By Harsha Senanayake
Virulent ethnic nationalism and hateful rhetoric towards minorities might win votes, however, should consider how these types of domestic policies would be able to maintain sustainable foreign relations across the world, particularly with the rise of ethnocentric nationalist political campaign throughout the world while many democratic countries elected strong ethnocentric nationalist political leaders for the statecraft including the USA, India, and recently island nation Sri Lanka.
It is no coincidence that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s inauguration ceremony ensued at an ancient Buddhist temple built by the strong Buddhist-nationalist king Dutugamunu who is best known for defeating an invading Tamil king from South India and united all the kingdoms of Sri Lanka under one flag. Through the acceptance speech of the president, Gotabaya has mentioned that “he was the president of all Sri Lankan’s despite the majority of minority communities did not cast vote in favour of Gotabaya.” However, the claims of the ceremony indicate that president will interpret the election victory as a mandate for reinforcing Sinhala Buddhist hegemony; which is similar to Narendra Modi’s vision for Great Hindu Swaraj and Trump’s vision for Great American nation. This interpretation advances the view that Sri Lankan minorities are invaders or guests permitted citizenry by the grace of Sri Lanka’s rightful Sinhala Buddhists guardians.
Here what important to understand is how the world reacted to these political transformations of Sri Lanka and particularly the dynamic changes of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy under the president Gotabaya, since predecessors of Gotabaya government know for western friendly, minority friendly ultra-democratic political organ for many reasons including their efforts for reconciliation, and peacebuilding in post-civil war Sri Lanka. Some after the election, congratulatory diplomatic messages from US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Templitz and the delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka called on Gotabaya to work on reconciliation, democratic reforms and human rights; topics did not draft considerable weight by Gotabaya so far. The responses from the president’s office have instant emphasized his commitments to economic development which is the national priority of the decade according to the president and way to national unity and reconciliation, trade and regional security since South Asia is being attacked by religious extremism and so-called Islamic terrorism including ISIS, use of executive powers to address the needs of the country; this tactically indicating that even the facade of human rights adherence will now be dropped.
Gotabaya and the West: Will Rajapaksa will go back Isolanism
Gotabaya’s election victory is also a precursor to shifts in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. As long as the EU and Western democracies push its commitments to human rights, pluralism and democracy, the Rajapaksa are more likely to alternate other foreign allies including USA, Russia, China, and notably India. Before the election, Gotabaya’s election campaign, for instance, attacked $ 480 million MCG grant to improve public transformation and land administration on ground that US development assistance invades sovereignty of Sri Lanka. It is not a surprise to remark that the Rajapaksa regime is known to maintain distance from the western world. For instance, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the fifth executive president of Sri Lanka and the elder brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa foreign policy failed to win the hearts and minds of the Western world. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency from 2005 to 2015, Sri Lanka became drastically isolated from democratic nations. In 2013, for example, Canada, Mauritius and India boycotted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Sri Lanka- citing the countries human rights records and its foreign tract record of the past.
For instance, In 2008, Sri Lankan government under the president Mahinda Rajapaksa officially exodus from the peace process despite the massive criticism from the peace-loving democratic nations; Switzerland, Norway, USA and UK condemned the actions of Mahinda Rajapaksa government while Norwegian Peace Observation Committee stressed that: Sri Lankan government deliberately abortive the peace process towards the political solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Similarly, the government actions to denied issuing a valid visa to the president of the Europe Union and the Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Great Britain Devid Miliband, Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kirchner to visit Sri Lanka in April 2009 caused to negative foreign relations between Mahinda Rajapaksa the West. The decision to deny issuing a visa to the president of the Europe Union depicted the distorted nature of the foreign policy decision-making process of Sri Lanka. Particularly failures of Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to accept and receive international standards of human rights and the negative connotations emphasize by the foreign policy of Sri Lanka towards Western world forced EU to terminate the GSP+ package entitled by Sri Lanka. However, compared to the comparatively truncated foreign policy priorities presented by Rajapaksa regime towards west, Gotabaya seems to be a president who is capable to handle the foreign policy smoothly and prudentially with the support of the changes occurred in the international system in recent past.
