Sunday, September 26, 2010
This was the era of national independence movements. While colonialism was in decline and newly independent nations were emerging, the Cold War was also making its presence felt in another political theatre. These new developments meant that new nations were thrust into power politics straight away and had to decide which way to choose. While some countries chose either of the two camps-capitalist or socialist-some nations chose neither in particular. This was the beginning of the concept of non-alignment.
Bandaranaike was a noted statesman of the ‘third way.’ He had made it clear even before he became Prime Minister. Even during the Second World War, he put his dream of international cooperation into words when he reportedly commented on the Atlantic Charter signed between Britain and the U.S.A. He stated at his presidential address to the Sinhala Maha Sabha in September 1942 that, “….It would be a magnificent act if England, America, Russia and China formulated an Eastern Charter for all Eastern peoples.”
This shows the keen interest Bandaranaike had on international developments. This became more evident when he represented Ceylon in the Asian Relations Conference at Delhi in 1947 and again in the conference regarding the Indonesian situation at the same city in January 1949, where he spoke on Asian regionalism and cooperation. However, at this early stage, Bandaranaike did not actively engage in debates regarding Ceylonese foreign policy at the national legislature. His first major speech at the parliament on foreign policy was in 1950, when he criticized the suggestions of the left wing parliamentarians of an “independent” foreign policy and quitting the Commonwealth. As a Cabinet Minister, he was bound to defend his government. However, while expressing the advantages of the Commonwealth for a small nation, he expressed his admiration for Nehru’s foreign policy, which was the root of the concept of non-alignment.
This admiration was a consistent feature of Bandaranaike’s foreign policy. In the above speech, he argued that the left-wing parliamentarians were suggesting an “unpractical” policy for a small nation. However, even after he left the UNP in 1951, Bandaranaike continued to admire non-alignment rather than stronger ties with the two power blocs as suggested by some other politicians. While the left was advocating strong ties with the socialist bloc, the UNP government was becoming increasingly pro-Western. In July 1953, Bandaranaike made his views clear when he criticized the Dudley Senanayake foreign policy in the parliament.
“I say, for heaven’s sake, be friendly with England or America or anybody else, but do not commit yourself to any one of them…….. As far as I can see, the wisest foreign policy that is being followed in the world today by any leading statesman is that of Pandith Jawaharlal Nehru….”
This was a clear indication of Bandaranaike supporting the neutralist non-aligned policies in foreign relations. During the premiership of Sir John Kotelawala, Bandaranaike vehemently criticized the UNP foreign policy, which was becoming increasingly pro-Western despite the declared “neutralism.” Kotelawala was ready to ally himself even with the “devil himself” against Communism. While Bandaranaike was no supporter of Communism, he criticized this tendency of Kotelawala which was epitomized in the latter’s speech at Bandung. Bandaranaike was critical of the Prime minister’s conduct at the Asia-Africa summit because as he thought, Kotelawala’s action lacked diplomatic courtesy and digressed from the main points of the agreement with regard to the agenda of Bandung.
Foreign Relations as Prime Minister
In his first policy statement as Prime Minister of Ceylon, which was read by the Governor- General on April 20, 1956, Bandaranaike clearly stated his foreign policy statements and goals. He stated that: “In its foreign policy, my Government will not align with any power blocs. The position of bases at Katunayake and Trincomalee will be reviewed…… consideration will be given to exchange of diplomatic representatives with countries in which Ceylon is not at present represented.”
Bandaranaike viewed the removal of the two bases as essential for the independence and neutrality of Ceylon. The initiation of the diplomatic relations with the socialist bloc was to be also important for her neutrality. Also it was driven by economic considerations. Ceylon was still tied to the West, especially Britain, in the economic sphere. Diversification of trade was essential for her to be independent of one or several countries economically, therefore also helping her to be neutral in a proper sense. Bandaranaike once stated: “we are faced with the problem of converting a colonial society into a free society and a problem within it of achieving task in the context of a world which itself is changing…… we like to be friendly with all and like to obtain what is advantageous to our own society while following our own way of life”
The way Bandaranaike went about securing his two main goals showed his statesmanship and diplomacy. From the very beginning, he negotiated with the British government on his intention of seeing the military bases out of Ceylon. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting in July, 1956, became a very important platform for him to express his views. He held discussions with the British counterpart, Sir Eden, in during this gathering. Discussions between the two statesmen were continued in November when Bandaranaike passed London on his way to and from New York to attend the UN General Assembly. The bases were withdrawn by the British in October and November 1957. On the occasion of the transfer of the Katunayake RAF base on November 1, 1957, Bandaranaike stated that “Ceylon’s independence is complete today.” Although it is a contentious statement, it shows the importance he gave for the withdrawal of the bases.
