Feature Article

Colombo lacks realpolitik strategy- Furuhovde

[TamilNet, Friday, 12 May 2006, 04:32 GMT]
The present situation in Sri Lanka is mainly caused by Colombo's reluctant approach for a peace based on negotiations involving concessions. Central political players and its Military leadership still believe a military solution to the conflict is possible. This reflects a dangerous perception of reality and lacks a "Realpolitik strategic basis," required to handle Sri Lanka's war, wrote late Maj. Gen. (retd) Trond Furuhovde in a comment he wrote under the title "The troubled Sri Lanka" in Norwegian daily Adressa on January 30, a few days before Geneva-I talks. He touches on the geopolitical significance of the Sea route and the geographic location of the island Sri Lanka in his article.

Furuhovde's analysis that appeared on the Norwegian press follows:

Maj. Gen. (retd) Trond Furuhovde
Maj. Gen. (retd) Trond Furuhovde
Concessions are to be built on tolerance and equality, meaning that the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) must accept things which in principle it dislikes. Such concessions will be key to the outcome of the results in the negotiations that also rests on the state of security.

In Colombo, many political and military leaders still believe that a military defeat of the LTTE is possible and they can dictate a peace settlement to vanquished Tamils.

Because the war has changed character one must conclude, both politically and militarily, the war is fought on loose perceptions, avoiding critical questions and on unsound analyses.

Tamil Tigers, on the other hand, have organised their actions differently. They employ strategic dynamic thinking. The Tigers are able to adapt to the changes in a globalised world where the state apparatus is increasingly losing it's monopoly of power, and where "realpolitik" guides countries in charting strategies for political and military engagement .

Sri Lanka requires secure territorial borders and has comprehensive economic needs. Sri Lanka Government's ability and willlingness to work within a framework taking into account regional politic and military interests of the major powers, will be a major determinant in whether Sri Lanka will obtain assistance in its persecution of war.

The role of the Americans is dictated by their new strategy based on their changed interests in Asia. During 2004-05 America reduced its military presence in Japan and South Korea. To compensate for this they will now increase their influence in the Indian Ocean. China has increased its presence in these same oceans, as has India. The background for them all is the wish for control of the sea routes from the west, through the Malacca Strait into the South China Sea.

In this picture Sri Lanka with its geographic location takes a central place. The east coast of the island with the harbour city of Trincomalee and the Batticaloa lagoon offers extremely important sea-strategic possibilities both for the Indian Navy and the USA 5th fleet. This also forms the background for the improved military cooperation between USA and India, and adds to the more warmer political climate that has developed between these powers.

In this context, the role of Norway as a facilitator will be especially demanding. Amidst this political and military-strategic scenario there is humanitarian catastrophe, caused by the war and enhanced by the Tsunami-disaster. This tragedy caught the attention of the media and the international community and distracted focus away from the disasters of the war. A few politicians thought that tsunami issues are resolved, the conflict itself might be solved also.

They had clearly not understood that the realpolitik concept governing the warfare of the government and the interest of the major powers is based on power. This is in sharp contrast to their naive perception of a peaceful harmonisation of conflicting interests as a basis for an idealistic concept of assistance; naive because they do not consider the forces in the globalised situation in which Sri Lanka now finds itself.

In such a situation a facilitator must act not just proactively in relation to the parties but also act with a strategy to transform into a constructive co-partner for peace.

This is important in the concept chosen for the ceasefire agreement. This concept is based on the principle that none of the major powers and none of the major NGOs are directly involved in monitoring of the CFA or in the negotiations themselves.

This makes the ceasefire and the negotiation process unique in the sense that it is an important experiment kept outside the United Nation's security council.

"Collective national security" has worked well as a vision guiding the main strategy for the government. This is not unique for Sri Lanka. It is a well known concept that has inspired projects, for instance for UN.

The vision bases itself on unclear theory that it will lead to some form of stability. Meanwhile stability refers to politics and power, but in the social reality stability also has its roots in the economy and in the distribution of wealth.

With the Tamils, the concept of right to self-determination is equally forceful and problematic. The concept is based on the theory that every ethnic group should have its own state or territory. The problem is that ethnic groups are almost always mixed with other groups, and as such they rarely fit within natural borders that are easily defendable.

The right to self-determination concept, can also be seen as an expression of a political philosophy built on "self-confidence" with the ability and the will to be "independent." But as long as the Tamils do not control a political argument in the conflict relationship, but only a power argument, only matters that deter military element will be a key element in avoiding war.

The whole of this picture must be seen within the framework of an asymmetrical relationship. The asymmetry is not only tied to the military strategically situation, but is also tied to the demographic and political situation. This is due to the fact that asymmetry is not just caused by the possibilities and limitations in Sri Lanka, but also based in the international networks established on both sides of the conflict.

The work concerning this conflict is essential not just for Sri Lanka's future, but can also contribute significant experience to Norway in solving conflicts of our time.

Furuhovde was commissioned as Head of Mission of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in March 2002 and served from 2nd March 2002 to 6th March 2003.

In January 2003, he was replaced by Maj. Gen. Trygve Tellefsen. But later, he resumed as the SLMM Head in February 2004 following the "removal" of Maj. Gen. Tryggve Tellefsen when then Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunge, angered at Tellefsen's statements on providing legitimacy to LTTE's naval wing, declared Tellefsen as persona non grata.

Hagrup Haukland served as deputy until the current SLMM Head, Maj.Gen.Ulf Henricsson assumed duties in April 2006.


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