The political game change occurred in the United States of America with Donald Trump’s election victory marked an era of trade and economic oriented foreign policy priorities for America. Despite the changed of domestic level, the presidential vision for foreign relations with South Asia and Far East Asia, Trump administration undoubtedly presented economic and trade prompt relations while negating the domestic and human rights standards of those states. Same policy applicable for Sri Lanka for past few years even though Yahapalana government (Good Governance regime) do well with America. In the case of Gotabaya, he admired the American system since a considerable period of time he lives and practised American values and culture and especially, Gotabaya and Trump followed similar policies throughout their political campaigns. For instance, the political campaign of Trump visualized the immediate threats for the national security while securitization of xenophobia and islamophobia. Trump capitalized the frustrations with the Americans due to foreign migration, forceful capital flow out of the country, foreign market cultivations of American stock market and constructed the fear factor within the American society by promoting the notion of foreign migrants lives in America gaining more than the Americans, and American capital and financial wealth grained by the foreign wars fought by the American. Similarly, the rise of Islamic terrorism throughout the globe capitalized by the trump administration by promoting the necessity of recalculations of national security. These activities constructed a strong ethnic nationalism throughout the American society which helped Trump administration to win the presidential election and secure more economic oriented radicalized foreign policy for America.
Same authoritarianism arose in India under the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent past. Starting from the Gujarat riots Modi’s campaigned constructed the notion of Greater Hindu Swaraj and Akandha Bharath throughout his campaign to capture the political demands of ethnic majorities and commissioned it for a turn of the political map in favour of Modi government. Anti- Islamic sentiments are really common in these two cases and the similar features are shown by the Gotabaya in his campaign. The devastating attack on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka killed more than 250 people demanding for strong leadership and Gotabaya capitalized these sentiments while promoting the fear factor of the post-civil war society by securitizing islamophobia and the necessity of priorities the national security and wellbeing of the ethnocentric majority of the country. These capitalizations and the plan-driven by strong Buddhist nationalism. What important to understand here is the similarities of the common enemy which identified by the USA, India and Sri Lanka despite the methodological changes of the case of Sri Lanka and rise of populism, ethnocentric Buddhist Nationalism in Sri Lanka. However, the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa conceived as the national need to secure the Buddhist homeland and the future of Sinhala- Buddhist nation while an open battle for so-called Islamic terrorism.
The Common Enemy
Islamic terrorism and cloud of ISIS can been seen as the shared notion of authoritarian- ethnic nationalists governments of Sri Lanka, India and the USA it served as an important factor to shape Sri Lankan foreign policy under the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime while this factor adding surface value over the bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and the USA which was not available during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential era. Gotabaya clearly captured the notion of a common enemy to deal with the USA and his interview with the Hindu stressed that Islamic terrorism has become a global threat and the only way to tackle it is being conscious and intelligence must be given the top priorities. Therefore, the counterterrorism mechanism should be strong and important to have intelligence sharing networks. Therefore, I invite India, USA, Japan and Australia to hold hands with Sri Lanka and invest more and work closely. These factors play strong characters to shape Gotabaya’s foreign policy towards the West uniquely while differentiating it from Mahinda’s relations with the West.
However, what crucial to realize is that the complete western disengagement is impossible: After all, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe are Sri Lanka’s top export destinations, and cutting them off would exacerbate macroeconomic vulnerabilities. In 2010, the EU suspended Sri Lanka’s preferential trading status on the basis of the Rajapaksa government’s human rights abuses. Though the EU reinstated the trade concessions in 2017 after Sri Lanka demonstrated human rights improvements, losing such gains would heavily impact Sri Lankan exports- 2.8 billion euros of which were in the EU in 2018. Therefore, Gotabaya has to direct his foreign policy to win the national interests of the country while tapping the international standards and markers, by closing monitoring ethnic-nationalists and populists domestic policies in Sri Lanka while not promoting isolationism policy towards West as his brother did during 2009-2015. In that case, Gotabaya has shown some progress by considering to sign the Millennium Challenge Grant (MCG) agreement with the USA; the same agreement criticized by his party during the election campaign. The Center for International Development at Harvard University claims that Sri Lanka’s main growth constraint is weak exports driven by factors like poor- land-use governance and transportation infrastructure. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is important, then because it targets precisely such constraints; in a context in which grants and concessionary loans are rare for new middle-income countries including Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa’s foreign policy priorities: economic oriented vision and priorities the national interests captured the necessity of the MCG and the decision of signing this agreement with the USA will embrace the positive flag over the relations of Sri Lanka vis-à-vis Europe as well. Finally what important to flag is that MCG cannot be seen as a treat, yet an opportunity. It is an opportunity to upgrade putrefying public transport infrastructure and digitalize land registry while considering it as a launching pad for comprehensive relations with the United States, which is still a largest outward foreign direct investor and the hegemonic power who control the systems and dynamics of the international system.