However, this was done without damaging Anglo-Ceylonese friendship. The Ceylon Prime Minister even decided not to visit Egypt on his way back from New York in 1956 for fear of antagonizing the British. However, he was critical of the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt and made it clear to his British counterpart also.
Bandaranaike was very careful to keep the Western countries informed of his decision to initiate diplomatic ties with USSR and China. He told the House of Representatives of the Parliament on his return from New York that he had informed President Eisenhower that there “should be no misunderstanding on their part when we chose to pursue in the interest of humanity, friendly relations with Communist powers.” In 1957, Ceylon established diplomatic relations with both USSR and China and cultivated friendships with other Eastern European countries. However, when he was deliberating the establishment of diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic, many Western nations protested and he decided against it as a result.
These actions show Bandaranaike’s neutralism coupled with pragmatism. His achievements and reputation in the international arena speaks volumes of the success of his policies. The eminent statesmen who called on him at Colombo during 1956-59 included Harold MacMillan of Britain, Menzies of Australia, Peter Nash of New Zealand, Diefenbacker of Canada and Deputy Chancellor Erhard of Federal Republic of (West) Germany. Further more, Chou En-lai, Soekarno and Nehru also called upon him. During this period when Ceylon also suffered immensely due to devastating floods, she received foreign credit from both camps. Among them, the USSR gave Rs. 142.8 million and the USA gave nearly Rs. 160 million.
Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike vehemently refuted critics of neutralism who suggested that neutralism is being uncommitted and being blissfully indifferent to everything by isolating oneself. At the UN General Assembly in 1956, Bandaranaike uttered a few sentences by which the neutralism and the concept of non-alignment can be clearly defined. “We are supposed to be uncommitted nations. I strongly object to the word. We are committed to the hilt. We are committed to preserve decency in dealings between nations; we are committed to the cause of justice and of freedom as much as anyone is. That, briefly, is our position in Asia.”
It was a grave tragedy that such a committed statesman had to end his life as a victim of an assassin.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Nissanka, H.S.S. Sri Lanka's Foreign Policy: A Study in Non-Alignment. Vikas Publishing House, India (1984).
For Details please go to Dissent at 1955 Bandung Conference
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
On the first weeks of the war in the summer of 1914, Turkey remained neutral although the allies may have suspected a leaning towards the Central Powers. The seizure of two ships which were built for the Turkish navy in British shipyards would not have made a positive impression on the Turks. The Germans agreed to replace these ships with their own ships, Goeben and Breslau which may have served to justify the suspicion of the Allies. The ships were placed under the Turkish flag although Admiral Souchon and his German crew still manned the ships. However, what made the Allies declare war against Turkey was the bombing of Russian Black Sea ports by these ships in late October.
The Gallipoli peninsular, which is a strategic location on the entrance to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean, became a focal point of attention in Allied war planning. The relative ease by which the Allies sank the Turkish ship Medusha in December 1914 gave a false impression about the vulnerability of the region. Clearing the way towards Istanbul and relieving the Russians from Turkish campaign in the Caucasus were the main Allied objectives of the attack on Gallipoli. The occupation of Gallipoli which would have meant the fall of Istanbul in due course, would have made possible for the Allies to threaten Austra-Hungary and would have prevented the entrance of Bulgaria to the war.
The fact that such an important campaign was carried out in a grossly unprofessional manner is highly disturbing. There was no real preparation for the campaign, partly because the Allies were deceived by their earlier successes in the vicinity. When General Ian Hamilton was handed over the command in March 1915, his knowledge of the operational area and the enemy was minimal. His sources of information were based on some tourist guides and maps and a handbook on the Turkish Army. Unfortunately, they were not preparing for a tour but a military expedition for which they were not prepared.
Furthermore, the communication between the Army and the Navy was such that the information available about the Turkish artillery and troop positions were not given to the Army. Also, preliminary forays in the vicinity gave ample warning to the Turks as to where the Allied war machine would strike. The fact that General Hamilton was found to be a less than capable commander added to the misery of the Allies.
On the contrary, the Turkish side was fortunate to have not one but two talented commanders in the form of Mustapha Kemal and the German General Otto Liman von Sanders to lead their defense of Gallipoli. The Turkish commander showed the early signs of the talents which he would use to transform the Turkish nation itself within a few years after the defeat of 1918. The German on the other hand was responsible for the modernization of the Turkish Armed forces which would have been decades backward from the standards of the Allied armies just a few years back.
