Upul Joseph Fernando
Way back in 1963, Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was hailed by the China media as the ‘Angel of Peace’ when she carried with her a set proposals to prevent a possible Indo-China war. While in China she signed the maritime agreement. Her proposals to prevent an Indo-China war was severely criticized by the then Opposition UNP which claimed the proposals favoured China while it was unfair by India. Even the then Opposition stalwart of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Philip Gunawardena warned that Bandaranaike’s proposals were harmful to Indo-Lanka relations.
Allegations were levelled that in signing the maritime agreement, Bandaranaike had secretly sold the Trincomalee China Bay Port to China. The UNP used the issue as the main slogan against the Bandaranaike Government at the 1965 General Election warning the public that China was going to invade Sri Lanka. The UNP was elected to office and relations with China gradually turned sour. It was alleged that China was behind a move to topple the UNP Government elected to office in 1965. Rumours floated that the Chinese Embassy in Colombo had printed leaflets in China and had got them down to operate an anti-UNP propaganda programme. Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan Mission in China came under attack. It was reported that the attack was mounted by the Red Army of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
China was anxious to bring Bandaranaike back to power in 1970. That stand was proved beyond doubt as relations with China stabilized again after Bandaranaike returned to power in that year with a two-third majority. In 1971 the JVP insurgency broke out, and many nations, except China agreed to assist Bandaranaike to quell the insurgent uprising. The silence maintained by China was viewed by Bandaranaike with suspicion. That was mentioned in the book ‘Foreign Policy of Sri Lanka’ in the following manner:
Traditional Bandaranaike policy
“The traditional Bandaranaike Policy of close friendship with China was resumed with special emphasis excepting for a brief interlude during the height of the April insurrection of 1971 in Sri Lanka, when the Chinese complicity in the insurrection was suspected. Suspicion of a possible Chinese role in the insurgency centred on a mysterious Chinese ship carrying arms consigned to Tanzania, which was in the Colombo Harbour, at the time of the commencement of insurgent attacks and when China became the only major power, which failed to respond to the Sri Lankan Government’s appeal for military assistance, the ship itself sailing away while the appeal to China for such assistance was under consideration in Beijing.
“The insurgency had drawn its intellectual stimulus from a variety of Marxist sources, among its ideological forebears being Mao Tse Tung, Kim Il Sung and Che Guevara. The Sri Lankan Government ordered the closure of the North Korean Embassy on the ground that some of its activities had given strength and support to the insurrectionists, while the erstwhile leader of the pro-Beijing Communist Party was taken into custody., Meanwhile, four Indian frigates joined the Sri Lanka patrol boats in a search for the mysterious Chinese ship, which had disappeared. Sino-Sri Lanka relations were restored to normalcy only after Ms.Bandaranaike broadcast to the nation, late April, that foreign powers were not involved in the insurgency, and after Chou En-Lai himself wrote to her stating that ‘friendship between China and Sri Lanka is in the fundamental interest of the two peoples and can stand test’, and that ‘the Chinese Government and people highly treasure the friendship between our two countries’.
The letter also commended the Sri Lanka Government in having brought under control a handful of persons who styles themselves Guevarists, and into whose ranks foreign spies (have) sneaked. The letter was accompanied by an interest free, long term loan of
Rs 150 million”.
By-gone era episode
This by-gone era episode stems to mind when one analyzes the present relations between the Rajapaksa Government and China. Rajapaksas have today established much stronger links with China. This has caused tension for America and India. Hence, the Rajapaksa Government has a fear that America and India would attempt to destabilize the Rajapaksa Government. In reality, the Rajapaksa Government should not fear America nor India but, China. The Chinese are not investing huge monies not to wash their hands off. They expect long term results. If the Chinese feel that the Rajapaksa Government is becoming unpopular among the people, they would mediate to support another Party to come to power to safeguard their investments. In 1971 China abandoned Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the height of the JVP insurrection thinking the insurrection would be a success. Similarly, if China foresees the imminent fall of the Rajapaksa Government, it would rush in to ensure a regime change favourable to them to prevent a pro-American/Indian leader coming to power in Sri Lanka.
The Americans always ensure when leaders close to them in nations which have sound relations were going to fall, another who would support them is installed in office. That had been experimented in Pakistan and Philippines. However, chances of China trying to do the same in Sri Lanka, looks to be on cards. China who installed Kim Jong –un as the North Korean leader is now trying to oust him today. A media report to that effect stated;
North Korean leader
“For the North Korean leader, this is a difficult time, Toshimitsu Shigemura, a Professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs told DW. Timing is very important here and it is possible that China is moving to abandon Kim Jong-un.The atmosphere between the two nations is changing. China may have decided that it is time for a regime change in the North, they will not permit the collapse of the country because they do not want chaos on their own borders.
Further evidence that Beijing is slowly tightening the screw on its erstwhile ally comes as more state-run financial institutions sever links with banks in North Korea. The latest institution to adhere to government’s orders to halt transactions across the border is the Bank of China, one of the four major banks in the country, which announced on 7 May that it would cease dealings with the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, which has been identified as being involved in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.
Intelligence sources have passed on to DW information that Beijing has a contingency plan in place when Kim Jong-un’s control over the country crumbles. The reports confirm that China is indeed quietly encouraging regime change and is grooming Kim’s brother, Kim Jong – nam to take over his role. At 42, Kim Jong-nam is the oldest son of Kim Jong-il, the dictator who ruled North Korea with an iron fist for 17 years until his sudden death in December 2011. Kim Jong – nam had been expected to assume leadership after his father’s death, but fell from favour spectacularly in 2001 when he was detained with two women and a boy aged four at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport travelling on a forged Dominican Republic passport. He later admitted he had wanted to visit Disneyland. He subsequently lived in Macau and Beijing, under the close watch of the Chinese authorities. The reports said that after Kim Jong-nam is installed in Pyongyang, his brother will be permitted to go into exile, probably in China. The tactic is not without its pitfalls, however, in part due to efficiency of the campaign to deify their young leader as the future of the nation”.
The China backed regime change plan in North Korea looks an appropriate warning to Rajapaksas in Sri Lanka.