The Boko Haram in Nigeria

How does relative deprivation theory apply to the BOKO HARAM -Nigeria Conflict?

This essay examines how Ted Gurr’s relative deprivation theory applies in the context of the Boko Haram conflict. The text that the article is centrally focused on is Rummel’s chapter on Frustration Deprivation, Aggression and the conflict Helix. The essay begins by surveying the political and social conditions of Nigeria which has served as a catalyst to the rise of the Boko Haram extremist militant group. The essay then briefly evaluates the case of Boko Haram by applying the theory of relative deprivation. The essay also utilizes James Davies’s theory of revolution (often cited as Davies J curve) in its analysis.

Understanding Nigeria and the reasons for the rise of Boko Haram

Despite possessing a rich array of natural resources which includes lucrative crude oil, Nigeria has not been able to rise as a regional economic powerhouse. Ngwodo (2010) a socio-political analyst of Nigeria, cites the “seething mass of illiteracy, misery, poverty and beggary” as rampant in Northern Nigeria. He goes on to say that “While Nigeria generally scores very poorly on every index of human development, Northern Nigeria sinks below the abysmal national average to the extent that a child born in the northwest or in the northeast is likely to have a lower quality of life than a compatriot born in the southwest or southeast.” The international NGO Freedom House (2016) in a country report on Nigeria cites positive improvements in the state of democracy in recent years but underscores this by saying: “Nevertheless, the security situation in northeastern Nigeria remained grave throughout 2015, as Boko Haram carried out guerilla-style attacks and suicide bombings against civilian and government targets. In addition, reports from domestic and international advocacy groups indicated that government forces continued to commit gross human rights violations with impunity, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary mass arrests, illegal detentions, and torture of civilians.” In a backgrounder Mohammed Aly Sergie and Toni Johnson (2015), highlight the fact that the Nigerian government is coming under increasing strain due to the activities of the militant group. “More than ten thousand people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence, and 1.5 million have been displaced. Some experts view the group as an armed revolt against government corruption, abusive security forces, and widening regional economic disparity” (Mohammed Aly Sergie and Toni Johnson, 2015).

Commenting on the rise of the group to the United States institute of Peace, Andrew Walker claims that “The main goal of Boko Haram Stems from their persuasion about the corruption and falsehood of northern political authorities, when they aim at the creation of the Islamic State with pure Shariah Law which shall substitute current Nigerian government” (Walker, 2012). Ngwodo considers “Boko Haram (as) an extremist group (which) transcends the traditional extremist victimization of Christians in pursuit of grander anarchic ambitions. Its war is with the Nigerian state and western education which it perceives as a vector of the corrupting influence of modernity. Its ultimate objective is some version of an Islamic state, preferably of 7th century vintage” (Ngwodo, 2010). Applying the conflict onion to the issue of Boko Haram; leads the author to consider the groups position to be that of challenging (with the intention of altering) the political structure of the state through military means. Its interests could be deliberated as that of removing all forms of western education and thought from Nigerian society and installing strict interpretation of Sharia Law. In terms of its needs however there can be significant ambiguity. Before the group broke apart into two segments (one that is focused on local grievances and another that is seeking regional expansion) the group’s main needs could be summed up as obtaining political power to fulfill the leaderships underlying interests. Because the group emerged in the relatively poorer region of Northern Nigeria one can also assume that addressing socio-political grievances of the Muslim community in the north can be another need of the group.

Applying the conflict tree (Another conflict analysis tool similar to that of conflict onion) suggests that the core problem (symbolized by the trunk of the tree) was the harsh military repression against members of the group in 2009. “In July 2009, Boko Haram members refused to follow a motorbike helmet law, leading to heavy-handed police tactics that set off an armed uprising in the northern state of Bauchi and spread into the states of Borno, Yobe, and Kano” (Mohammed Aly Sergie and Toni Johnson, 2015). Walker (2012) states that following the clashes between the police and state authority over this new law, “The group then attacked police stations in Bauchi and Yobe, killing scores of police officers. Yusuf released several video sermons in which he explicitly threatened the state and the police with violence.” In a Message by President Muhammadu Buhari on the third anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls (April 14, 2017), the president stated: “Upon the inception of this administration in May 2015, it will be recalled that this militant group occupied no fewer than 14 Local Government Areas in the North East of the country and posed a serious threat to other parts by unleashing fear and mayhem through the use of surprise and suicide bombing….Today, the group has been degraded and is no longer in a position to mount any serious, coordinated attack, other than sporadic suicide attacks on soft targets. Even at that, their reach is very much confined to a small segment of the North East where they had previously held sway unchecked.”

Relative Deprivation theory

Gurr defines relative deprivation as an “actor’s perception of discrepancy between their value expectations and their value capabilities” (1970: 24). Runciman defined four conditions for an individual to feel relatively deprived:

“We can roughly say that [a person] is relatively deprived of X when

  • he does not have X,
  • he sees some other person or persons (possibly including himself at some previous or future time) as having X (whether or not that is or will be in fact the case),
  • he wants X, and
  • he sees it as feasible that he should have X” (Runciman, 1966:10).

Quoting studies conducted by the Yale group of psychologists in the 1930’s; Rummel’s book ‘understanding conflict and war’ suggests that the Yale group put forward the notion “aggression is always a consequence of frustration” (Rummel, 1977). What this implies is that there is a direct proportionality between the two variables. Although recent studies has debunked this belief it is still ‘operationally precise’ in that frustration does at times lead to aggression. Such a frustration emerges due to the relative deprivation felt by the aggrieved community. Such frustration is based on a subjective understanding of the relative deprivation as well as on benchmarks or “what we feel we ought to have” (Rummel, 1977).

Applying the Relative Deprivation theory

Solomon Ayegba contends that “To Gurr, violence and extremism like the Boko Haram insurgency in the North is a result of collective discontent caused by a sense of relative deprivation by the young people…” (2015: 92).

Distinctions between the North and South of Nigeria are stark. The Council of Foreign Affairs notes that “Despite a per capita income of more than $2,700 and vast wealth in natural resources, Nigeria has one of the world’s poorest populations. An estimated 61 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Economic disparities between the North and the rest of the country are particularly stark. In the North, 72 percent of people live in poverty, compared to 27 percent in the South and 35 percent in the Niger Delta” (Mohammed Aly Sergie and Toni Johnson, 2015).

The people of the North feel discriminated, estranged and isolated from the government because of many variables such as religious differences.  Differences in relative standard of living also play a significant part in the perceived sense of deprivation among the people of the North. Moreover the south possesses the greatest share of oil reserves and its urban metropolitan development is in stark contrast to that of the North. One can adduce that such relative deprivations have a role in the emergence of the group.

“Harnischfeger  considers  the  poverty,  high  unemployment  rates and  overall  socio – economic  situation  of  the region as the reason for youth joining Boko Haram ́s rebellion and quotes the US Department  Officer, who said that instead of religion being the root of violence, it is  ‘the  underlying  political and social economic problems in the north’ causing instability” (as cited in Vybíralová, 2016). Added to this economic divergence, “Grievances  in  regards  to  Insufficient political  participation  and governmental failures  seem  to  dominate  Boko  Haram  discourse,  together  with  its  anti-Western  rhetoric. Boko Haram criticizes high levels of corruption and “Western orientation” causing the economic crisis in Nigeria on a long -Term – basis” (Vybíralová, 2016).

Writing to the Huffington Post Ambassador John Campbell says that “broad differences between North and South are a Nigerian historical, political and religious reality, and, as such, the distinction between the two provides a legitimate analytical lens”(n.a). Lack of industrialization and adequate investment has contributed to the stagnant growth in the North. Ngwodo (2010) notes that “Millions of unschooled and unskilled able-bodied young men reside in our cities and towns (in the North) and provide a ready pool of malcontents for extremist recruitment. Even among the educated unemployed, the crisis of unemployment in Nigeria where 40 million youths are jobless makes them vulnerable to sectarian preachments. Into this breach, groups like Boko Haram enter offering a theological framework of social analysis: rampant poverty and existential meaninglessness emanate from the Nigerian state and its unislamic provenance; from the presence of western education and the intrusion of modernity into an Islamic society”.

Therefore the case of relative deprivation can be explicated using Runciman’s variables as follows:

  • The lack of economic development and growth in the North has resulted in the Northern Nigerian people having grievances and frustration
  • Those of the North believe that the south has better privileges and standards of living in comparison to the North.
  • They require employment opportunities, investment and political access and political power from the central administration

(One can draw a parallel to the Acceptance needs and Security needs that are discussed by E. Azar under his basic human needs variable in the Protracted Social Conflict theory; see Azar, 1990).

  • Unable to utilize a platform to voice their grievances and incapable of effectively altering their status; the people of the north are influenced to join the Boko haram group as it imparts a sense of purpose and mission as “warriors for the cause of God ordained to cleanse the society of moral impurities and establish an alternate order” (Ngwodo, 2010).

Rummel lays greater stress on the importance of “subjective feeling of deprivation” when considering the overall theory of relative deprivation. He argues that contrary to the simplistic definition of relative deprivation as the disparity between what we want and what we get; we should understand the subjectivity of relative deprivation and its relationship to the variables of frustration and aggression. Thus he circumvents this reductionist matter by underscoring that “relative deprivation is the “gap between just wants and expected want satisfaction” (Rummel, 1977).

Nigeria is a good example to prove this notion. Many in the north believed in just wants such as greater political accessibility, effective addressing of grievances, employment opportunities, greater infrastructure development etc. to standards that have been met in the South.  This want was just because it was based on a subjective comprehension of the development of the South. Thus this was the expected level of want satisfaction. This however was not achieved and the religious ideology of Boko Haram was able to lure the youth and unemployed to violent means against the state. Thus the correlation between the inability to satisfy just wants satisfactorily and the tendency to resort to violence due to the buildup of aggression can be clearly elucidated in the case of Nigeria.

Alternative conceptual models

Human needs theorists such as John Burton (Basic human needs theory) and Abraham Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs theory) would argue that one of the primary causes of the protracted conflicts in Nigeria is the people’s drive to meet their unmet needs. Nonetheless, in this paper instead of a focus on human needs, I intend to use the J Curve. Davies’s J curve is a model that can be utilized to further examine the case of the Boko Haram in Nigeria and its emergence. His model, denoted below (Davies, 1962: 6):


emphasizes the difference between expected need satisfaction and the actual need satisfaction. According to him “Revolutions are most likely to occur when a prolonged period of objective economic and social development is followed by a short period of sharp reversal” (Davies, 1962:5). As the lower line begins to dip (because of an economic downturn), the gap between what is tolerable and what is expected increases to a level where revolutions or social upheavals may take place. While he acknowledges that “It is the dissatisfied state of mind rather than the tangible provision of “adequate” or “inadequate” supplies of food, equality, or liberty which produces the revolution” the most important feature one can glean from this model is that yet again it shows a subjective perception of relative deprivation that results in ‘revolution’. Unlike Rummel or Runciman, Davies does not directly draw causality between groups in the same country but the model can be applied in this case as well.

Thus applying Davies’s theory categorically demonstrates how the intolerable gap between the expected needs of the North and the inability to achieve them to a level similar to the south resulted in many from the North to move towards the Boko Haram. This does not imply that the theory of relative deprivation or Davies’s model enables us to conclusively point to the fundamental reason behind the emergence of the militant group. However it allows us to comprehend why citizens still join the group and engage in armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria.

 While I accept the notion that many reasons played a part in the growing membership rates of the Boko Haram this papers intention was to focus centrally on Rummel’s views of relative deprivation by Gurr and draw a brief analysis on the case of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

                                                                                                      SHAKTHI DE SILVA


Ayegba, Solomon. (2015). Unemployment and poverty as sources and  consequence of insecurity in Nigeria: The Boko Haram insurgency revisited. African Journal of Political Science and International Relations. 9 (3), 90-99.

Azar, Edward E. (1990). The management of Protracted Social Conflict: theory and cases. Hampshire: Dartmouth.

Campbell, John. (N.A). Why Nigeria’s North South Distinction Is Important. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Davies, James C. (1962). The theory of revolution. American Sociological Review. 27(1), 5-19.