The campaign in Gallipoli started badly with some Allied ships being damaged or even sunk by mines in the narrow straits. The troubles did not ease after the actual landings with more blunders leading to a catastrophe which could have been avoided.
Even after the initial setbacks the Allied commanders had high hopes of success in Gallipoli. In October General Charles Monroe replaced General Hamilton and it was supposed that sufficient reinforcements would tip the balance towards the Allied cause. In November however, when Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener visited Gallipoli he found the situation to be hopeless. Withdrawal was advised and carried upon. By January 8th 1916, all Allied troops had left the peninsular.
It is true that the campaign caused more casualties among Turks and pinned down a considerable force of their army. But the fact that a similar number of Allied divisions which could have been used elsewhere were also pinned down, negates this advantage. Had the campaign was carried out in a more professional manner or had the troops were used in a more useful manner, the outcome of the world war itself might have been decided earlier than November 1918.
However, by the 1920s, some major football powers such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria introduced professionalism to their game. Therefore, their best players suddenly found themselves ineligible for the Olympics. Moreover, there was serious doubts regarding the amateur status of some of the South American teams participating in the tournament which undermined the credibility of the Olympics as a world cup for football.
The decision by the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics organizing committee to drop football from the tournament due to the lack of popularity in United States was the turning point. In the 1928 Amsterdam congress of the FIFA, its president Jules Rimet put proposed a motion to hold a separate world cup of their own, open to any FIFA member. The motion was passed with a majority of 25-5.
Holland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay were initially enthusiastic about hosting the inaugural tournament. But the South Americans who were the reigning Olympic champions eventually received the honour to host it. In 1930, they were celebrating the centenary of their independence and rather over generously, they offered to provide the travel and accommodation expenses of all participants. Meanwhile, the other countries systematically withdrew their initial offers after realizing the financial burdens of staging such a tournament.
Only thirteen-including just four European-countries participated in this tournament which was the only world cup football tournament to be held entirely in one city, Montevideo. Although France realized that their team was not up to the standards of the South Americans, they were obliged to send a team because they were instrumental in making the tournament a reality. Romania is said to have participated due to the support of their football loving monarch, Carol. However, many wondered why Belgium and Yugoslavia chose to embark in the long voyage when all European countries which initially offered to host the tournament did not send their teams.
The tournament started when the French met Mexico and Belgium met USA in two simultaneously started matches on the 13th of July 1930. The Frenchman Lucien Laurent was the first to score a goal in World Cup football history.
As expected, the South American rivals Argentina and Uruguay met at the Centenary Stadium on the 30th of the same month for the final. Argentinian supporters who arrived in Uruguay crossing the river Plate to watch the match were searched for weapons, which dampened the sporting spirit of the game. The rivals met in a hardly fought battle in and the hosts emerged as winners.
Despite the low participation from European nations which led the Uruguayans to boycott the 1934 tournament, the inaugural football world cup was considered a success. It was the beginning of a great sporting event which captivates the whole world every four years.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Despite being a nuclear power, India is still largely a poor country. A third of the worlds poor live in India. Illiteracy, the caste system, role of women in the society and British colonial policies have all contributed to this. Although largely an agricultural country, India has not been immune from chronic food shortages. Feeding the mammoth population has been the primary challenge to successive Indian governments.
The governments have taken many steps to alleviate poverty including subsidizing food and other essential items, improving agriculture, price supports, raising the level of education and spreading awareness on family planning. According to the World Bank Group, these have borne fruit over the years. According to the World Bank, in 1980, 60% of Indians were below US $ 1.25 PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) level, hence in abject poverty. It has improved to 42% in 2005. However, 46% of the children are suffering from malnutrition.