Geopolitics, Sri Lankan Foreign Policy and External Powers
The geopolitical location of Sri Lanka performed as a pivotal influencer of the foreign policy of Sri Lanka throughout the history and forced Sri Lanka to play it international role as a balancer of power game of world politics. For instance, the commanding strategic position of Sri Lanka at the southern-most point of the mainland Asia, on the world’s highways between East and West, has drawn to its shores divergent peoples from an early time and the geo-reality has played a significant role during the interwar period. Due to trade and commerce, it lured the Greeks, the Romans and Arabs, subsequently in the modern era. Since the world wars; the geostrategic position of Sri Lanka emphasis by a verity of stakeholders of the power game. In a report to Hitler on 12th February 1942, Grand Admiral Raeder stressed that once the Japanese battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines and the Japanese Air Force are based on Ceylon, Britain will be forced to resort to heavily escorted convoys if she desires to maintain communications with India and the Near East. Those implications of history highlights that Sri Lanka would not able to avail the geopolitical location of Sri Lanka in terms of its foreign policy and the construction of cartographic anxiety forced statecrafts of Sri Lanka to think non-alignment, multi-layered foreign policy despite the time and space. Alfred Mahan had seen the geostrategic location of Sri Lanka as a Rimland nation while recognizing the importance of the Indo-Pacific region in world politics. Mahan’s strategic calculations over Indo-Pacific theatre recognized that the powers who are willing to gain the charge over the heartland should cultivate reliable naval power in the Indo-Pacific theatre which is identified as the gateway to the world Moreover, following the credits of Alfred Mahan’s stress neither Sri Lanka nor Gotabaya would able to negate the geopolitical location of the island nation. The dominating position of China in Sri Lanka with the BRI has questioned the integrity of maritime networks in South Asia and particularly the sovereignty rights of decision-making ability of Sri Lanka. The presence of China in Sri Lanka forced other great powers to engage with strategic game to win the upper hand in Indo-Pacific region and what Sri Lanka should do is to open towards the outer world and win opportunities to address the national priorities of the country rather than bandwagon with a single nation; in this case with China.
That’s why Sri Lanka should practice multilayer regionalism and non-alignment policy as a vital component of its foreign policy, yet foreign policy calculations of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Yahapalana government (Good governance) negate these ground realities and continued strong affiliations with Chinese government which cause China gained the control over Hambantota harbour as the result of miscalculations of foreign policy and finance. However, the close attachments with China might be seen as a pragmatic way of handling foreign policy in Sri Lanka under Mahinda Rajapaksa, precisely with the change of international order after Sri Lankan government terminate LTTE in 2009. Chinese government funds and projects flooded into Sri Lanka including Hambantota harbour project. The project planted in Hambantota labelled as a key component of One Belt and One Road of China and the port considered as one of the closes harbours for the South Sea lines of communication which considers one of the busiest and crucial naval route of the world. However, the Chinese control over Hambantota port increased the fear of India, Japan and the Western world since the port of Hambantota would be able to utilize for military purposes by China.