Freedom House. (2016). Freedom in the World 2016 Country Reports : Nigeria. Retrieved from

Gurr, Ted. (1970). Why Men Rebel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Mohammed Aly Sergie and Toni Johnson. (2015). Backgrounder: Boko Haram.Retrieved from

Ngwodo, Chris. (2010). Understanding Boko Haram: A Theology of Chaos. Retrieved from

Rummel, R.J. (1977). Frustration, Deprivation, Aggression, And The Conflict Helix. In R.J Rummel. Understanding conflict and war: Conflict In Perspective Vol. 3. Claifornia: Sage publications. Retrieved from

Runciman, W. G. (1966). Relative Deprivation and Social Justice. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Vybíralová, Lenka. (2016). Nigeria And Boko Haram Insurgence: The Roots Of Political Violence. Retrieved from

Walker, Andrew. (2012). What Is Boko Haram? Special report 308. Retrieved from

Sri Lanka in ‘One Belt One Road’: Challenges and Way Forward

Sri Lanka in ‘One Belt One Road’: Challenges and Way Forward

(This paper  was presented by Ms. Shalika Dias , Jr. Research Associate of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies at the International Conference on ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiatives and New Modes of Globalization, organized by the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences and Open Times Journal, China, 10th-11th December 2016)


Background, Principles and framework of ‘One Belt One Road’(OBOR)

The endurance of the global capitalist economic system has been challenged by asymmetrical global development, slowly recovering world economy, the arguable role of multilateral financial organizations, European refugee crisis, and Brexit. Emerging new economies like China, India, South Africa, Brazil, and Russia have to compete extraordinarily to explore new ways in order to protect their economic development and national survival as they are driving their national economies on an uncertain global capitalist economic system. New economies are striving to add new qualities and values to the existing economic system though it is unfeasible to change the existing system entirely. ‘One Belt One Road’ (hereafter OBOR) is an outcome of this significant attempt invented and initiated by China in 2013.

OBOR or ‘Silk Route Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Route’ aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European, and African continents and their adjacent seas. It practices the thousand year-old Silk Route Spirit (values) of peace and cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The values of the OBOR make global economic development and world peace interdependent.

By upholding the five principles of Peaceful Co-existence, the OBOR systematic initiative aspires to fulfill the five goals of enhancing intergovernmental policy coordination by coordinating national development strategies along the Belt and Road, facilitating connectivity through infrastructure development, expanding unimpeded trade by removing red tape on investment and trade barriers, developing financial integration through new banks like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and finally enhancing people-to-people relations through cultural and academic exchanges.

 Sri Lanka’s partnership in OBOR

Sri Lanka can uphold an enormous role in developing connectivity of OBOR-Maritime Silk Route due to its geographical middle location in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka has the potential of connecting the three global regions of Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia which cover immense global territory and population.  However, the country’s poor infrastructure development in terms of roads and transport, power and energy, ports, airport and aviation has impeded Sri Lanka-OBOR connectivity. Sophisticated infrastructure could facilitate OBOR connectivity through the flow of capital and services.

However, China’s OBOR initiative endeavors to facilitate Sri Lanka-OBOR connectivity to tap mutual benefits by developing infrastructure of Sri Lanka. China is currently developing Colombo port, Hambantota port, Mattala International Airport, several internal highways and power plants in Sri Lanka. Facilitating these infrastructure projects will expand Sri Lanka’s sea and air connectivity, international trade and investments.

Colombo International Financial City is a successful outcome of Sri Lanka-China bilateral attempts in developing Sri Lanka-OBOR relations. Apart from China, many investors and developers from neighboring countries such as India, Malaysia, and Singapore have agreed to invest. This is a sign of the growing Sri Lanka-OBOR partnership.

It is certain that Sri Lanka will have a growing partnership with OBOR in future. Consequently, what would be a concern is how to sustain the relations by identifying the challenges ahead. Since current Sri Lanka-OBOR relations solely depend on Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations, the challenges may dent Sri Lanka-OBOR connectivity as well.  Strategic policy planning for tackling challenges will keep both Sri Lanka-China and Sri Lanka-China based OBOR relations in intact future.

Challenges of Sri Lanka-China and Sri Lanka-China based OBOR relations

  1. Growing overland connectivity

Beijing’s current concern over energy security highlights the importance of Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean. 2/3 of China’s oil requirements are fulfilled by the Indian Ocean. China heavily depends on Sri Lanka’s ports for bunkering and refueling purposes since the country lies just a few nautical miles away from the super-busy east-west shipping route.

However, China’s energy security has turned into an energy dilemma owing to the non-traditional security threats of maritime terrorism and piracy in the Indian Ocean. These complications have necessitated the Beijing administration to construct two overland oil pipelines and a highway without solely depending on maritime Sea Lines of Communications (hereafter SLOCs).

1.1     Pakistan-China Overland Oil Pipeline

Beijing and Karachi administrations expect to transport crude oil from Gwadar port to China’s Xinjiang Province through Azad Kashmir. The geographical location of the Gwadar port is making Beijing’s ‘Overland Oil Pipeline Dream’ possible. Gwadar port is located 72 km further apart from the Iranian border and 400 km away from Hormuz Strait which transports China’s crude oil from the regions of Africa and the Middle East.

1.2     Myanmar-China Overland Oil Pipeline

China started the construction of parallel oil and natural gas pipelines between the Kyaukpyu deep seaport on Burma’s Arakan coast in the Bay of Bengal and Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province and probably beyond.

1.3     Bangladesh-China Highway

China is constructing a highway from Bangladesh to Kunming through Myanmar parallel to the construction of Chittagong port as well as the reconstruction of the Sonadi port. Beijing expects to export oil from Chittagong Sonadi ports to Kunming through Myanmar by utilizing the newly constructed highway.

Overland oil pipelines and highway can devalue Sri Lanka’s geographical middle location in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka’s small island capabilities in developing network and connectivity of Maritime Silk Route heavily depends on the number of cargos crossing Sri Lanka’s ports. Pipelines, highways as well as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Cargo train (Silk Route Train) from China to Iran may increase overland transportation and connectivity while giving less significance to Sri Lanka’s ports.

  1. Geopolitics of India

Power politics of India in the Indian Ocean Region (hereafter IOR) have resulted in the appearance of new challenges for Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations. India is practicing new approaches in power politics in the IOR, owing to China’s new presence in the region.

China’s presence in the IOR is evident in the construction of port facilities in littoral states of the IOR, Hambantota-Sri Lanka, Gwadar-Pakistan, Chittagong-Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu- Myanmar by supplying loans, materials, technical assistance and Chinese laborers. Energy security and economic development are key objectives of China’s new presence in the IOR particularly in Sri Lanka.

Although China is constructing ports by covering major oil shipping routes, it has naturally covered India since these ports are located in neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. India is concerned that China will build naval bases in the ports that they are currently constructing particularly in Sri Lanka and deploy naval forces and nuclear weapons by obstructing sea lines of communications in order to weaken their economic and military sea power.

This new challenge has directed Sri Lanka to shield existing Sri Lanka-China relations while balancing relations with neighboring India, since balanced and transparent relations with both India and China can ensure the survival of peaceful OBOR.

  1. Deficient of Coordination Mechanism

Although Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations are widening, very few people are aware of the outcomes of these relations due to deficient internal mechanism in making people aware. People have the ability to gather basic information about diplomatic visits, number of treaties signed but have deficient information on their long-term outcomes. No committee has been appointed to follow up on the renewal process of treaties according to the time and present context. Politicians, entrepreneurs and journalists analyze these relations according to narrow individual perceptions which they develop through electronic media. In this backdrop, civil society can distrust Sri Lanka-China bilateral relations. It is time dependent and context dependent.

This challenge is growing day by day and it can even result in a negative perception of OBOR too, since Sri Lanka has a China based OBOR partnership.

Long-term sustainability of Sri Lanka’s partnership in OBOR profoundly depends on public awareness. Apart from a few government policy planners, entrepreneurs, academics, students and journalists, OBOR is an unknown phrase to many Sri Lankans. It is unfeasible to sustain OBOR partnership without having a national will and national voice for it. Sri Lankan academics and journalists should play a bigger role in order to widen the awareness on OBOR. However, their writings are quite deficient due to broadening lack of sources to collect in-depth facts.

Conversely, small scale entrepreneurs have the ability of expanding Sri Lanka-China trade and as an extension developing Sri Lanka-OBOR trade relations. However, lack of information on setting-up new businesses with China and other OBOR partners, information on their interests, capabilities and reliability have turned into barriers. Obviously, Sri Lanka-China-OBOR relations would sustain if there is a qualitative coordination mechanism.

Ms. Shalika Dias , Jr. Research Associate

Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS)


(2014), Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, Beijing: Foreign Language Press.
BOI, “Why Sri Lanka?”, (accessed on 29/11/2016)
Colombo Gazette, “New Tripartite Agreement Signed on Colombo Port City,” (accessed n 2nd December 2016)
economynext, “Sri Lanka to join ‘one road, one belt’ Initiative”,,_one_belt__initiative-3-4697.html (accessed on 30/11/2016)
Fernando, S. (Ed.). (2015). United States-China-India Strategic Triangle in Indian Ocean Region: Challenges and Opportunities (P.55). New Delhi: K.W.
National Development and Reforms Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (2015), Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Route Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road,  China: Foreign Language Press
Raja Mohan (2013), Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific, India: Oxford University
Warnasooriya Tissa, Speech delivered at the Invited Seminar on Sri Lanka-China Relations: Challenges & Way Forward at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Relations, 31st March 2016.

Leader of the Rainbow Nation: Nelson Mandela

Known amongst the South Africans as “Madiba”; which means “Father” in the Xhosa language, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is celebrated as the individual who dedicated 50 years of his life to bring about racial equality towards his countrymen. Nelson Mandela was one of the key players in abolishing the apartheid regime that was institutionalized in South Africa for 46 years. After 27 years of imprisonment for rebelling against the regime, Mandela continued his campaign to abolish apartheid. This earned Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with F.W De Klerk. The following year Mandela became the first black president of a democratic South Africa. Retiring after one term of presidency, Mandela was involved in numerous organizations supporting various causes such as tackling poverty, ensuring the welfare of men, women and children and supporting AIDS victims.

The Apartheid Regime

Apartheid; (derived from the West Germanic language Afrikaans) literally means “separateness”. The apartheid regime was first institutionalized in 1948 after South Africa’s National Party came into power. The regime was designed to give power to the white minority population over the economic and social system by the suppression and segregation of Non-Whites (Black, Coloured and Indian) in South Africa. The system was enforced by laws such as the “Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949”, which prohibited marriages between whites and non-whites. The freedom of the non-whites was controlled by implementation of “pass laws”, which forced the non-whites to carry a pass to enter urban or “white places”. This was further institutionalized by the “group areas act of 1950”; which forced the non–whites that were working in urban areas to live in controlled, government approved areas. Later in 1951, the “Bantu Authorities Act” stripped black South Africans of their citizenship and political rights including voting and pushed them to separate “homelands” which would run as independent states. Hence from 17th July 1951, the black population would require passports to enter territory controlled by the central government. The apartheid government would further deepen the segregation by creating a separate education system through the “Bantu Education Act of 1953”, and the “Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953”; which specified that all public spaces such as parks, restaurants and beaches were to contain separate areas for whites and non-whites.



Public spaces separated for white and non-whites

Mandela’s Fight

Mandela’s political career began when he joined the ANC (African National Congress) youth league during his enrollment at University College of Fort Hare. It was in 1940 that he was expelled for political activism from the university, and in 1944 in which he formally joined the ANC.

After the National Party came into power in 1948 and introduced the apartheid regime, it was in the defiance campaign of 1952 that Mandela was recognised as an anti-apartheid activist. After getting arrested along with 19 others and charged with violation of the suppression of the communism act, along with lifelong friend Oliver Tambo, Mandela drafted the M-plan (Mandela plan). It was drafted in 1953 so that the ANC could operate under the radar by dividing the party into separate operational units.

After the Sharpeville Massacre of March 1960, which was a peaceful protest with regards to pass laws in Sharpeville in South Africa but ended up with 70 dead people, 180 injured and over 5000 protestors arrested, Mandela announced that the ANC will further retaliate against the government even if they had to resort to violent means.

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

(Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom, 1994)

In December 1961, Mandela became the First commander of the MK (Umkhonto We Sizwe – spear of the nation). This was the military wing of the ANC. The motives of the MK were to destroy government property that symbolized the regime. An estimated number of 150 MK attacks occurred between 1976 and 1982.

As he became a targeted person by the Apartheid government, Mandela had to resort to hiding. He came to be known as the “Black pimpernel” as he traveled around in various disguises.  He was then smuggled out of Africa to attend the Pan- African Freedom Movement of the East; Central meeting in Ethiopia on February 1962. He also went to London to gather support for his anti-apartheid movement. He met with journalists, activists and politicians. He then returned to Ethiopia to undergo guerilla training for two months before returning to South Africa.

