Jehan Perera in Colombo
The government seeks to give an impression that it is untroubled by the impending US-sponsored resolution on it at the latest session that has just commenced at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. In his first meeting with the Foreign Correspondents Association in Sri Lanka in three years, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reported to have said he was not disturbed by it and that it would only be a single black mark against the country. However, other reports said he admitted feeling disturbed at being censured by the UNHRC and compared the US treatment of Sri Lanka as being similar to Cassius Clay’s “punching bag.” The Sri Lankan media which is usually respectful of the President showed him in a cartoon in a boxing ring looking flustered across from a much larger President Obama.
However, the government has not given up trying to win over countries to its side. It sent a high ranking Parliamentary delegation over to South Africa, but who appear to have returned with a request to forge a wider consensus from the national polity if they are to receive the South African government’s support for a Truth and Reconciliation process. Such a process holds the key to Sri Lanka’s ability to deal with the past issues of political violence that go beyond merely the last phase of the war. India also appears to have become a focal point of the latest governmental initiative with President Rajapaksa seeking a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they attend a regional conference in Myanmar this week. In addition, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is reported to be visiting India for another regional dialogue at which he will meet his counterparts from India.
The importance of lobbying with supportive countries is amplified by the fact that the UNHRC process is primarily a political one in which countries vote on the basis of a variety of reasons, rather than being a judicial process where judges make rulings according to strict guidelines of law. Political processes are also incremental and do not take place with sharp breaks. The government still has the possibility of slowing down the political process. The government appears to be considering two options in responding to the US-sponsored resolution in the UN Human Rights Council that is expected to set the stage for an international investigation. One is to mobilize its friends in the UN to sponsor a counter-resolution. The other is to more fully make positive changes on the ground in a verifiable manner that could satisfy the majority within the international community.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G L Peiris gave an indication of the government’s positive expectations on this score. Speaking last week at a public event at the prestigious Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Affairs he affirmed the prime importance of self respect and dignity of the Sri Lankan nation. He also contradicted the 19th century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston (1846- 1851) who said that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” This dictum of Lord Palmerston is widely cited in the discussions on foreign policy in academic institutions and foreign policy think tanks worldwide. It is seen as a building block of rational foreign policy. Prof. Peiris said that Sri Lanka, as a nation, had friends. Sri Lanka was loyal to its friends, and in turn Sri Lanka’s friends were loyal to it.
The validity of the critique by Prof Peiris of Lord Palmerston’s dictum can be seen in the relations between countries that have a special affinity to each other. The US-UK special relationship is one example in which there is a civilisational bond which goes back to the time of emigration to the US by people from the UK and other European countries that commenced in the 17 century. Today the US and UK are bound together by ties of kinship, language, culture and democratic traditions. In the last century they fought two world wars side by side. Therefore, it is not difficult to see how Prof Peiris’s perceptive observations about the incompleteness of Lord Palmerston’s dictum applies in the case of the US and UK.
A similar analysis can be made of the special relationship that exists between China and Sri Lanka. The relationship between the two countries goes back to the ancient past. Prof Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka was on the ancient Silk Route and there were many Chinese travelers and merchants who have visited Sri Lanka. More recently in the 1950s, Sri Lanka defied the displeasure of the Western countries when it entered into the Rubber-Rice Pact and was able to save valuable foreign exchange at a time when it was in short supply. This earned it the disfavor of the US in particular, which led to the restriction of US aid to the country. But it sealed the relationship with China, the fruits of which were seen in the donation of the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, and later in the unceasing supply of military assistance during the time of war, and now in massive economic assistance for development.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s bonds with the African countries are still too new to be tested in the firmament of world politics, especially in a contest with the world superpower. Sri Lanka also shares little in common with the African continent, as indeed with China, in terms of kinship, language, culture or democratic traditions. It is these commonalities that form the basis of the special relationship that has existed for over three centuries between the peoples of the US and UK. In this context it is unfortunate that Sri Lanka has failed to develop its relationship with India, with which it shares a civilisational bond and a common heritage of religion and culture. Indeed, it is with India that Sri Lanka has the best potential to emulate the US-UK special relationship.
