leading to tolerance.
This silent language became a tool for interculture intertwining with diplomacy. It brings people and organizations together. To assist nations in peace building with the world. Here music and musicians becomes the person of promoting shared values, mutual respect and understanding amidst differences. It becomes the communication between the government people of other race and caste.
This use of this soft power helps people the ability to look out and see the world as many would see it and to also allow the possibility that others may see something that one would’ve not seen. This smart power becomes a special superpower in international relations. This relationship is built equally and not seen as a one way street. These actors are an important element for advocacy as they become an influence in power, to democratize the structure of world politics and use this influence for change in individual nation states.
As a messenger of peace for the United Nations American musician Yo Yo, the founder of the Silk Road Project teaches musicians from diverse cultures to listen and improvise with each other. This way dialogue is created and young musicians would arrive at a common focus point. When one makes music take the place of speeches and peace talks, there would be hope that at least this contribution would have a small part to play even when diplomacy has failed.
Though economics and politics have one solved or rather analyzed the platform of international relations. Musicologists now are the blooming contributors to this platform that allows studying to how music was produced and why they were created. In the 17th century, the origin of opera required diplomats some musical training. This was taught to illustrate discipline and elegance.
For these Musicians are creating melodies for social change. As it is memorable and effect leaders to a certain extent. To improve human relations is thus the main goal as that without voices; melody can still make change to the world. It is a language of emotions and it has the capacity to express emotions from the composer to the audience. It is an importance to diplomacy, as music is the nerve tissue for the heart of humanity and the Soul.

Yashika Mahamalage


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