However, not like Mahinda Rajapaksa’s strong China-friendly foreign policy; Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s foreign policy would be able to interpret as a push back from China, and get closed with India and the Western world back for a certain degree. Yet the establishment of close affiliation with China driven by the shift of systematic factors and even Gotabaya Rajapaksa would not able consider national priorities of Sri Lanka without the support of China particularly in terms of combat actions in Indo-Pacific ocean theatre and the economic theatre. China’s rise has sent shock waves of systematic effects that have overwhelmed domestic considerations. Chinese economic expansion in South Asia has displaced India in India tradition place while Chinese BRI settled in Indian backyard including, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Beijing knack to undertake large scale infrastructure projects, which only revisionist power can build, and entail significant strategic value across the world. Chinese revisionist power threating the hegemonic stabilization of the USA and particularly China’s PLA Navy is undergoing the largest naval modernization of the 21st century and is increasing it is activities in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka cause to narrowing of military balance with America. The world is witnessing an epoch-making power transition that is taking place and China is on a clear path to lead the world as a hegemonic power as predicted by Mackinder in 1904 thesis. Systemic effects unleashed by China’s rise have overwhelmed parochial domestic consideration; decision-making power is shifting to the realists in defence branches from policymakers of the State Department and EU offices who for decades have turned troubled states in the far-flung corners into testbeds of liberal interventionism. Interestingly the countries that are most eager for patch up with Sri Lanka- India America and Japan- are also most affected by Chinese rise. And they are also the countries that have a sufficient heft to balance against the Middle Kingdom.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his acceptance speech stressed that the first priority is always addressing the national interests of the country and therefore, he should be built on these emerging systemic opportunities. What possible here is turning impossible possible and for that Gotabaya has to manage the competing interests of major powers, without compromising Sri Lanka’s national interests. That also means not sacrificing national interest for the sake of personal political calculations; both Mahinda Rajapaksa and more spectacularly, Yahapalana regime failed in that. To begin that, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will have to take the ownership of his foreign policy and might need to tame the members of the Cabinet and the party who parrot an antiquated anti- Americanism, anti- Western prejudice and a doctrinaire version of non-alignment. As Bismarck once quipped, foreign policy should be placed above all others, for it is about the survival of the state; the anarchy is the international system and hence the external vulnerability of the state has reduced over the past half-century in the norm-based international system. Here what important to draw is the foreign relations of Sri Lanka vis-à-vis world powers should be shaped by the national interests of Sri Lanka and it should not compromise the national interests, and survival.
Two Faces: Gotabaya’s Sri Lanka and Modi’s India
However, with the given geopolitical location, strategically and economically Sri Lanka could not address its foreign policy priorities by damaging the national priorities of India. This has depicted throughout history particularly during the Fourth Eelam War. For instance, the decision to lease oil reserve tanks in Trincomalee for American based company by D. S. Senanayake government pushed back due to the pressure politics on Indian government since, the presence of either America or any other great powers in Sri Lankan soil deliver massive political, the military and economic threat towards India. These political realities have been read by Mahinda Rajapaksa government pragmatically, strategically to win the national priorities of Sri Lanka with the support of India; particularly during the time of 2005- 2009.
Mahinda Rajapaksa government endowed the protagonist role of India and regional intervention to eradicate terrorism from Sri Lanka Hindustan time’s quoted Rajapaksa’s words; “Indian leadership and the regional support is a necessary factor to eradicate terrorism from Sri Lanka. Indian should need to take the prompt position to sustain regional peace and harmony.” Predominantly the behaviour of LTTE and the international terrorism influenced to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and India, thus Indian government provisions to terminate terrorism in Sri Lanka highly appreciated by the government of Sri Lanka. These relational behaviours are taken into pragmatic level by Sri Lanka under the Rajapaksa regime. As President Gotabaya stressed very recently, the foreign relations with India under Mahinda Rajapaksa conducted via special committee known as Troika consisted of high profiles such as Secretary of Defense Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development basil Rajapaksa, Secretary to President Lalith Weeratunghe, Douglas Dewananda, and Arumugam Thondaman. This elite team was appointed by the president to sustain diplomatic relations amid two neighbour countries. Before the outbreak of fourth Elam war, President Mahinda made his 1st official visit to India to gained military assistance including, new compact radar system, rak rak military weapons, MI 17 air fighter helicopters and new two military vessels to protect the coastal area.
Yet, the Indian factor well read by the Rajapaksa regime to constructed favoured background for terminate LTTE by winning the political game with India; which could not by predecessors of Rajapaksa. Despite the failures of predecessors; Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the secretary of defence smoothly handled the Indian factor during the last phrase of the war. This assisted both India and Sri Lanka to address domestic political calamities by bending the foreign policy priorities of two countries with the blessing of political heads of two countries. Sri Lankan government, for instance, agreed to reduce the tendency of military exercises until Indian government sealed the victory of 2006 general election with the support of TamilNadu which critical about Indian involvement of the civil war of Sri Lanka.