Mandela was later arrested along with other major MK leaders. They were charged with sabotage and conspiracy in what is now known as “the Rivonia trial”. The offenders were charged with treason and sentenced to death. In the second indictment of the trial he gave a four-hour speech, in which he famously declared “it is a cause I’m prepared to die for”. Thereafter Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment along with most of the MK leaders. This occurred despite calls for leniency from the UN and the World Peace Council.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (Nelson Mandela – April 20, 1964)

Mandela was sent to the Robben Island prison where he spent 18 out of 27 years of imprisonment. During this time, he studied for a law degree from the University of London International Programmes. He also played a key role in establishing the “University of Robben Island”. This gave the opportunity to fellow prisoners to lecture on their areas of expertise. In the remaining 37 years, Mandela was sent to Pollsmoor prison and Victer Verser Prison. The said prison was at the level of comfort of a house due to illnesses. Thus, the apartheid government had made many offers for unconditional release.  The offers denied by Mandela. Instead, he continued to garner attention to the regime.  This made Mandela increasing popular in the international community.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the apartheid regime became increasingly weaker. Meanwhile Mandela continued to attract the attention of the international community. This resulted in constant pressure to the apartheid government to release Mandela.

On 11th February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison as a free man. He then released his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom in 1994. In which he wrote about his early life and his 27 years of life in prison. As he declared that he would continue to work for peace and reconciliation. He spent four years travelling, meeting world leaders gathering support for his cause. In 1994 Mandela became the first black president of a new democratic South Africa.

“Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is above all a test of one’s commitment.”

(Mandela, 1994)

 Throughout his presidency, Mandela tried to piece up a broken nation. That suffered from disease, poverty and crime. Then he brought up The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which unveiled crimes committed from both the apartheid government and the ANC. This was also initiated as a peace building process. As it was a way of understanding the two communities by bringing them together. Thereafter, in 1999, after one term in office, Mandela stepped down from the presidency.

“A leader… is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the mot nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

(Mandela, 1994)

Despite stepping down from politics, Mandela was vocal on social issues particularly on equality and education. In 2005, the “Time Magazine” listed Mandela as one of the 100 most influential people. On the 18th July 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared “Mandela Day”. This was in commemoration of his birthday and his work towards peace and reconciliation.

Mandela’s “long walk to freedom” came to an end on 5th December 2013. To which South Africa and the world mourned. However, his dedication for peace and equality is inspiring and sets a benchmark for future leaders to follow.


Picture of nelson Mandela:

Picture of the signboard:

Roger Omond, the Apartheid Handbook, 1986

Brian Lapping, Apartheid a History, 1986

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1994

by Tharindi Rangoda ,Intern BCIS /  International Relations student @Royal Institute of Colombo

Observation of APAN : Climate Change Adaptation


 The Voice of APAN Forum

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Today we face a changing world where extreme typhoons, heat waves, droughts have become the new norms.  The adverse effects of these phenomena are felt strongly across regions and addressing climate change is fast becoming one of the needs in many countries. In order to lead the way as a nation, and contribute to building of awareness on the issue, Sri Lankan government has expressed its interest to host the Next Blue Green Era- 5th Asia – Pacific Adaptation Forum (APAN).

The 5th Asia – Pacific Adaptation Forum took place from 17th – 19th October 2016 in Colombo. During three days the forum brought together scientists, government, representatives, donors, policy- makers and youth from nearly 50 countries. The forum theme was, “Adapting and Living under 2 0C: Bridging Gaps in Policy & Practice”. The forum focused on a number of climate change adaptation issues which covered a range of financial, developmental, political and social aspects of adapting to changing climatic conditions. The forum consisted of four major streams: adaptation planning, financing for adaptation, climate resilient development and multi sector cross learning.

The Paris climate change talks led to an agreement to keep the increase in global temperature well below 2 degrees and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degree. However, there is a future of uncertainties. In almost every country in the region, adaptation plans have been already developed at national levels and in some cases also at local levels, from the momentum since the first event in 2010 and more recently with the previous event in 2014 in Kuala Lumpur. This regional forum is organized by the APAN every two years with previous ones held in Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.

The conference began with the high level panel discussion about the need to focus on living under 2 0C. The Paris Agreement puts into place some essential elements to ratchet up national ambition towards the 2/1.5 degree limit and net zero emission during the second half of this century. They discuss about the importance of preparing for living under 2 0C world.  H.E Rachment Witoelar, and Ms. Schipper states that, climate change the biggest threat that faces mankind. The world is already faced with extreme weather events as we gave heard. These impact of climate change present substantial new risk for most sectors of business, across all levels of government and communities. Now is the time to address our need on how to manage these risks and to start taking adaptation plane.  Adaptation consist of action undertaken to reduce the adverse consequences of climate change, as well as to harnessing any beneficial opportunities. Adaptation actions aim to reduce the impacts of climate stress on human and natural systems.

Executive Director in Bangladesh Center for Advance Studies, Atiq Rahman said that “at the local level, people do not have the luxury of planning too far ahead. When faced with a flood or drought, the issue is their immediate survival.” Poor communities are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. They live in places which are hazards-prone areas (river banks, mountain areas), sometimes without rights to their lands, in overcrowded settlements, inadequate infrastructure and other poor living conditions. That situations have a negative effect on agricultural production, human health, social stability and diverse problems multiply which eventually increase poverty and create food insecurity. These factors are associated with security threat of the states. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the effects of climate change are expected to be of greatest concern in developing states, in terms of loss of life, effect on investment  and there by on the economy and finally on national security.  These situations require immediate action at the global and national level in order to build adequate capacities and resilience.  But, it can be stated that low awareness and knowledge of communities about climate change and its impact to them is a crucial fact which create undesirable situations.

Representating Sri Lanka, RDS Jayathunga, added that it is a huge challenge to build capacity and resilience in Sri Lanka, especially if affected communities will have to deal with the realities of a world set to cross the 2 degree temperature threshold. He emphasized the need to draw from the past experiences and build a collaborative future among developing countries battling climate change and added that south – south cooperation is a must for building resilience for most vulnerable communities to combat climate change.

Indonesia’s Former State Minister of Environment H.E Rachmat Witoelar, began by arguing that, climate change is everybody’s business and everybody should be on board.  He followed this with a direct call suggesting his country’s agricultural vulnerability and high deforestation rate, arguing that, “adaptation is part of migration because you cannot fight climate change while people are suffering”.  He added that, changing the behavior of business so that they see the benefits of protecting the environment is a key. As an example, a hotel which is situated in front of the sea to protect a coral reef so that tourists would continue to visits it’s a win- win situation. Continuing on the same theme The Finance Minister in Cook islands, Mark Brown, said households in the pacific nation that source their energy from solar panels can sell excess energy back to the grid, which provide them with an additional source of income.

The panelized also emphasized that investments and activities on adaptation cannot be a measured within short term. As Saleemal Huq from Bangladesh‘s explained the paradigm of short term thinking no longer makes sense. “In today’s changing climate, “you may have short term investment, but they need long term impacts”. That is the a most important lesson for the planners and investors is that short term project based investments which are meant to produce short term results is no longer appropriate. It can be states that, from now on, all investments need to be based on getting a long term outcome and impact”. This means that the most important objectives by which any new adaptation investment from now on must be judged on its longer term sustainability beyond the project period.

The clear message from the APAN forum was that there was a need to focus on the opportunities in adapting to climate change and practical solutions such as financing and technical assistance relating to everyday activities. It also helped practitioners, civil society and business community showed contribute resilience into their investments. APAN forum experiences will help to win trajectory of the Paris agreement and avoid the calamitous effects of climate change.

Thilini Kasthuri Intern – Research



This article mainly focuses on the implications on China in the political, economic and strategic dimensions following Donald Trump’s presidency. Although one could be correct to argue that the ‘dust has barely settled’ with regard to the Trump presidency’ – and therefore that it is too early to predict whether he will follow through with the polices he discussed throughout his campaign trail or will implement those that his advisers instruct him to do or might even have a middle ground between the two – the election itself has reflected many things about American public attitude to what trump said.

Despite the “misogynist”, “racist” words that he uttered during his campaign trail, which many followers of American politics are unfortunately all too familiar with; the possibilities of change still blows in the wind. This change of course limits itself to an alteration of attitude to the degree that allows trump to not “back down” from any of his comments but to effectively ‘sweep it under the rug’. But the change will have to be done quickly and effectively as America has already witnessed post-election violence; something it is not used too.

However this article does not base itself entirely on what may or may not take place under the president elect. Instead it briefly touches on some of the possible implications to the China – US relationship and the possible avenues that might be taken under a Trump presidency in this regard. In analyzing this area, the article also passes through the implications it may have on a global scale. Albeit the president elect has carefully worded his thoughts and attitudes since being elected, the possible stances on China which he took throughout the election had significant traction and are therefore hard to back away from.

The 45th president of the United States according to his own words inherits a “broken economy.” While his speech focused on rebuilding the economy it is still questionable whether his polices would get the American economy out of the “quagmire” that it is currently in. However in comparison to the 2009/2010 period the American economy is stabilizing but this is not being sufficiently reflected in the lower middle class or middle class family incomes. This some say is one of the major drivers that led to a Trump presidency.

“On the campaign trail, Trump admitted the economy wasn’t something he looked forward to tackling. In a January interview with “Good Morning America,” he offered up a bleak assessment and added that, in terms of fixing it, it’s a task he’d rather skip. “We’re in a bubble,” he said. “And, frankly, if there’s going to be a bubble popping, I hope they pop before I become president because I don’t want to inherit all this stuff. I’d rather it be the day before rather than the day after, I will tell you that.

He later rolled out other policies and positions: a major tax code overhaul; repeal and replace Obamacare; renegotiate or “break” NAFTA; stop hedge funds from “getting away with murder” on taxes; reforming the Veteran’s Administration; and impose import tariffs as high as 35%.”1

Now while all of these policies will require both political commitment and a strong aspiration to changing the existing structure; no one doubts that Trump has both. What many political gurus do believe that might restrain him is the advice of the existing establishment of President Barack Obama. Some believe that “President Trump will do less damage, domestically and internationally, than what is feared he will unleash, simply because stultifying American bureaucracy makes no distinction when thwarting the vaulting ambition of the best and worst in politics.”2 Whether he will continue with the existing members of the establishment or utter his famous words in the Apprentice – “your fired” – is something we will have to wait and see.

While many political analysts, think tanks and observers of the US politics were proven wrong in their analysis and polls; even today they struggle to define the reasons why Trump ascended to power and whether Trumps accession to power reflects the American populace wholeheartedly subscribing to the phrases and comments throughout the election trail or whether it was the perceived disgust towards “establishment candidates” that created this phenomenon.

Richard Heydarian, a political analyst of De La Salle University recently commented that a striking similarity between President Rodrigo Duterte and Trump was that both are mercurial yet populist in nature. What Trumps election win, means for Marie Le pen of France and other leaders we can only guess. While it resulted in a strong enthusiasm among such populist leaders of European countries it remains to be seen how far this wave would carry forward.

What will a mercurial character mean for China? According the Heydarian, “Trump also doesn’t seem to have much concern about the territorial dispute in the South China Sea and this will leave the Philippines to have to deal with China, which could mean the country will be more on the mercy of China.”3 But a mercurial character may have a sudden change of heart and decide that it is in American interests to ensure that an American presence is required in the South China Sea. Although this may challenge the presupposed propensity of following through with all his election promises; people from democratic forms of government know that is rarely, if ever, that all the policies articulated in an election campaign is followed through.

Commenting on a Trump foreign policy, Dr. Eduardo C. Tadem writes that:

“A Trump presidency will be a more inward-looking United States government. The US vote is basically a vote against untrammeled globalization and its negative impact on middle American households and the working class. As the US looks inward, it will be  less of a global leader and will cede such role to the BRICS countries but more especially to China and Russia. Welcome to the United States as a third-rate world power, which may not be such a bad thing for the rest of the world.”4

Whether one ascribes to the views of Dr. Tadem or not, the possibility of an isolationist USA is something that is definitely on the table. While an isolationist foreign policy by America would be approved in some parts of the world it may not be by others. Trumps own claim that the United States can no longer be the “policeman” of the world has resulted in a shudder among European leaders; it may also be a very positive future for an authoritarian dictator to rise.