The potentiality of Sri Lanka’s special relationship with India was seen recently when the Indian government took Sri Lanka’s side in the dispute over Kachativu Island. This small and uninhabited island near the Jaffna peninsula in the north, has been a source of dispute for many years. But despite its overwhelming advantage in terms of size and military strength, since 1974 India has taken the position that Kachativu is a part of Sri Lanka. This has been a source of grievance in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu which has now become even sharper due to the problem of fishing by large numbers of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. Earlier this year, in a case filed in the Madras High Court, the Indian government said that Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over Kachativu was a settled matter and that Indian fishermen did not enjoy the right to engage in fishing there.
The manner that India has dealt with Sri Lanka on the issue of disputed territory is in stark contrast to the way other countries deal with similar disputes. The continuing disputes between China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines over various islands have even led them to deploy military assets against each other. The India-Sri Lanka special relatlonship on the issue of disputed territory is a model of how other countries should resolve their own disputes. The Sri Lankan government needs to utilize its special relationship with India to cope with the demands emanating today from other parts of the international community. The Indian government has always made it known that devolution of power and a political solution to the ethnic conflict is its priority, not the issue of war crimes. Even if it is too late to make a change in the way the current US-sponsored resolution is voted upon, the future can be better.
|Protest rally in front of the Russian embassy in Washington DC.
Alex Lantier, agency report
The US conceded on March 2 that Moscow had “complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula” and announced that the secretary of state, John Kerry, will fly to Kiev in an attempt to halt a further Russian advance into Ukraine. Senior US officials dismissed claims that Washington is incapable of exerting influence on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but were forced to admit that Crimea had been successfully invaded by 6,000 airborne and ground troops in what could be the start of a wider invasion, reported the Guardian of London on 3 March.
In the most serious military crisis in Europe since the end of World War II, the Western-backed Ukrainian regime that took power in Kiev in a fascist-led putsch a week ago put its military on high alert on March 2. It also began calling up its reserve forces, totalling around 1 million men, threatening war with Russia.
The day before, the upper house of the Russian parliament had unanimously passed a bill authorizing the deployment of Russian forces to Crimea, a majority Russian-speaking region of Ukraine where Russia has a major naval base at Sevastopol. Officials in Kiev charged that over the weekend, Russia sent up to 6,000 troops to Crimea to bolster local authorities against Kiev.
The tensions between Moscow and Kiev directly raise the risk of a clash between Russia and the NATO powers backing Kiev. While Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed March 2 in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to keep open “bilateral and multilateral” communications, Russian exchanges with Washington were very tense.
Obama’s lengthy phone call to Putin
US President Barack Obama made a 90-minute phone call to Putin to discuss Ukraine. Obama demanded that Russian troops return to their bases in Crimea, denounced Russian policy as a “violation of Ukrainian sovereignty” and a “breach of international law,” and threatened severe consequences for US-Russian relations.
Putin brushed aside Obama’s demands, calling the Ukraine situation “extraordinary.” He pointed out that far-right elements backed by Kiev and the Western powers threaten “the lives and health of Russian citizens and their many compatriots” in Ukraine.
Moscow may intervene not only in Crimea, but also in other majority-Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine hostile to the right-wing regime in Kiev. The Kremlin issued a statement that declared: “In the case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.”
Russian troops, Cossacks, pro-Russian local inhabitants, and Putin’s “Night Wolves” biker gang are reportedly working together to fortify the land bridge between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine and hold it against potential offensives by the Ukrainian military.
Russian officials dismiss US criticisms
Russian officials bluntly dismissed US criticisms as hypocritical, noting that Washington has violated countries’ sovereignty by invading countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Russian Foreign Ministry sources responded to US National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s comment that Russia was committing a “grave mistake” in sending troops to Ukraine by advising the United States itself not to use force.