Shivashankar Menon’s accounts stressed the diplomatic tour to Sri Lanka on 23rd April 2009, along with Narayan to draw the attention of critical behaviour of TamilNadu and Civil War of Sri Lanka. During the time, TamilNadu politicians accused the Sri Lankan military subjected to genocide and war crimes. Therefore, the meeting set up a discussion table to agreed how to keep domestic politics in low profile while using strategic mechanism to end the war with the blessing of Indian government, hence Sri Lankan government agreed to reduce the tendency of the heavy artillery used during the states of the while India agreed to increase patrols of North Sea of Sri Lanka to seal the escape points. These background notes are important to understand the foreign policy of Gotabaya Rajapaksa towards India since Mahinda Rajapaksa exercised finest foreign policy mechanisms to win India despite the cracks occurred in the bilateral relations in the latter part of the Rajapaksa’s presidency, Gotabaya intended to do priorities India ageing while healing the wounded past of bilateral relations. First, from the Sri Lankan perspective, it is important to draw close alignments with to maintain distance and slightly independent relations with China. Second, the good relations with India opens doors to Sri Lanka to engage with America and Europe positively since India considers as the South Asian agent of the democratic world. Third, the healthy relations with India send a message to rest of the world to invest in Sri Lanka and rescue Sri Lanka being part of Chinese colony while increasing the naval competition of Indo-Pacific region which increased the strategic position of Sri Lanka. From the Indian perspective, it is necessary to maintain friendly relations with Sri Lanka to secure the Indian supremacy and the hegemony in the Indian Ocean region. The presence of China in Sri Lanka pressurized Indian government to look at Sri Lanka strategically and it has changed big brother policy of India. The pragmatic engagement of India with Sri Lanka shaped by many reasons and similarities of the political ideologies of Modi and Gotabaya will be added extra energy to the bilateral relations of two countries.
However, such pressure is unlikely to be a reflection of genuine Indian interest in Tamil issues- given Modi’s own disregard for minority rights at home. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as president, India was governed by a coalition of the Indian state of the Indian National Congress and regional parties. Then, stakeholders in the Indian State of TamilNadu were interested in promoting human rights in Sri Lanka had significant leverage in Indian politics. However Modi’s government is less concerned by anxieties in TamilNadu while Modi has been trying to make inroads into TamilNadu, Narendra Modi 2019 landslide election win was secured despite TamilNadu overwhelmingly voting against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. TamilNadu’s historical distrust of nationalist leaders in more fundamental than foreign policy; in that context, it is unlikely that Modi will risk damaging relations with Sri Lanka to secure inroads in TamilNadu as the cost would be Sri Lanka’s inevitable pivot towards China. Modi’s India and the Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka actually have much more common now, Modi’s popularity is propped up by fears of Islamic terror and his perceived competence in managing national security. Even Modi invoked the Sri Easter attacks as an example of what might happen under a weaker government as a way to court voters for his Hindu nationalist party. Modi’s rhetoric and actions, whether in Pakistan or Kashmir, rely on strongman tactics similar to those employed by the Rajapaksas.
In this new regional order, Indian pressure on the Rajapaksas to sustain human rights and reconciliation is perhaps just leverage in case the Rajapaksas fail to meet India’s primary security interest: limiting China’s presence in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa government has already identified these concerns: soon after his election, Gotabya Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lank “cannot engage in any activity that will threaten the security of India.” As always, Sri Lanka must balance Chinese and Indian interests. As the Rajapaksa Learned when Mahinda Rajapaksa lost his bid for a third term as president in 2015, careless dependence on China has significant domestic costs-particularly when infrastructure projects displace residents, fail to generate jobs or do not meet environmental standards. In the context of a stagnating economy, low- return projects such as the Chinese-funded Hambantota port, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, and the Lotus Tower in Colombo and provoke domestic outrage if debts repayments for these projects become debilitating; given the harsh criticism of the Belt and Road Initiative in recent years- that it amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries, fuels corruption, and disrupts fragile democracies- the Rajapaksas’ may be initially cautioned about being perceived as too close to China.