What implication does this have on China? Well for one, China has no strings attached in economic loans and aid in the manner that the US does. China’s soft power operates in different ways. While the US would have provided economic loans and grants for a third world country in the hope that alterations could be made in the societal and political structure, possibly allowing for greater democracy and transparency; such actions are not what china focuses on.

A US which repudiates a foreign policy of liberal internationalism is to the interest of China as this allows it to gradually fill the void of an increasing isolationist USA. How China manages this is a matter up for debate but on the whole one cannot discount the fact that thus far through initiatives such as One Belt One Road and the Maritime Silk Road as well as the AIIB; China has gradually garnered a lot of support to its side.

What does an isolationist foreign policy entail for Asia? What of the TPP and Pivot to Asia? Well for one they most probably will go underwater. Both Francisco Magno and Jesse Robredo enunciate that:

“American support for regional cooperation mechanisms, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will decline. Defense cooperation with Asean countries, especially with a treaty ally like the Philippines, will weaken as US interest in being engaged in ensuring the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in the South China Sea becomes less of a priority. This would lead to a scaling down of joint military exercises between the United States and the Philippines.”5

Even though Trump plans and will likely follow Reagans “peace through strength” policy, an expanding US military power will not induce any change in the perceptions of autocratic leaders if they sense that the US is isolationist in nature. It cannot induce any structural change in a foreign government and increasingly has littler power to induce transformation in them. In fact as Joseph Nye argues Soft power and smart power are intensifying in value and effectiveness. In the authors view these are the major components of power; in a world that fears total war to the extent that it does today.

 While some misguided writers predict a conventional war with China under Trump the possibilities are highly unlikely.  However this is not to discount a trade war which is definitely on the cards under Trump.

 “He will instruct his Treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator, he will bring cases against Beijing to the World Trade Organisation, and he will consider imposing a 45% tariff on Chinese imports into the US to make it easier for American companies to compete. The US is the biggest single market for Chinese exports, accounting for about 20% of the total. There would be a risk that aggressive US trade policy could result in a marked slowdown in China’s growth and a loss of manufacturing jobs.………Beijing is not without economic weapons, since it has amassed a vast stock of US Treasury bonds in recent years, the proceeds of its trade surplus with America. Beijing could meet Trump’s threat with one of its own: to dump US assets. A tit-for-tat trade war, in which China puts tariffs on US exports, could not be ruled out either.”6

Fortune Magazine points out that: “The most immediate trigger of a downward spiral of U.S.-China relations…is almost certain to be a trade war with China. A centerpiece of Trump’s winning campaign strategy is trade protectionism. To gain the support from blue-collar manufacturing workers in the American heartland, Trump has vowed, among other things, to abrogate trade agreements and impose unilateral tariffs. In the case of China, he has floated the idea of slapping tariffs as high as 45% on imports from China.  If Trump carries out his campaign pledge, China’s exports to the U.S., worth $483 billion in 2015, could collapse. Needless to say, American exports to China, estimated at $116 billion as of 2015, will plunge as China retaliates.”7

While Hillary Clinton throughout the presidential debates took to task the economic plan of trump, now that Trump is president elect it is most likely that he would not change his plan no matter what economic guru on the outside of his inner circle pronounces.  However Trump does not have it easy. “Following three years of declines, the deficit rose by $150 billion this fiscal year to nearly $600 billion. This will no doubt complicate President Trump’s efforts.”8

“Yu Yongding, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in Beijing, suggested to a Times reporter that …..“After he becomes president, there’ll be advisers at his side to explain to him what the exchange rate is, what capital flows are, what macroeconomic policy is.”9

But even then an alteration of his policies to the extent of entirely redefining its structure is not something that trump may accept.

Paula Campbell Roberts, commenting on Trumps economic policies said that “The policies proposed by Trump would theoretically support an increase in high-income consumer spending, but elevated economic policy uncertainty, as well as a possible deportation-linked decline in consumer demand and labor under a Trump presidency would counteract the consumer spending benefit from lower taxes”10

Others have challenged the rhetoric “We will make America great again” by outlining the problems in trumps economic plans. “Donald Trump’s policies would significantly increase the US Budget deficit. The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) last month estimated that the combination of tax cuts and spending increases proposed by Donald Trump would add US$5.3 trillion to US public debt over the next decade, lifting it from 77% to 105% of GDP.”11

The author (although no economist himself) has gone through some of the proposals and doubts whether those if implemented will bring forth a “great” America as outlined in Trumps vision. However that remains to be seen and undoubtedly Trump will push through tough regulations in Congress to ensure that his main election promise – a stronger economy – is fulfilled.

On a political dimension the fact that USA would adopt an isolationist policy is indisputable. On the one hand, this may force states to turn towards regional integration to ensure that  they could guarantee their national security in a context where China does not fill the US void as a global “policeman”. Whether emphasis will be drawn to functional, neo-functional or supra nationalism integration models is unpredictable in the current climate and would invariably differ from region to region. Some are of the view that “Trump’s attitude to longstanding US strategic alliances – with European countries, Japan and Korea – threatens to create much greater political uncertainty around the world. It may even prompt an “arms race” entailing greater proliferation of nuclear weapons.” 12But even then, polices must be implemented and Congress might play a restraining role of an overly ambitious Trump stratagem.

While many believe that USA would follow through in threatening to get out of the military alliances and security alliances if the other states did not pay “its share”; again that would involve multi-lateral discussions and meetings between the respective heads of states which would hopefully curtail any rash decision.  On the other hand, such rhetoric may also generate a desire among states to form regional organizations and/or to bandwagon with China. In fact the actions of both Malaysia and Philippines reflect the latter move.

On the economic dimension stronger isolationism would result in the move to strengthen domestic industries which may have significant economic impacts on foreign economies. As mentioned above, this may result in a trade war with China and the groundwork of a “type of” bi polar division that does not include the “camp/bloc” structures of the cold war between the USA and U.S.S.R.

Also in the economic dimension the underlying forces that brought Trump to power would anticipate rapid changes that would benefit those out of work and underemployed.

 “The US has lost five million manufacturing jobs over the past 15 years, while China has seen rapid growth in its manufacturing sector over the same period. Trump is electorally committed to bringing a material number of lost manufacturing jobs back to the US; the only way he can do so will be to offset Asia’s (especially China’s) labour cost advantage in manufacturing with a combination of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

“There is a growing possibility that China will be at the epicentre of President-elect Trump’s first crisis, triggered by concerns over the potential impact of protectionist measures on China’s trade surplus…. At this point the likelihood of Trump actually delivering on his protectionist rhetoric is secondary to the psychological impact on resident corporate and household savers of any potential threat to the current uneasy equilibrium within the Chinese economy.”13

However, “His protectionism policies, which could hurt global trade and his potential mishandling of the US economy, may in turn disrupt China’s economy, which is already undergoing a difficult period of balancing growth and reforms.” 14

On the defense and security dimension this may result in the strengthening of the military forces of USA, but as mentioned above, this does not entail any major shift in the attitudes of undemocratic autocratic leaders as an isolationist foreign policy would not threaten the political structure of such states. His present attitude towards Syria reflects this matter. It would only re-strengthen the existing fleet of naval vessels and jets but would not result in any substantial gain to the economy or to the society in a context where the biggest threat to USA is from a non-state actor – ISIS.

On the defense and security dimension, China would continue to pursue OBOR and maritime and land Silk Road for its strategic purposes. Moreover China would tend to decrease its concessionary tone regarding much of the investments and loans that are given to states as it does not face any major rivalry to win “hearts and minds” of the people in foreign states. It faces no contender in this sector if USA is to follow isolationism.

Also “Under President Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S. has consistently opposed China’s unilateral claims to sovereignty over much of the South China Sea. If Trump believes that the South China Sea is none of Washington’s business, Beijing will likely further escalate its activities, such as building military facilities and drilling for oil, thus escalating risks of conflict with Vietnam and the Philippines. As more than $5 trillion worth of commerce transits through the South China Sea each other….a military conflict or acceptance of China’s de facto control of the area will gravely undermine American security interests.”15

Outlining trumps post-election focus; two trump camp advisers wrote that:

 “Trump’s approach is two-pronged. First, Trump will never again sacrifice the U.S. economy on the altar of foreign policy by entering into bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, allowing China into the World Trade Organization, and passing the proposed TPP. These deals only weaken our manufacturing base and ability to defend ourselves and our allies. Second, Trump will steadfastly pursue a strategy of peace through strength, an axiom of Ronald Reagan that was abandoned under the Obama administration. He knows, however, that this will be a difficult task.”16

Thus this article leaves many questions unanswered but offers a brief insight as to what may happen under an isolationist foreign policy and the strategic, economic and political implications between China and USA if trump was to follow through with his magniloquence.

On the flip side some may argue that nothing really has changed in domestic politics. It simply has been the case that: a “Russia hating American society” has shifted to pick China as the new” biggest threat” to its alleged unipolar hegemonic dominance. However this claim is weakly backed up and offers a myopic perspective of US domestic politics.

Therefore the central argument of this article rests on whether trump follows through with what he said in the campaign trail. To quote Kithmina Hewage : “If anyone says that they know how the Trump presidency will impact their country, they’re lying! He’s been so thin on substantive policy that any impact study lends on conjecture.”17 Much of the arguments detailed in the article is speculation but as the axiom goes “let’s see what happens in the future.”


Shakthi De Silva



  1. Stewart, Emily. “With Donald Trump as President, Here’s What Will Happen to the U.S. Economy.” TheStreet. November 13, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016.
  2. Hattotuwa, Sanjanah. “Trumped.” November 13, 2016. Accessed November 14, 2016.
  3. “How Will a Trump Presidency Impact on the Philippines …” November 13, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016. in fact Josh Billinson pointed out one such example of a mercurial Trump :
  4. “How Will a Trump Presidency Impact on the Philippines …” November 13, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016.
  5. “How Will a Trump Presidency Impact on the Philippines …” November 13, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016.
  6. Elliott, Larry. “How America’s New President Will Affect the Global Economy.” The Guardian. November 09, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  7. Pei, Minxin. “A Trade War With China Is Likely Under Donald Trump.” Fortune. November 10, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  8. Doll, Bob. “Bob Doll: 10 Implications of Trump’s Victory.” Barron’s. November 14, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  9. Fan, Jiayang. “China Tries to Make Sense of Donald Trump.” The New Yorker. November 12, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  10. Peterson, Hayley. “Trump Presidency Could Have Terrifying Implications for Restaurants and Retailers.” Business Insider. November 09, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  11. Eslake, Saul. “How Will The Trump Presidency Impact The Economy?” LifeHacker. November 9, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  12. Eslake, Saul. “How Will The Trump Presidency Impact The Economy?” LifeHacker. November 9, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  13. ECONOMICTIMES. “President Trump Is Good for India and Bad for China, Pakistan. Here’s Why.” The Economic Times. November 9, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  14. Beng, Kor Kiang. “US Elections: Donald Trump’s Thinking on the US’ Asia-Pacific Pivot Trumps China’s Concerns over His Presidency.” Straitstimes. November 9, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  15. Pei, Minxin. “A Trade War With China Is Likely Under Donald Trump.” Fortune. November 10, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  16. Grey, Alexander, and Peter Navarro. “Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific.” Foreign Policy Donald Trumps Peace Through Strength Vision for the AsiaPacific Comments. November 7, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.
  17. Hewage, Kithmina. “Well – We Got Trumped!” Linkedin. November 10, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.

Image courtesy : CNN

The Challenges of Terrorism in the 21st Century


(Text Version based on the Keynote Address delivered by Mr.Tissa Jayatilaka at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Academic Programmes of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, Colombo, 10 September, 2016).


The topic I have been requested to speak on is “The Challenges of Terrorism in the 21st Century”. This inauguration ceremony of the academic programmes of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) is not the occasion, I think, for a deep, comprehensive and definitive exploration of the theme of terrorism. Even if I were to dare to attempt such an enormous task, the 20 to 30 minutes I have at my disposal would not suffice to accomplish it. What I propose to do this morning, therefore, is to place some thoughts on the theme before you, so as to encourage further debate, discussion, reflection and exploration.