They said, “We have seen the expert evaluations of Susan Rice, which are based on repeated US military interventions in multiple places around the world, especially where the US administration is of the opinion that the norms of Western democracy are in danger or ruling regimes begin too clearly ‘to get out of hand.’ We consider that the current presidential adviser will give this kind of advice about the error of using force to the US leadership, in the event of a decision about a new intervention.”
The reactionary Kremlin oligarchy cannot offer any progressive solution to the escalating tensions in Ukraine, which can only be halted by a political mobilization of the working class against imperialism and the post-Soviet capitalist oligarchies inside the ex-USSR. However, it is the imperialist powers that bear central responsibility for the military escalation in Ukraine and the country’s accelerating downward spiral towards war.
Putsch in Kiev
Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is the inevitable outcome of the reckless decision by Washington and the European Union (EU) to back a fascist putsch in Kiev. The Kiev regime came to power on a program of strategically orienting to the West and imposing deep austerity measures on the working class, including pension cuts and massive energy price increases, a strategy so unpopular that Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk compared himself to a “political kamikaze.”
Driven by social contradictions for which it has no solution, Kiev is stoking confrontations with Russia and ethnic Russians in order to mobilize its tiny social base—fascists like the Svoboda party or the Right Sector militia who praise the Holocaust and, identifying the USSR with Russia, combine hysterical anti-communism with anti-Russian hatred.
Dissolution of USSR
These developments point to the disastrous impact of the dissolution of the USSR. Under conditions where the working class has been shut out of political life due to the reactionary role of Stalinism, the vilest fascist forces have come to the fore, throwing the entire region open to imperialist intrigue and war.
The Kiev regime has prepared laws to strip Russian of its status as an official language and sent thugs to beat up officials in pro-Russian areas it fears may break away from Ukraine.
Leading Svoboda members are infamous for bloodthirsty denunciations of Russians. Iryna Farion called Russian speakers “degenerates” who should be imprisoned, and a top Svoboda official believed to be party leader Oleh Tyahnybok proposed on Svoboda forums to “physically liquidate all Russian-speaking intellectuals and all Ukrainophobes … registering Ukrainophobes can be done here by any member of Svoboda.”
US and European imperialism, having backed a putsch by far-right forces, are watching as the authority of its far-right proxy regime over large swathes of Ukraine begins to disintegrate.
Protests of tens of thousands of people took place last week across Ukraine’s eastern and southern industrial heartlands, which, like the Crimean Peninsula, include a greater number of Russian speakers. In Kharkov 20,000 protesters demonstrated, carrying Russian flags and storming local government offices, throwing out officials sent by Kiev.
In Donetsk—the capital of the Donbass region, where a referendum on independence from Kiev is now scheduled, as in the Crimea—10,000 protesters rallied and distributed leaflets calling on citizens to defy Kiev. Another 20,000 anti-Kiev protesters marched in Odessa, and smaller demonstrations took place in Mariupol, Melitopol, and Yevpatoria.
Only days after being appointed to head the Ukrainian navy, Admiral Dennis Berezovsky turned against the Kiev authorities and went over to pro-Russian authorities in Crimea, together with the flagship of the Ukrainian fleet, the frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy.
Danger of a great-power war
The main danger under these conditions is that the imperialist powers will escalate the crisis into a major war, either by stoking conflict inside Ukraine or by directly intervening themselves.
Writing in the Guardian, Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Centre think tank pointed to the danger of a great-power war. Noting that “direct confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian forces will draw in the United States one way or another,” he compared a likely conflict today to the 2008 war in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia in the South Caucasus—in which Moscow beat off an assault on Russian peacekeepers by US-backed Georgian forces.
He wrote, “So far, there has been no military confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian forces, but if they clash, this will not be a repeat of the five-day war in the South Caucasus, as in 2008. The conflict will be longer and bloodier, with security in Europe put at its highest risk in a quarter century.”