Sri Lanka embraces ethnocentric populism as a part of a broader regional trend. However, Arvind Subramaniam has argued, a lack of political inclusion will only exacerbate the countries fragile economic situation. Gotabaya’s economic policies- generous tax cuts, and high levels of welfare spending- will be expensive and may contribute to budget deficits. If policy stability and openness to free trade decease, foreign direct investments will dry up. In the Rajapaksa prioritize major infrastructure projects- the type China likes to fund to promote growth, or instead reconciliation and peacebuilding, Fitch Rating warns that erosion of fiscal flexibility could undermine policy credibility, investor confidence, and potentially complicate relations with IMF. Sri Lanka’s debts to export ration are already extremely high and the country cannot afford foreign direct investments to stagnate or external financing to become more expensive than it already is. That’s why Gotabaya foreign policy intends to close back to India; begging with he concluded a successful official visit to India, scored a few victories with the Indian media and returned home with a US $ 400 million soft loans. All of that, friendly reception and even a rosy press, would be have been customary in the bilateral relations, yet in New Delhi, Gotabaya managed to bury the past, he uttered usual homilies with ease but also stamped out a persona of someone who is plain-talking. He promised to be frank to avoid misunderstandings, assured Colombo would not harm New Delhi’s security interests and at the same time, remained Indians and their western allies, that they would miss out not just Sri Lanka, but South Asia as a whole; to China, if they do not invest in the region.
This is the critical juncture of the foreign policy of president Gotabaya, and the foreign policy has been constructed to address the national interests of the country by stepping into a multi-level regional platform. Gotabaya clearly mentioned that the countries national priorities including, national security and national economic development will be addressed by any cost and therefore, the president invited all the countries including India, Japan, Australia to invest more and engage more with Sri Lanka to increase the economic competition at the region. Indirectly this means that Gotabaya’s foreign policy attempts to deter increasing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka and largely in South Asian region by inviting all the powers who are willing to compete against China and invest on Indo- Pacific region while changing the surface of Indo- Pacific hegemonic order towards multi-layered regional order. The vision of competitive Indian Ocean; precisely multi-layered regional order of South Asia can be seen as a different avatar of Sirima Bandaranaike foreign policy elements such as Indian Ocean Peace Zone, and Nuclear Free Zone. The idea of Indian Ocean Peace Zone prompts the necessity of keeping the Indian Ocean away from the supremacy of the one great power since it is the most important sea territory of the world economy. However, president Gotabaya’s notion of competitive region, or so-called multi-level regionalism intends to perform same duties vested on Indian Ocean Peace Zone which is close opportunities for one great power to dominate the region by inviting all and utilize this competition to address the national interests of Sri Lanka by exploiting the geostrategic location of Sri Lanka.
To conclude, as president Gotabaya mentioned the foreign policy under his tenure will prioritize the national interests of Sri Lanka as the critical juncture to deliver the foreign policy mechanism, however, with the geopolitical, geostrategic location of Sri Lanka the foreign policy should be non- alignment and Gotabaya has to be closed with India since Sri Lanka could not address the national priorities without the acceptance of India. The Indian oriented foreign policy priorities changed the political game in favour of Sri Lanka in past, precisely under Mahinda Rajapaksa regime even though dark clouds appear in late 2014. However, fresh beginning marked by Gotabaya should continue and foreign policy should impress the western world by engaging more pragmatic elements of world affairs. Gotabaya plays the trump card: global terrorism and commitments of Sri Lanka to eradicate global terrorism, to get the western attention. However, Gotabaya’s foreign policy is being planned towards the West must be flexible and innovative since the political background of president Gotabaya subjected to major criticisms. What most important is the utility of summits diplomacy and forum diplomacy to engage more with the external world. Sri Lanka must pose a high degree of creative involvement in global forums and summits to open new opportunities by promoting the position of Sri Lanka in the international system. Sri Lanka would not able to get rid from the cartographic anxiety constructed by the geolocation of Sri Lanka, yet innovative, strong foreign engagement with all the major regions and the countries of the world would definitely lift the geostrategic value of Sri Lanka by shifting the gravity of Sri Lanka towards the centre of the world; therefore president Gotabaya has to do more while learning lessons from the past and should be learnt not to do the same mistakes as Mahinda did at the office.
Harsha Senanayake is a researcher at Social Scientists’ Association- Sri Lanka and a guest lecturer at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He has acquired a masters degree in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi, India and a specialised degree in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, University of Colombo.
Harsha serves as an AIPE fellow- TFAS USA. He has authored few books including The Changing Patterns of USA- Japan Security Relations: Case Study of Okinawa and The Human Security Discourse and Seeking Peace: Field Work Analysis Based on the Sri Lankan Civil War.