I’ll make an attempt to define ‘terrorism’ taking into consideration the controversies surrounding that definition.  We are all familiar with the difficulty we face when we try to distinguish between a ‘terrorist organization’ and a ‘liberation organization’.  One man’s or woman’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter!  Besides all those involved in conventional war have inflicted, over the years or centuries, a horrific amount of violence on non-combatants on a scale that is certainly greater than that inflicted by terrorism. Firebombing of the German city of Dresden (13 – 15 February, 1945) and of Tokyo (9 March, 1945) are as horrific if not more so than the LTTE or ISIS terror attacks! History thus offers us proof of states which themselves have resorted to massive violence that smacks of terrorism in the process of fighting terrorists and terrorism. Of course they do and have done so under the cover of national sovereignty and national security. As Professor Stephen Walt has noted in a discussion hosted by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs based in New York on 8 September, 2016, certain liberal states use non-liberal means to try and spread liberal values. He cites the Iraq War as a classic example of this non-liberal approach but goes on to state that this latter approach is as noticeable in western interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere too.

What I am trying to get at here is that there is a certain line that needs to be crossed before individuals and groups get branded as terrorists. If this is so, what then are these limits?  Questions and dilemmas of this kind, make defining what constitutes terrorism not an easy task.  That said, let us now try to seek a definition of terrorism.

We know that terrorism is not a new phenomenon. The term or word has been in use since time immemorial although it yet defies easy definition.  Terrorism has been described as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. A lot depends, we need to bear in mind, on whose point of view is being represented.  Beauty, it has been rightly said, is in the eye of the beholder. Likewise terrorism is in the eye and heart of the beholder! Terrorism has often been an effective strategy for the weaker side in a conflict. As an asymmetric form of conflict, terrorism confers coercive power with many of the advantages of military force at a fraction of the cost of such force. Although what constitutes terrorism is rather well known, terrorism remains a nebulous concept.

The United Nations came out with the following definition of terrorism in 1992:

An anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic , criminal or political reasons, whereby- – in contrast to assassination – – the direct targets are not the main targets.


The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as ‘the calculated use of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or intimidate societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological.

The three key elements within this definition are: violence, fear and intimidation.

This is how the FBI defines terrorism:

Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against person or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment of society thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.


The US Department of State defines terrorism to be ‘premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience’.

Less specific and considerably less verbose, the British government’s definition of terrorism from 1974 is,

. . .  the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose  of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear.


We thus see that terrorism is a criminal act that influences an audience beyond the immediate victim. The strategy of terrorists is to commit acts of violence that draws the attention of the local populace, the government, and the world to their cause.  The attacks by terrorists are so done as to secure the greatest publicity, choosing targets that usually symbolize what they oppose.  The effectiveness of a terrorist attack rests not on the act itself, but in the public’s or the government’s reaction to that act. The Black September Organization’s attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics when 11 Israelis were killed in a sad but (for our purposes today) a good example to illustrate the above observation.

The Israelis were the immediate victims. But the true target was the estimated one billion people watching the televised event. Those billion people were to be introduced to fear – – which is terrorism’s ultimate goal.

Fear arises from the threat of physical harm, a grizzly death, the fear of losing money or negative effects on the economy arising from financial terrorism; cyber terrorism harming the critical technological infrastructures of society; and psychological terrorism designed to influence people’s behavior.

Franklin Roosevelt was right: fear itself is fearsome.  We are burdened by the threat of layoffs (in the workplace), by grim news delivered in a medical diagnosis, by hearing a suspicious noise outside the window in the middle of the night. It is not the potential joblessness, disease, and intrusion that are bad. The fear of these bad things itself is bad. And if fear is bad, then intentionally causing a person undeserved fear is wrong. In addition to wrongfully killing, maiming and destroying, the terrorist is wrong for intentionally sowing the seeds of fear.

Fear is a gripping, life-altering weapon – – one that can ramify over generations. And it is what makes terrorism uniquely awful.

Terrorism is designed to produce an over-reaction and, though we do not have precise facts and figures to prove it, on the basis of anecdotal evidence, it can be affirmed that terrorism succeeds at producing that over-reaction virtually all the time.  Consequently societies tend to withdraw and governments in response use tactics that restrict and impinge upon everyone.

The Black September Organization used the high visibility of the Munich Olympics to publicize its views on the plight of the Palestinian refugees. Similarly in October 1983, Middle Eastern terrorists bombed the Marine Battalion Landing Team Headquarters at Beirut International Airport. Their immediate victims were the 241 US military personnel who were killed and over 100 others who were wounded. Their true target was the American people and the US Congress. Their once act of violence influenced the United States’ decision to withdraw the Marines from Beirut and was therefore considered a terrorist success.

Coming to the challenges of terrorism in the 21st Century, I thought it might be helpful initially to trace the background of the beginnings of these challenges. The rise of violence in general is what Eric Hobsbawm (2007) has called ‘the process of barbarization’ that has gathered strength in the world since the First World War. With the rise in the level of social violence arising often from citizens’ disenchantment with the existing political leadership (or the lack thereof), the states were quick to establish their legitimacy of their monopoly of coercive force. Since the late 1960s states have lost some of that monopoly of power. Citizens have become less law-abiding as we witness when we see protestors demonstrating during world economic summits and at related events often turning angry and violent.

Increasingly we note that from the middle of the 20th century onwards, a merging of general social violence and political violence.  Even in societies like Sri Lanka and Uruguay, with a non-violent political and social tradition, we have seen in them some of the worst political violence seen anywhere. The two JVP insurrections (1971 and 1987-89) and the LTTE violence in which significant numbers of citizens perished defy logical explanation given the non-violent social tradition of the island.

If we leave out the bloodshed and destruction of inter-state or state-sponsored warfare – – for example, Vietnam, the indirect superpower confrontations of the 1970s in Africa and Afghanistan, and the Indo-Pakistan and Iraq-Iran wars – – there have been three major bouts of political violence and counter-violence since the 1960s.

The first is what has been referred to as ‘neo-Blanquism’of the 1960s and 1970s. Blanquism is named after Louis Auguste Blanqui, 1805- 1881, the French Socialist and Political Activist notable for his revolutionary theory of Blanquism. This theory may be defined as the attempt by self-selected and generally small elite groups to overthrow regimes or to achieve the objectives of separatist nationalism through armed action. Neo-Blanquism was largely confined to western Europe , where these groups, primarily of middle class origin and generally lacking popular support outside universities( except in Northern Island where they had such outside support), relied to a large extent on media-attracting terrorist actions as also on well-targeted coups capable of destabilising their countries’ high politics. Examples are afforded by the activities of the Red Army Fraction in Federal Germany, the ETA’s assassination of General Franco’s presumed successor in 1973, and the kidnapping and murder of the then Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978.

The second bout, which came into its own towards the end of the 1980s, is primarily ethnic and confessional. Africa, the western zones of Islam, south and southeast Asia, and south-east Europe were the main regions affected.  Latin America remained immune to ethnic and religious conflict, East Asia and the Russian Federation (except for Chechyna) almost unaffected, and the European Union involved only through rising but unbloody xenophobia.  Elsewhere this wave of political violence produced massacre on a scale unknown since the Second World War. Unlike the European Neo-Blanquists, who usually lacked mass popular support, the activist groups of this period – – Al Fatah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Tamil Tigers, and the Kurdistan Workers Party, etc., – – could rely on the massive support of their constituency, and a source of permanent recruitment.

In this period, a major innovation was to prove grimly successful: that of the suicide bomber. Originally a spin-off from the Iranian Revolution of 1979, carrying its powerful ideology of Shia Islam, and with its idealization of martyrdom, the suicide bomber was first used to decisive effect in 1983 against the Americans by the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Its effectiveness was so patent that it soon spread to the Tamil Tigers in 1987, Hamas in Palestine in 1993, and to al Qaeda and other Islamic ultras in Kashmir and Chechnya between 1998 and 2000. The other most striking development of individual and small-group terrorism in this second phase was the remarkable revival of political assassination. If the period 1881 to 1914 was the first, so-to-speak, golden age of top- level political homicide, the years from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s became the second: Sadat in Egypt, Rabin in Israel, Rajiv Gandhi  and Mrs. Indira Gandhi in India, several leaders in Sri Lanka including Vijay Kumaratunga, President Premadasa, Lalith Atulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayaka,  among others. There were attempts made on the lives of Pope John Paul 11 and President Ronald Reagan in 1981.One of the unhappy signs of ‘the barbarization of politics’ after the First World War is the discovery by terrorists  that even negative publicity they receive from the print and broadcast media help  boost their evil cause. The mass murder of innocent civilians provide them with almost as much prominence (however notorious they become) as when they dispose of the most celebrated or symbolic targets.

In the third phase, the beginning of the 21st century and to-date, political violence has slowly but surely become global through ‘the war on terror’-based policies of George W. Bush and via the emergence of Al Qaeda, a ruthlessly effective terrorist organization with the ability to operate transnationally. The interesting feature here is the irrelevance of mass popular support for a given terrorist group’s success. The new terror outfits seek to deploy small numbers and their approach is that of ‘small group action’. The ‘active service units’ of the Provisional IRA , it is believed, had not been anything more than a couple of hundred individuals at any given time. According to available information, The Red Brigades in Italy or the Basque ETA were not any bigger. In its Afghan days, Al Qaeda, educated estimates suggest, had around four thousand persons. According to Diego Gambetta (2005), those involved in these terrorist outfits were, aside from rare exceptions, more educated and from a higher social background than the community to which they belong. Very few of them were products of religious schools.

An excellent essay titled ‘Learning to live with it’ appearing in The Economist (September 2016) gives us a vivid picture of today’s terrorism and its effects on society. Since the horror of Bastille Day, when Mohamed Bouhel killed 86 people in Nice, heavily armed soldiers patrolling the beaches has become a common sight. In late July, fanatical Muslims murdered a Catholic priest in Normandy. Since November 2015 when gunmen affiliated to Islamic State (IS) killed 130 people in Paris, France remains in a state of emergency. The presidential election of 2017 in France may well be won by the candidate who sounds toughest on terrorism.  Just a week ago, the French capital was put on high alert when French officials said they dismantled a ‘terrorist cell’ that planned to attack a Paris railway station under the direction of IS.   ‘This week at least two attacks were foiled,’ Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview with Europe1 radio and Itele television on Sunday (11 September, 2016).  Valls said there were 15,000 people on the radar of police and intelligence services who were in the process of being radicalized. ‘There will be new attacks, there will be innocent victims . . . this is also my role to tell this truth to the French people,’ Valls said.

Subsequent to two Islamist attacks and a shooting rampage by a mentally unstable teenager, Germany, too, remains tense. It is investing more on its police and security forces. Some report that the government will soon advise citizens to stockpile food and water in case of a major terrorist attack.

On the other side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, mass shootings in San Bernadino and Orlando have forced terrorism into the agenda of the American presidential race. A few weeks ago, Pew, a pollster, reported that Americans wanted Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump to spend more time debating terrorism than debating the economy. Another poll held earlier in 2016 asked 83% of its respondents who said they followed IS news closely whether the group was ‘a serious threat to the existence or survival of the US’. No less than 77% agreed with this extraordinary suggestion. Obviously the perception of threat seems to matter almost as much as a possible threat itself!

Despite all of the above, the number of deaths through terrorism continues to rise in Europe and America. Some of the terror attacks have involved IS fighters who have returned home, most have been the work of local sympathizers, often with social or mental problems, who have been nowhere near Syria. Even when the caliphate is defeated in Iraq and Syria, the threat to the west seems likely to persist. And the kind of attacks that IS encourages is hard to prevent. Anyone can rent or steal a lorry and drive it at a crowd. Especially in America, it is all too easy for one to buy high-powered automatic weapons that can kill significant numbers in moments. Such attacks do not require much advance planning or much intelligence. And given the sheer number of potential jihadists, despite police and security service intelligence, there is no guarantee they can be stopped.

It is highly likely, therefore, that much of Europe and America will have to get accustomed to living with fairly regular acts of Islamist-inspired terrorism. And the challenge for open, liberal societies is how they should respond to this threat without over-reacting to it.

Here are some useful statistics The Economist gives for us to reflect upon. As a result of violent conflict in Northern Ireland and the actions of the Basque separatist ETA, terrorism, as I pointed out earlier, was consistently deadlier in the 1970s and 1980s than it has been since. Even then, the chance of being murdered was small. During the 30 years of violent conflict, the annual risk for civilians getting killed in Ulster was about one in 25,000. During the four bloodiest years of the second Intifada, the annual risk to Israeli civilians was about one in 35,000. Even in 2001, the likelihood of an American in the US being killed in a terrorist attack was less than one in 100, 000; in the decade up to 2013 that figure fell to one in 56 million. The chance of being the victim in 2013 of an ordinary homicide in the US was one in 20,000.Traffic accidents are three times more lethal. Charges of ‘otherworldly complacency’ from his critics notwithstanding, Barack Obama was correct when he said earlier this year that the danger of drowning in a bathtub is greater than that of being killed by terrorists. Despite these statistics, woe betide any politician who suggests diverting money from homeland security to areas where more lives might thereby be saved. The first response to any major terrorist attack is grief and shock. The second is nearly always that those in power have not done enough.