The most inconsistent team Pakistan has won against both India and Bangladesh in the Asia Cup contest. Both wins were commendable performances, and the credit for the two victories belongs to Shahid Afridi. In the third game [played against Bangladesh] Fawad Alam. and Ahmad Shahzad also shone.
Yet the stark fact is that Pakistan bowling was pathetic in the match against Bangladesh, and much bowling standard one would expect from a first class team that aspires to be number one.
We wish good luck to Pakistan green shirts in the next decider against Sri Lanka, and wish it would win this match and regain position as winner of the Asia Cup for the second time.
Certainly Abdur Rahman went down in Wisden record book, to be named as the first bowler, to yield eight runs bowling three no balls in the same maiden over.
Bangladesh bowled remarkably well
In contrast, Bangladesh bowled remarkably well, displaying the kind of talent in posting 326 runs, amassing more than 100 runs in the last 10 overs and repeating its performance against New Zealand, which shot Sohag Ghazi to fame, an off spinner as well as the first and the only cricketer to score a century as well as take a hat trick in the same Test match – though Ghazi as not seen in the match against Pakistan. Instead the credit for bowling best belongs to Mominul Haque, who took wickets for 37 runs, proving to be the most economical, among six other bowlers.
And lo and behold, Shahid Afridi has become the talk of the world for his performance in the last two matches against BD and India, where his two 6s (against India) and his seven 6s [especially three 6s against Sakib Hasan. This excellent performance revives the memory of Javed Miandad’s famous sixer against India at Sharjah (UAE) in April 1986 [Miandad’s last -ball six still haunts Indian cricketer Chetan Sharma].
This time, however, Afridi’s two sixes, skied in the 50th over, against India last Sunday, as well as Fawad’s two sixes also in the 49th over against BD, would stay ever in the memory of cricket fans.
Pakistani fans went wild after Afridi’s brilliant performance at Dhaka last Sunday but the glee came crashing at what happened in the session court at Islamabad, federal capital, early Monday morning.
Two militants —- most people guess they might have been at least six—- went into mayhem spree, killing an additional session judge, and ten others, including a lady advocate, who was to appear waiting for interview for enrolment as advocate.
The Islamabad violence followed one day after the Taliban Tehreek (TTP) announced cease fire to last a month during which it would again enter in parleys with the government’s nominated team of negotiators. The government has agreed to the condition of the TTP that it would also end precision strikes carried out.
The latest news about the parley came after a meeting of the two sets of negotiating teams held at Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, former known as NWF Province is that they – the teams of negotiators have recommended that the team of Prime Minister, Interior Minister and representatives of the military talk directly with the TTP goons in the troubled Waziristan spot.
However, cease fire that the TTP promised has not held out since the last two days. Everyone here has witnessed the horrible incident at Islamabad session court. And as we write, six security personnel have been killed at Hangu (in KPK) on Wednesday.
The Islamabad incident has been owned by a new militant organization, named Ansarul Hind, presumably based in Afghanistan, according to the assumption of most people here. This militant outlaw group says, it once belonged to TTP but have now dissociated themselves from this fraternity of outlaws, because they like Maulana Aziz, the chief cleric of Lal Masjid, insist on enforcing their brand of Shariah, and wish Pakistan to become a Caliphate a la another banned Hizbul Tehrir group. The TTP have disowned the incident and say they have nothing to do with the Islamabad Court incident, but they have not condemned the incident, nor are they helping the law to grab them, as has been suggested by Maulana Samiul Haq, chief negotiator nominated by the TTP side.
Meanwhile, most Opposition parties in the Parliament, and many other commentators, want to see the parley end. They figure that one would never find sincerity in the cease fire from the TTP side. As they put it, TTP might just want to gamble further time, to regroup, after the recent precision strikes.
Maulana Samiul Haq, however, sees recent acts of violence as attempts to sabotage the efforts of the intermediary committees. He said as much at a news conference, the other day at Nowshera. In his words, a ‘third enemy’ that did not want the peace talks to be successful was creating obstacles.