The political situation in India is also a source of concern. After the initial unrest, post-independent India enjoyed political stability due to the overwhelming popularity of the Indian National Congress. But from late 1960s, the grand old party gradually lost its former hegemony. The rise of regional political parties was facilitated by the language policy of the Congress party in the sixties. Secessionist movements calling for separate states (such as in Telangana) or outright independence (such as in Assam, Punjab, Kashmir etc.) are found in virtually every state. When the growing influence of the Maoists-which is in itself facilitated by the abject poverty of the rural population-is added to the equation, the outcome seems to be frightening.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
After the siege and fall of the French city Harfleur, the English king Henry V decided to march to Calais through Normandy with the bulk of his army. On October 8, 1415, he set forth on the journey which took an unexpected turn when the French army blocked their way across river Seine. The English army was extremely fortunate for they found a crossing several days later after marching up-stream along the southern bank. But the French army still followed the exhausted English. This left Henry V with no option but to make a stand and fight. This he did on the 25th of the same month near Agincourt. This battle turned out to be one of the most successful battles in the British military history. In a battle lasting for around 3 hours, it is said that a depleted and exhausted army of around 5,500 routed an army at least 3-4 times its size (the claims of the sizes of the armies is a point of debate which we will not consider for now). The French losses were staggering with 7,000-10,000 deaths and more than a thousand captured. The losses on the English side were comparatively much lower.
The English had nothing to lose from the battle. The bulk of their small army was archers whereas the French army mostly comprised of heavily armed knights and men-at-arms. The English could only hope that the accuracy and range of their longbows would give them an advantage before the French cavalry pounced on them. But, given the numerical superiority, the French could easily negate that slim advantage.
However, there was one distinct advantage for the English army over their opponent, which proved to be decisive. It was the unity of command. The English were led by their king, who inspired his army to stand up to the challenge whereas the French did not have a single leader who could unite their army. The mentally ill king Charles VI and also the Dauphin were absent from the battle and the army was led by several lords such as Charles d’Albret. The competition between the lords and the absence of unity greatly hampered the French cause.
On that historic day, the English army lined up near the village of Maisoncelles, where they had camped for the night, expecting an imminent attack. The French stood facing them about three quarters of a mile away between the woods of Agincourt and Tramecourt and contrary to the expectation of the English, they were willing to wait. Henry V expected the French to attack at daybreak and exhaust themselves in doing so. However, three hours after daybreak, when the expected attack did not come, the king began to lose his confidence. He knew that the battle had to be fought that day. For his exhausted army, there would be no tomorrow. With no food, they could not keep their hopes for another day. Taking this into consideration, Henry V and his advisors took the decision to take the initiative themselves.
The English army moved forward in their formation of men-at-arms at the centre and archers flanking them in lines curving in. This enabled the archers to shoot at the French at the centre of their line. When the French were within the range of the longbows, the English stopped and the archers planted long stakes they had carried with them in the ground in front of them. These were intended to hinder the cavalry. It was these archers who shot their arrows at the heavily armored French thus prompting them to advance.
The French were in a formation of three lines of men-at-arms, the third line mounted. Between the first two lines there were some archers. Flanking the main lines were more mounted men-at-arms and some guns.
It was these mounted men in the flanks who made the first move against the English. They galloped the 300 yard stretch separating the two armies bravely. The archers hit many horses and wounded them. This infuriated the animals and they either rolled to the ground or ran off in all directions. Many horses ran back towards the French men-at-arms who were now moving forward and created havoc in their lines. However, some of the cavalry managed to reach the English line. Upon reaching it, their horses were impaled on the fence of stakes the archers had erected. The riders were thrown off, soon to be hacked to death by the archers.
The dismounted men-at-arms reorganized themselves and moved forward. The same factors that seemed to be advantages to the French army turned out to be the opposite. Their armour impeded their movement and the mud in the field made it worse. Once they reached the English men-at-arms, the French found little room to fight. The front was too narrow for such a large army and they were too congested. The English on the other hand had a smaller army and could fight effectively as their colleague did not hinder their movement. What followed is reported to be the annihilation of the French army. When they fell, the heavy armour prevented them from getting up and others fell upon them. Many died due to suffocation rather than battle wounds and many more were captured while lying under the bodies of other men. Thus in a short while a large number had been taken prisoner.
The third line of the French, consisting of mounted men-at-arms watched the scene helplessly. They were at first not willing to join the battle. But, they did not leave their positions either. So, there was the possibility of them making a charge at the English. If this happened the English were going to be forced to abandon their prisoners. In such an event, the prisoners could easily take up arms and attack from behind or just escape. It is said that because of this threat, Henry V ordered the majority of the prisoners to be killed keeping only the most valuable men such as the Duke of Orleans alive. What followed was a cold blooded murder which may be attributed to something done out of necessity. However, knowing there was no hope of victory, the mounted French knights decided to leave.
The battle of Agincourt was undoubtedly a decisive military victory for the English. But the English could not follow up on the victory. It took another campaign several years later for Henry V to gain control in France.