Terrorism is a form of psychological warfare against a society. As discussed above, thanks to the media coverage that terrorist attacks receive, the over-reaction of partisan political groups and of the politicians they back and thanks to the security services who, for their own purpose, inflate the capability of terrorists, the perception of risk is far higher than the reality.

To his credit President Obama has consistently warned about the consequences of using hyperbolic language to describe the terrorist threat.  In a television address in December 2015, after the San Bernadino shootings, President Obama explained that success against IS and their terrorists ‘won’t depend on tough talk or abandoning our values or giving into fear’. Instead he said, America would prevail by being strong and clever, resilient and relentless. Mr. Obama is right. Defeating terrorism depends above all on good intelligence, a degree of stoicism and a refusal to allow it to undermine the principles that open societies are built on.

I wish to end by offering some thoughts on how we might possibly reduce the level of violent terror that we see around us today.  Regardless of our ethnic differences or skin colour or the geographic location we live in, all of us are a part of the vulnerable humanity that people planet earth. And no one group of us has a monopoly on virtue or vice. We are all equally susceptible to the vagaries of nature. Climate change, infectious disease, food and water scarcities, natural disasters and other similar factors affect us all in the same way. All governments and all politicians need to recognize our common vulnerability and take meaningful steps to reduce Man’s inhumanity to Man. For in the absence of such concerted political leadership and action, the evils of discord and civil war would continue to dismember society.

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes who was affected by the violent discord of the English Civil Wars (1642 to 1651) has written eloquently of societies affected by political crises that spring from violence. In his Leviathan, Hobbes spells out what life would be like without a just government, a condition he calls the state of nature.  In that state, each person would have a right to everything in the world. Hobbes’s argument is that such a state would lead inevitably to a ‘war of all against all’ (the Latin bellum omnium contra omnes), a state not dissimilar to what we see in today’s world. Society, if it continues to remain in this state would become hopelessly dislocated. Here is Hobbes’s diagnosis:


In such condition there is no place for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain,

and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation, nor use of the commodities

that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving

and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the

earth; no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all,

continual  fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty,

brutish and short.


Perhaps the need of the hour is a fresh social contract taking into consideration the contemporary realities of existence: a new social contract that looks favorably on inclusivity and one which celebrates human diversity and the plural nature of society.

Overall it is my conviction that the contemporary dilemmas of human existence also contributes to the state of terror and violence that pervade society today. Global poverty, ethnic hostility, overpopulation, the spread of AIDS and other deadly infectious diseases, suppression of human rights, environmental despoliation and related factors contribute to the current predicament of ours. These particular problems, however, are mere symptoms of a more fundamental malaise which is essentially spiritual in nature.

The root cause of today’s violent disorder, it seems to me, is an ‘existential dislocation’. Even at the risk of over-simplification I would say that an excessive belief and faith in material progress underlies our contemporary socio-political crisis. This is compounded by our preoccupation with national security and resultant limits on democracy and personal freedom. Put simply, we have failed to understand the difference between need and greed. This incomprehension has spawned a whole range of undesirable and unhelpful behavior patterns, especially in the self-styled ‘Developed World’ but elsewhere as well.

Our cities have become urban jungles; the use (or is it abuse?) of liquor and drugs as an easy escape route from anxiety and despair is rampant; sexually provocative entertainment becomes more degrading by the day; the culture of the gun becomes an antidote for middle-class youths looking to break the monotony of their lives with murder and mayhem. Most crucially, as Bhikku Bodhi has pointed out, the breakdown of the family which once served as the training ground where children learn decency and personal responsibility has contributed like no other to the social and moral degradation of contemporary society.

To live is to want. When we are hungry, we want food. When we are tired, we want rest. We want the company of friends and loved ones. There is the paradox of wanting enlightenment. No religion or philosophy will ask us to renounce what we need to live.

The challenge is to distinguish between what is wholesome- – taking care of our physical and psychological needs- – and what is unwholesome. If all of us were to make this distinction and thereby re-fashion our lives, it may lead us to a less violent society and eventually to the preservation of the human community.  Moreover such a re-fashioning will make us recognize that we each bear a responsibility for the welfare of the whole, especially in the face of so much cruelty and violence we see around us. The Social Gospel of Christianity encourages such a wholesome existence, helps to ensure that the oppressed and afflicted are granted opportunities that have hitherto been denied them. This is also stressed by the Buddha in his short discourse in the Satipatthana Samyutta where he said:

Protecting oneself, one protects others

     Protecting others, one protects oneself.


As I stand before you here today, you and I know that too many people do not have a peaceful environment to live in, too many people suffer from loss and grief, and way too many people suffer from hunger and war. We must attune ourselves to hear the cries of despair of each other, and be able to share ‘the hope amidst despair, know that every sparrow is counted’  and learn to believe that war and hunger will soon pass away. We must be there for one another. As The English poet W.H. Auden famously observed:

There is no such thing as the state

 And no one exists alone;

Hunger allows no choice

To the citizen or the police;

We must love one another or die.


Thus interdependence is all. A return to our spiritual roots may help us reduce the level of violent conflict and terror which appear to have engulfed us and scar our society today.

Relevance of International Relations in the 21st century: BCIS – Bedrock of International Studies in Sri Lanka for over four decades


The world in the 21st century seems to be a very hostile place to live in.

A brief look at current affairs and happenings around the world reveals to us; mass shootings and murders in the United States, piracy in the Indian Ocean, sectarian conflicts in the Middle East and the continuance of Failed States; the first ten 10 of which are in Africa.

This is compounded by growing fears of dis-integration of the European Union, threats of great power expansionism in the South China and East China Sea, drug wars in the Americas and ideologically extremist terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (Daesh) operating in parts of Iraq and Syria, Boko-Haram in Nigeria, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and the Al Shabab in Somalia.

Arms trafficking and Displacement figures due to conflict and geographical disasters are on the rise and the amount of asylum applications by refugees and migrants to the European Union, mainly from conflict zones, have reached over a million. Illicit trade in wildlife reaps “in the order of $20bn a year. The impact is disastrous, causing immense suffering to animals and people and destroying ecosystems.”

The memory of financial collapses have not yet passed our memory, Poverty and income inequality have not significantly reduced, resource management has led to street battles and the intensity and frequency of earthquakes, landslides, flooding and droughts has plagued many parts of the world throughout  the year.

Stagnant agricultural production levels and an ever increasing portion of population over the age of 65 only add to the strain of issues that we face as a collective human race. In fact the World Economic Forum mentions that “By 2020, individuals aged 60 and older will be greater in number than children younger than five. By 2050, the world’s older adult population will have doubled to 2 billion.”

Geo political issues and unresolved domestic issues have led to the birth of “populist” parties that threaten to undermine much of what has been recognized as the status quo. The New York Times in May this year noted: “Amid a migrant crisis, sluggish economic growth and growing disillusionment with the European Union, far-right parties — some longstanding, others newly formed — have been achieving electoral success in a number of European nations.”

Traditionally International Relations theorists have looked at security in the point of view of the preservation of the security of the state by military threats from outside forces. This view is brought forward chiefly by political realists who derive their theory from Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Hans J. Morgenthau. Therefore traditional realists see security as something that could be ensured principally through the enlargement of armed forces to counter threats from external sources that could  challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state.

This view however can no longer be satisfactory and adequate. Non-traditional security threats such as some of those mentioned above do not impact only one state. Threats no longer limit themselves to the territorial boundaries of a state. In the context of a conflict the possibility of it seeping to a neighboring state or spilling over to their entire region is a likely possibility. A financial crisis in one part of the world can affect another part of the world in a very short span of time. Millions of dollars can be lost and earned in a day or two and the lives of many of us are held in the balance. Climate change for example, impacts every one of us regardless of whether our abode lies in the Caribbean or in India.

For centuries, mankind has attempted to solve problems and issues that it has faced. It is the resilience that we as a collective human race have embodied, which has allowed us to manage, control and remove threats that have been encountered in the past. When the First World War (often termed as the Great War) ripped through families and infrastructure, leaders such as Woodrow Wilson endeavored to rectify this through international organizations such as the League of Nations, which attempted to create the concept of collective security. Its present manifestation, the United Nations has ensured that many conflicts have been averted. The United Nations has also strived time and again to mitigate the tensions, mistrust and lack of solidarity in the international community by becoming a center for harmonizing the activities of states.

Common concerns vis-à-vis issues of our island and the world, have been debated and discussed about such global forums and will continue to be discussed in order to create better understanding and consensus so that such issues can be confronted head-on. Security, as mentioned above, can no longer be looked on as something pertaining to one state or even one region. The world as a whole comprises of humans and eco-systems that must be protected and safeguarded for future generations. Sustainability backed by the sustainable development goals then becomes key to our shared future.

In fact, as a report by SIPRI elucidates: “the world is still home to 826 million illiterate adults.” Education and the promotion of literacy are but steps along the way, which can become building blocks, leading to interconnections and shared efforts; to tackle global issues such as poverty and unequal development and many more.

Her Excellency Ambassador Shelley Whiting at the Inauguration of the Bandaranaike Center for International Studies academic batch 2016/2017 stated that “the concept of security has certainly changed…… (and now has a ) wider range of issues…nuclear proliferation, geopolitical rivalries, migration and ethnic and religious tensions, access to portable water and climate change are just some of the issues that can be described as security challenges that we (face) today.”

One might ask, “Why is it important to learn about current affairs and international relations?” We live in a small island in the Indian Ocean with a relatively small GDP and population in comparison to our immediate neighbor. “Why does International Relations matter to us?” In the words of Her Excellency Ambassador Shelley Whiting:

“Whether you choose to pursue activities in international relations; be at as a diplomat or working for an NGO or humanitarian agency or whether you are a businessmen who is just looking to develop an understanding of global affairs by enhancing your understanding of international relations you will have an important role to contribute in shaping the Sri Lankan foreign policy, and Sri Lanka’s own position in the world….”

The Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), conceptualized at a time when the subject of International Relations had not taken precedence as a fundamental area of study among the Sri Lankan student populace; has become one of the most premier south Asian institutes dedicated to teaching and instructing students in international relations, human rights and international trade. BCIS draws your attention to some of the issues highlighted above, tries to break down the reasons behind such issues, and imparts the theory that has been expounded by the greatest academics of the world, introduces you to visionary leaders of Sri Lanka and broadens your horizon beyond what you know today.

We can no longer live in a bubble believing that global issues have no bearing towards us. If we are to learn more; the platform has been set for you at BCIS to “launch” into the world.


Shakthi De Silva – Research Intern.


Disclaimer – none of the views in the articles referenced/linked in the posts above reflect the official viewpoint or stance of the BCIS and only project the individual perspectives of the relevant authors.



Image sources : ,,,,,


What challenges would ASEAN face if it were to expand in the future?


The ASEAN is a regional trading bloc that began with an “original membership of five states, it expanded to seven in 1995” (ASEAN secretariat, 1997) and now consists of ten member states. As a regional trading bloc they function with collective political, social and economical interests. The success of one nation within the bloc contributes to the strengthening of the entire bloc therefore policies are tailor made and structured to enhance any individual nation benefits into regional benefits. This paper analyses the key dimensions that allowed ASEAN to grow thus far and discusses the challenges that it may face in the future.

One factor that favoured the growth of ASEAN is the GDP growth in member states. In 2015 Malaysia “recorded a growth of 4.6 per cent” (Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2016) and Indonesia a GDP of “5.04 per cent in the last quarter of 2015” (Chilkoti, 2016). The rise in GDP of member states has benefitted ASEAN and is mainly attributed to the “rapid growth of their middle classes”(Hughes and Woldekidan, 1994) and “in 2009 the middle class included 1.8 billion people, with… Asia (525 million) (Pezzini, 2012). A subsequent effect of having a growing middle class leads to consumerism where there is a higher demand for the consumption of goods and services within these countries. As individual countries aim to cater to this rising demand their output will rise causing individual GDP’s to rise as a result. Due to the presence of free trade as the ASEAN member states will trade more with each other causing total ASEAN output to rise as a by product of higher trade volumes. It is evident that the economics successes of individual members will have a growth enhancing effect on the growth of ASEAN.

However this is not always the case as there are income disparities within the ASEAN members so not all countries will benefit equally from having a growing middle class. Such examples are seen where “Singapore and Brunei record the highest GDP per capita while (…the Philippines and Thailand) have only half that.” (OECD, 2013). This explains that the effects of a growing middle class would have uneven effects on different countries because their consumer demand for goods and services will differ and thus their GDP growth. For instance as cited, Singapore has a large proportion of a middle class so their GDP growth is likely to be higher as opposed to the Philippines who has a significantly lower middle class and would therefore have a lower GDP. Such disparities may not actually lead to the growth of ASEAN, as total output is unlikely to rise in the presence of income disparities.

Furthermore, ASEAN as a bloc has been able to grow thus far because they are a large and efficient market that can adjust to prevailing global economic conditions. One way ASEAN achieves this is through their infrastructure that is useful in “binding ASEAN countries closer through infrastructural linkages in transportation, telecommunications and energy” (Ong Keng Yong, 2004). The fact that they have been well connected allows them to maintain efficiency when it comes to the transport of goods between member countries and other global economies despite the large geographical area. This allows for more trade to be facilitated as these countries cater to a range of other countries. Total ASEAN output is likely to increase in times of favourable economic conditions where this is prevailing consumer demand.

In evaluation, it is important to consider the effects to ASEAN in times of unfavourable economic conditions. This was evident during the 2008 global financial crisis. At this time the “economic crisis (has) had an unexpectedly large impact on Asian economies. The GDP growth rate for the region is expected to be a little over one third of the 9.5 per cent growth rate Asia enjoyed in 2007.”(Lamberte, 2009). This displays the dire effects of the exogenous shocks that came about from the West. A root cause was the fact that as incomes fell in many countries, especially in the West for example “the US, consumption is likely to fall well below the 72 per cent share of GDP” (Lamberte, 2009). Consumer demand for imports from Asia declined. Hence there was a fall in trade volumes from ASEAN members to the global economy and thus stunted the ability by which ASEAN could grow further.

Moreover, ASEAN has been able to grow because its member states offer cheap labour and possess abundant natural resources that attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into their countries. Japan is “ASEANS largest source country…with an FDI stock of $180 billion” and the rationale behind this FDI into ASEAN is because they have “extensive production networks and supply chains through out Asia” (Kawai, Thuzar and Hayton, 2016). Therefore it is sensible for Japanese MNC’s to set up in an ASEAN member country because they are able to capitalise not only on the efficient production links but also the free trade zones and cater to the demands of the other ASEAN members. Further, the EU accounted for “24,989.9” see appendix i. (ASEAN, n.d.). This is because the EU outsources their manufacturing chains to the East where it will be more cost effective, as there is not only cheap labour but also highly efficient manufacturing processes in the ASEAN countries. Hence it is clear that ASEAN has been able to grow because inflows of FDIs and MNCs create more employment and as incomes within these countries increase, as does consumer demand. This leads to higher trade volumes and higher output/GDP thus allowing ASEAN to grow.

However it is debatable if these trends of FDI into ASEAN will continue into the future. In the recent past FDI into Africa has been unprecedented with a “65 per cent increase in capital investment in 2014 … the number of FDI projects in the continent rose 6 per cent.” (Fingar, 2015). The rationale behind this recent shift is associated with the vast pools of natural resources that many African nations ow`n such as diamonds, lithium and copper. This makes it a favourable venue for FDI and is consolidated with the availability of low cost workers. Thus it is clear that FDI patterns change over time and is not always reliable to be exceedingly high into a particular country or group of countries.

On the other hand it is important to take into consideration the challenges ASEAN may face if it were to consider expanding in the future. One such challenge is the uncertain political climate most ASEAN countries face that leads to instability within. For example in Thailand the “army chief …declared himself the prime minister “ (Shaffer, 2015) and in Malaysia the Prime Minister “has brought an expansion of repressive laws, multiplying human rights abuses and curbs on media freedoms” (The Guardian, 2016). The evidence portrays that an unstable political climate within a country can be destructive because there is no good governance to steer an economy towards success. This means implementation of incorrect policies can lead to lower than expected GDP growth and thereby causing the success of ASEAN to be undermined and therefore this may pose a challenge to it from future expansion. Similarly, with regards to political instability we can associate Cambodia that was “ranked the worst performing country in Southeast Asia” (Keo, 2013) when it came to the Transparency Index. There may be cases of misappropriation of public funds either to the private sector or to the pockets of the governing elite. In essence the funds used for developing the economy and infrastructure are no longer used for that purpose and may stunt growth rates in countries like Cambodia. Due to the above it is likely to pose a challenge to ASEAN, as it may fear stunt growth rates if it offers other countries membership, where these countries could have unstable political climates as well.

Another encounter ASEAN faces before it expands is the need for structural transformation in several member countries before it offers member ship to others. There is the need to deindustrialise i.e a move from the secondary sector to the tertiary sector. In Philippines the industrial sector “accelerated to 5.5 per cent from 5.4 per cent posted last year… the agricultural sector accelerated to 1.6 per cent from 0.6 per cent” it is also important to acknowledge “the services sector which grew by 5.6 per cent” (Philippine Statistics Authority, 2015). Although countries like Philippines are expanding their tertiary sector there is much more to do be done to expand this sector in their economy. They can make use of their natural attributes and promote tourism on a larger scale in order to enhance the service sector. This is where the challenge lays for ASEAN, it cannot expand further until these structural changes take place and most of their economies develop into a tertiary sector dominant economy. When this takes place these countries will face a higher GDP and their success can be enjoyed by ASEAN as well.

Furthermore, ASEAN faces the challenge of being over dependent on the Chinese economy. “China was the largest individual trading partner (14 per cent share of ASEAN trade)”(Salidjanova and Koser-Weser, 2015) in 2013. This clearly depicts that for ASEAN, China is its biggest import and export partner. The above-mentioned dependence however is not going to benefit ASEAN in the long run in time where China faces economic adversity. “The Chinese economy grew by 6.9% in 2015… slowest growth in a quarter of a century.” (BBC, 2016). In light of this evidence, in times of falling growth and falling income levels demand for ASEAN exports is likely to fall. This will adversely affect the trade balance ASEAN has with China and persistent trade deficits can lead to the slow down of ASEAN economies. Therefore if ASEAN is to expand its membership it ought to reduce its dependence with China as it may impact the ASEAN economy negatively.

Moreover, ASEAN faces a challenge of having too many non-tariff barriers and there is the call to remove them if other countries are to gain access to ASEAN. Non-tariff barriers (NTB’s) refer to trade barriers that are not of tariff origin and usually refer to standards and regulations. Compliance of NTB’s “entails additional costs…(and) disadvantage foreign firms that have a different set of standards”. (Asian Development Bank, 2013). This puts most countries at a disadvantage because subject to these NTB’s their goods become more expensive as they reach the ASEAN market and demand for these imports are likely to be lower as ASEAN consumers prefer cheaper domestic products. The impact to ASEAN will be negative because trade diversification will not take place and other countries may set up similar NTB’s as a form of retaliation. In turn this could result in the fall in the growth rates of ASEAN if demand for their exports fall drastically. Therefore their very stringent NTB’s pose a challenge for ASEAN to expand further and if this is to be considered a viable option their NTB’s should be more lax.

Overall as a regional bloc it is evident that ASEAN needs to adopt a set of structural policies if it hopes to over come the challenges it faces and expand further. Over time it has been able to grow thus far due to the resilience and corporation provided by its member states. As a bloc it has the potential to grow further as South East Asia is becoming a dominant player in the global arena. Although, ASEAN has reached great heights the future is uncertain. This can be attributed to internal divisions and the fact that the international system is constantly changing may pose a challenge to the growth of ASEAN.

By Hashila Fernando


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Hughes, H and B Woldekidan. “The Emergence of the Middle Class in ASEAN Countries.” ASEAN Economic Bulletin 11, no. 2 (November 1994): 139–49. Accessed August 10, 2016. doi:10.2307/25770536.
HV, V, F Thompson, and O Tonby. “Understanding ASEAN: Seven Things You Need to Know.” May 2014. Accessed August 10, 2016.
Jalilian, H and J Weiss. “Foreign Direct Investment and Poverty in the ASEAN Region.” ASEAN Economic Bulletin 19, no. 3 (December 2002): 231–53. Accessed August 10, 2016. doi:10.2307/25773736.
Kawai, M, M Thuzar, and B Hayton. ASEAN’s Regional Role and Relations with Japan. n.p., 2016.
Keo, P, T. “Corruption in Cambodia?” December 10, 2013. Accessed August 10, 2016.
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“INCLINED” not “PRO”: Debunking the cacophony on D.S’s “pro-west” Foreign Policy


D.S Senanayake, the first prime minister of independent Ceylon (Sri Lanka) has often been termed as “pro-western” in his foreign policy. The reasons that writers, historians and scholars articulate to prove this point is the close relationship that he maintained with the British on economic, defensive and ideological grounds as well as the relative distance he maintained with the socialist leaning Nehru of India, the Repressive Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao of China since 1949.

In an article1 recently published online, I attempted to disprove this impression by exposing the “Friendship with All, Enmity with None” “middle path” policy that D.S Senanayake followed and advocated for; which was incidentally, similar to the one that the present president Maithripala Sirisena sketches.1

However due to the widespread incongruous belief that D.S Senanayake’s  foreign policy was “pro-western” I have undertaken the task of rewriting an interpretation that challenges the predisposed pre-conceptualized understanding of his foreign policy. In this article I hope to first deconstruct some of the arguments leveled to “prove” D.S Senanayake’s “pro-west” foreign policy and to expose the reasons as to why he took such a course of action. I conclude with the position that his foreign policy was the best course of action to take under the circumstances and was logical and coherent as against being merely “pro-western”. To begin, the terminological difference between “pro” and “inclined” needs to be dealt with.

In the context of this article “pro” is defined as being predisposed in supporting or embracing a certain course of action/behavior, without a factor or variable which pushes one towards that course. Thus a “pro” policy towards something would not need a factor externally or internally (in the context of a country) to influence one to follow a course of action or implement a policy; but instead arise from ones desire to pursue that policy because one wishes to. On the other hand an “inclined” policy towards something would be a result of external or internal variables which have a sizeable impact on the final decision that one takes. Thereby a factor or variable, significantly outside ones control would influence ones decision and/or attitude towards it which makes one inclined to follow a certain course of action or policy for the better interest of the country.

To articulate this difference in a simple example; one could say that India was inclined to follow a nuclear strategy in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s after its regional power China exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1964. Thus, India was not “pro” nuclear but “inclined” towards the development of “nuclear” power due to the nuclear capability of its regional rival China.

D.S. Senanayake although “inclined” towards the British due to many different variables was not “pro”-British and to suggest that he was so is, I believe not entirely accurate. He faced many issues and problems both before the British gave him the reigns of the country and even after obtaining ‘power’ from the British in the post independent phase.

As Mendis mentions: “to Sri Lanka the attainment of independence had been a bloodless victory in contrast to its predecessors and many to come… Sri Lanka it was the sequel to several decades of political development in a pattern of constitutional evolution which in some respects marked it out as a model colony.”2

Sri Lanka in contrast to India did not “fight” for independence in the same manner that the latter did. During this pre-independence phase led by D.S. Senanayake and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke we can observe discussions, recommendations, and letters of reappraisal being sent to the British to alter their position towards the country and proceed to grant dominion status. The islands’ relationship with Britain was, as a consequence close and cordial.3 However this did not guarantee the independence of the island. Although the ‘defense base’ idea was forwarded by D.S in the early 1940’s to thwart the threat of Japan during that period of time, it probably became a requirement to fulfill, by D.S Senanayake before the granting of independence. Some writers consider, “The defense agreement (as) an integral part of the independence package.”4 While other foreign policy academics have pointed out the same by stating that:

“It was presumably on the basis of the offer of defense and logistical facilities for Britain in the island that it was possible to clinch the deal for the immediate grant of full independence much earlier than intended before.”5

Thus D.S Senanayake may well have been influenced to adopt this defense agreement signed in November 11th 1947 (which came into effect upon independence) as one of the prerequisites and preconditions to independence.