There seemed to be a lot of points to be clarified in the historical accounts written. Many were undoubtedly written to glorify the English king. What is clear is the fact that many French lords were either killed or taken prisoner on that day. But the facts such as the claims about the extent of numerical superiority of the French and whether Henry V was a good general are points of debate and will be so for years to come.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
As the revolutionary year of 1989 approached its final month, the Communist regimes in the Soviet satellites in
For two dozen years,
These flamboyant terms could not deceive the Romanian public. Infant mortality was high and medication was scarce. While food was scarce at home,
Ceausescu regime was characteristic for its nepotism. Nicolae, Elena and their family members occupied important positions in the government and the Communist Party. It was as if Ceausescu was going one step further than Stalin, advocating “socialism in one family” instead of “socialism in one country.”
While he was idolized by his state media, Ceausescu was an outcast for many foreign leaders. In early 1989, when
The events started in the small town of
Romanians in other regions were largely ignorant of the upheaval until Ceausescu’s speech on the national television on the 20th. Back from
Fighting continued for a few more days between the Ceausescu loyalists and the new regime of National Salvation Front led by Ion Iliescu. But by the end of the year Iliescu was firmly in control. It was not the return of democracy to
For two decades, the Communists ruled the country strictly following the Soviet model. Then everything seemed to change during the ‘Prague Spring’ which resulted in the invasion by the
The Soviet way of thinking began to change with the ascendancy of Gorbachev in the Kremlin. The cost of maintaining satellites was considered an impediment to the economy of the
The reforms introduced in the
However, the new thinking of the Gorbachev camp in
The people of
The Velvet Revolution was the process which started with student demonstrations on the 17th of November 1989, a week after
The fall of the wall which divided the city of
Even though the end of the Communist regimes of
This was largely the case in
In Western Germany, the
Stalin’s decision making favored the
Thus they began to ‘vote by their feet.’ A large number of East Germans left for the West, mainly through
As almost all of the major policy decisions of the GDR government, the idea of erecting a wall as a physical barrier to curb the emigration of its citizens-to seal off the prison state for good-may have come from
The East German regime tried to justify the wall as an “anti fascist rampart” and a protective wall against Western agents. However, the fact that citizens of the Western countries including the West Germans were not prohibited from traveling to the East while the East Germans were forbidden to travel to the West made these arguments obsolete. The fact that West Berliners were not permitted to travel to
Although the wall was successful in curbing the emigration of East Germans, it could not kill their longing for freedom. Numerous escape attempts were made and some of them were successful while others were not, including the notorious incident involving the 18 year-old Peter Fechter, who was shot and let to bleed to his death by the guards in full view of the Western world.
After taking the most important decision of its lifetime-albeit at the Soviet overlord’s prompting-the GDR regime could now turn its attention to the development of the socialist economy. This was largely based on the centrally planned model although there were some minor reforms attempted occasionally. Although not immune to the inherent problems of central planning, East German economy improved. The GDR could boast of the largest per capita income of the Soviet satellites. Social conditions improved and even by early 1989 when other Eastern bloc nations were facing economic difficulties, business was as usual in
But, the conditions changed abruptly within the year.
The dramatic turn of events started because of several decisions made outside
Initially only a small number of East Germans, mainly people who were spending their holiday in
Things were moving faster than all expectations. Honecker was replaced by Egon Krenz, who tried to implement some reforms. But, it came far too late. Protesters flooded the streets in a number of cities and the SED was losing control rapidly. Then, they took the decision from which there could be no return. On the 9th of November, they opened the wall.
Actually, it was not intended to open the border immediately but the official who announced the decision, Gunther Schabowski, had not been briefed properly. Upon hearing the news, East Berliners flooded the checkpoints in the wall and there was a lot of confusion because the border guards had not been informed. Of course, there was no East German official who dared to countermand the announcement and the wall had to be opened. The dramatic celebrations might not have occurred if the wall was opened as the GDR government had intended.
The intention of the Communist regime was to win the support and confidence of the people by allowing them the freedom to travel. They wanted the population to stay and rebuild the country following the virtuous, humane aspects of Communism. However, the vast majority of the East Germans were not prepared to make the sacrifices which were required to rebuild the shattered economy. Living under the autocratic rule of the SED for 40 years, the people had lost the interest in making sacrifices for the country. Also, life in the West seemed easier and therefore more people left the East. Apart from that the change of political currents became obvious in March 1990, when the East German Christian Democrats swept the first free elections in the country. In July, the failed GDR Mark was replaced by the Deutsche Mark in an attempt to arrest the further collapse of the economy of
Completed on: October 25, 2009.