Furthermore the lack of an effective tri-force was deeply felt in the country. Somasiri Devendra of the Sri Lankan Navy writes:

“Although the forces had to look after both external and internal threats it would have been impossible for it to meet any external threats for many years to come. The government therefore signed a defense agreement with Britain for that country to provide us a ‘safety net’ against external threats. The external threat was largely from communist countries and to a lesser extent from India.”6

D.S Senanayake also advocated for the need of the defensive treaty on similar grounds by uttering the words: ‘I cannot accept the responsibility of being prime minister unless I am provided with the means of defense.’7

Another reason may have been his sense of fear concerning declarations made by Indian scholars and members of parliament with regard to Sri Lanka, the Trincomalee harbor and the Indian Ocean. On the one hand, K.M. Panikkar in his book ‘India and the Indian Ocean’ propounded the idea of strategic unity of India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, as one of the pre-requisites to a realistic policy of Indian defense. The conviction that “Independent India inherited a body of British strategic doctrine developed for the defense of the British Indian Empire as the basis for its own strategic theory” 8 may have augmented D.S Senanayake’s sense of apprehension at the inception of Sri Lanka’s independence. Such accounts were compounded by the naval activities taking place in the southern part of India. If, as professor Amal Jayewardene indicates, India believed in the “strategic indivisibility of the subcontinent”9 then the possibility of India adopting total control of “oceanic space” in the Indian Ocean becomes an all too frightening reality; and especially so, at the time of independence.

Fears of Indian expansionism and the possibility of Sri Lanka falling within India’s defense perimeter were ignited when Indian congressmen spoke-albeit lightly-of a federation incorporating India and Ceylon. Panikkar’s writings on the geo strategic significance of the Trincomalee harbor to India likewise, induced fears in Ceylon. Due to the islands geo strategic position and the presence of the Trincomalee harbor one can assume that India saw the island as its Achilles heel if it were to be attacked.

Although one cannot observe tensions, rivalries or enmity between the two countries a certain sense of “political aloofness”10 prevailed. This “political aloofness” may have increased the threat perceptions from the activities and statements by the islands closest geographical regional power-India-during that period of time. Herbert fisher argued that “small states seek to offset their weakness by association of alliance with other powers great and small.”11 Thus the prime ministers foreign policy which was “inclined” towards the British may have been a natural reaction to the threat perceptions he had felt from India. This is not reflective of a “pro” British foreign policy but an “inclined” foreign policy towards the British due to the existence of variables out of his control in the geo-politics of the region.

The need to keep trade lines open and continue Ceylon’s economic development was also placed high on the national interests during that time. “D.S Senanayake knew from experience during the Second World War how necessary it was to keep Ceylon’s sea and air bases free from obstruction in order to bring in the essential imports like food stuffs, without which the people would starve. Nearly one half of all food consumed was imported, one half of Ceylon’s rice was from abroad, 99% of curry stuff, pulse, and dried fish important for curries and 100% of wheat and sugar were also purchased abroad.”12

This attests yet again to the need to develop friendly ties with a country that Sri Lanka can trust; in order to strengthen and develop its military and naval fleet as well as protect the country if an invasion was to take place from a regional power. Such variables may have been decisive in shaping the foreign policy of our country during that period of time. One cannot forget that the Portuguese developed and expanded their influence to the south Asian region via a “blue water strategy” “where sea power was to be the instrument of commercial supremacy”13 and the possibility of the Indians doing the same once the British left the region may have played out in D.S Senanayake’s mind. Merely reflecting upon the decisions he took instead of examining the reasons why he undertook such decisions has resulted in a myopic outlook of his foreign policy. Upon closer reexamination one can without doubt claim that his policies did not seem to be predisposed towards the British but are instead leaning towards the British due to regional and extra regional tensions and mistrust as well as the internal fear of the rise of communist parties in domestic elections.

Sri Lanka not only took arrangements to lessen the threat perception of India but also took action to reduce the communist threat as well. The Colombo plan adopted in 1950 “was a kind of variant of the Marshall plan in Europe, as the chief strategy of the participants of the conference to meet the communist threat…”14 D.S was extremely sensitive to the communist activity which had a strong base both externally – in the north, north east Asia (with the presence of the soviet union and china respectively) – as well as internally with the rise of the communist parties within the democratic framework of the Sri Lankan election process. D.S looked towards economic and security integration through the Colombo plan but failed to continue this task due to his untimely death in 1952.

The D.S Senanayake government’s relationship with the commonwealth has also been cited by some as reason to show the prime ministers “pro-west” foreign policy. At the very inception of the country’s independence the prime minister sought to be a member of the commonwealth alongside India and Pakistan. The reason for such behavior is understandable in the context of not being part of the United Nations till 1955. International recognition is one of the foremost essentials of a state and being part of the United Nations would effectively accomplish this need; but not being granted entrance to the UN due to the soviet veto resulted in the need to closely integrate Ceylon with the Commonwealth. The commonwealth thereby not only ensured our recognition as a sovereign country equal in terms with India and Pakistan, the larger of our neighboring states, but also became a defense strategy as an effective guarantee that the island if invaded would constitute a violation of international law and the territorial sovereignty of a state recognized by the world. Moreover, “D.S Senanayake was convinced that the commonwealth had no expansionist ideas and that its one ambition and desire was to preserve and maintain peace in the world.”15

Another source of criticism is leveled at the external affairs agreement with the British signed by D.S Senanayake in 1947 which came into effect on the date of independence. However, W. M Karunadasa aptly discloses the rational reasons for such actions:

“What is more important in the external affairs agreement was the opportunity it afforded Sri Lanka to be represented abroad, through the good offices of Britain. This assistance benefited Sri Lanka in two respects. Firstly Sri Lanka did not possess the necessary apparatus to conduct efficient diplomatic relations at the time of independence; secondly, she had not sufficient economic resources to be spent on establishing diplomatic missions in many countries.”16

Thus the external affairs agreement with the British, similar to the defense agreement and the act of joining the commonwealth reveals a rational decision which shows the “inclination” of the foreign policy towards the British due to considerations relating to security and economic affairs.

Some writers have stated that the very act of recognizing the People’s Republic of China in 1950 immediately after the British proceeded to do so re-emphasize that Ceylon was “guarded and guided by the British.”17

Professor Shelton Kodikara believes that: “Ceylon recognized the people’s republic of china (PRC) on 5th January 1950 and simultaneously terminated her relations with the Chinese nationalist government (because) The UK  had accorded recognition to the new communist regime on the same day, and it would appear that Ceylon’s recognition policy was largely influenced by the attitude of the United Kingdom… granting early recognition to China, therefore, Ceylon was merely following Britain’s lead on the question.”18

 I challenge this notion because Ceylon had little to gain besides showing that it is following British guidelines to the word. On the other hand Ceylon had in 1949 opposed the colonialistic practices of the Netherlands in Indonesia and had even disallowed Dutch ships to dock in Ceylon. This action would not be a reassuring move to the British and would naturally showcase Ceylon’s independent course of foreign policy behavior. If one was to state that Ceylon recognized the PRC simply to follow the actions of the British, even if it did not materially benefit the island, then how could one portray the action to not allow Dutch ships to dock in Ceylon? I believe that Ceylon recognized the PRC because D.S Senanayake might have had the understanding that the PRC would one day become a market source of Ceylonese exports. Indeed his immediate successor Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and R.G. Senanayake initiated the rubber rice pact of 1952 which was one of the longest running south-south agreements in the history of the world; brought into existence in the same year of D.S Senanayake’s untimely death.

However for all of the reasons outlined above, his go-to choice was the British. He chose the British as the closest ally to Ceylon because:

  1. He understood that Britain no longer had expansionist aims in the Indian Ocean.
  2. He knew that the British naval force would be a deterrent factor if India was to directly or indirectly influence Sri Lanka’s foreign policy making (thus maybe a minor balance of power was at play in D.S Senanayake’s mind).
  3. He knew some of the British parliamentarians and hence he had an understanding of their attitude towards the region of south Asia.
  4. And lastly Sri Lanka had close trade and economic relationships with Britain and this would only be a further strengthening of an existing friendship.”19

Thus, D.S Senanayake chose an extra regional power – the British – as Ceylon’s closest ally and his policy was carried out by his two successors up until 1956. As the prime minister elucidated in a speech given to the BBC in 1951: “A world at peace is therefore her (Ceylon’s) first and foremost need, the world’s goodwill next, and then some timely and appropriate assistance if it can get it.”20

Indeed, it was his decision to pick the United Kingdom as the country’s closest “friend” but this decision was the outcome of many variables both internal and external; and one cannot pass a judgment to state that it was entirely his natural disposition towards the British that became the sole factor in making the foreign policy decisions of the country. He was therefore not “pro-west” but “inclined” to the west. In the face of many problems and challenging circumstances he sought a closer relationship with the UK but the factors behind his actions are equally if not more important to consider.

The words of Mendis are I believe a fitting end to my article:

With little knowledge of foreign affairs but great understanding of its principles he (D.S Senanayake) had steered his country through the dangerous shoals near the shore when setting out on the voyage of independence. As the captain of that ship he deserved the place accorded to him by his people as the father of our nation. 21

Shakthi De Silva.


  1. Silva, S. D. (2016, August 04). “Friendship With All, Enmity With None”: An Assessment of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy In The Times of DS Senanayake and Maithripala Sirisena. Retrieved August 14, 2016, from
  2. Mendis, Vernon L. B. Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, from Earliest times to 1965. (p. 355) Dehiwala, Sri Lanka: Tisara Prakasakayo, 1983. Print.
  3. For more information see: Jennings, Sir Ivor. The Road to Temple Trees: Sir Ivor Jennings and the Constitutional Development of Ceylon: Selected Writings. Ed. Harshan Kumarasingham. Colombo: Center for Policy Alternatives, 2015. Print.
  4. Siriwardena, L. (1992). Internal dynamics in the evolution of Sri Lankan defense policy. In G. Keerawella (Author) & P. V. Jayasekera (Ed.), Security dilemma of a small state (pp. 236-237). New Delhi, India: South Asian.
  5. Mendis, V. L. (1983). Foreign relations of Sri Lanka, from earliest times to 1965 (p.363) Dehiwala, Sri Lanka: Tisara Prakasakayo.
  6. DEVENDRA, S. (2015). The NAVY IN SRI LANKA 1937-1972. (p. 185) Sri Lankan Navy.
  7. HULUGALLE, H. A. (1975). The life and times of Don Stephan Senanayake. (p. 201) M.D Gunasena.
  8. Kodikara, S. U. (1979). Strategic factors in interstate relations in South Asia (p. 13). Canberra, Australia: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.
  9. Jayewardene, A. (1992). Changes in power structure and security perceptions in the south Asian sub system. In P. V. Jayasekera (Ed.), Security dilemma of a small state (p. 291). New Delhi, India: South Asian.
  10. Kodikara, S. U. (1965). Indo-Ceylon relations since independence. (p. 37) Colombo: Ceylon Institute of World Affairs.
  11. Warnapala, W. W. (1992). Political processes and aspects of national integration and security in Sri Lanka. In P. V. Jayasekera (Ed.), Security dilemma of a small state (p. 147). New Delhi, India: South Asian.
  13. Jayasekera, P. V. (1992). Changing role of Sri Lanka in British defense strategy in the Indian Ocean. In P. V. Jayasekera (Ed.), Security dilemma of a small state (p. 67). New Delhi, India: South Asian.
  14. Kodikara, S. U. (1992). Defense and security perceptions of Sri Lankan foreign policy decision makers: A post independence overview. In P. V. Jayasekera (Ed.), Security dilemma of a small state (p. 211). New Delhi, India: South Asian.
  16. Karunadasa, W. M. (1997). Sri Lanka and non-alignment: A study of foreign policy from 1948 to 1982 (p. 19). Dehiwela: Image Lanka
  17. Nissanka, H. S. (1976). The foreign policy of Sri Lanka under S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike: A turning point in the history of a newly independent country in Asia (p. 3). Colombo: Dept. of Information, Govt. of Sri Lanka.
  18. Kodikara, S. U. (1982). Foreign policy of Sri Lanka: A Third World perspective. (p. 59) Delhi: Chanakya Publications.
  19. Silva, S. D. (2016, August 04). “Friendship with All, Enmity with None”: An Assessment of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy in the Times of DS Senanayake and Maithripala Sirisena. Retrieved August 14, 2016, from
  20. Kodikara, S. U., & Misra, K. P. (2004). Prime Minister D.S Senanayake’s speech delivered over BBC London – January 1951. In A. Jayawardane (Ed.), Documents on Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, 1947-1965 (p. 1). Colombo: Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.
  21. Mendis, V. L. (1983). Foreign relations of Sri Lanka, from earliest times to 1965 (p. 392). Dehiwala, Sri Lanka: Tisara Prakasakayo

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