The primacy of International
It would be no exaggeration to say that International
Relations have been a much undervalued and even relatively
neglected academic discipline in this country over the decades.
While domestic politics have continuously delighted the majority
of Lankans, the same could not be said of interstate politics
which are at the heart of International Relations. International
affairs, generally speaking, have been tended to be treated with
some indifference and aloofness by sections of the local public
and they are not entirely to blame for this state of affairs.
The Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, Colombo,
and the University of Colombo have been in the forefront of
teaching International Relations in this country over the years
and hat’s off to them for sticking to this task with dogged
zeal, but one would have expected more and more seats of higher
learning to have taken on the discipline and to have taught it
with an exceptional sense of dedication over the years.
Arguably, it is this failure to teach the subject widely and
stimulatingly which accounts for the relative public disinterest
in the subject. But it is not our position that the general
public is possessed with an inherent tendency to reject the
discipline. It is simply that enough efforts have not been made
to teach the subject widely and stimulatingly.
There is bound to be a greater public interest in
International Relations at the current juncture when Sri Lanka
is faced, as perhaps never before, with issues of the thorniest
kind in the foreign policy sphere, but regardless of the
topicality of the field of International Relations, we believe
it would be in the national interest for the young and the old
of Sri Lanka to be exposed to the subject and any connected
discourse continuously and widely.
What we are advocating are seats of learning that would
research the subject insightfully and popularize it among the
public; through a participatory methodology. Right now, other
than the BCIS and the University of Colombo, which are into the
teaching of the subject in a major way, there are a handful of
other institutions that teach the subject to some select
sections of society, such as, those in the diplomatic and public
services. However, what we should also aim at bringing into
being are institutions that teach the discipline to the masses
of the people in a stimulating way, thereby triggering a public
discourse on issues in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, in the manner
in which domestic politics is discussed and debated today.
These reflections gain their importance from the
consideration that foreign policy issues too must be publicly
debated. This in turn will enable foreign policy to reflect
public aspirations more fully, besides enabling the local public
to discourse on foreign relations with a higher degree of
Foreign affairs should cease being a somewhat distant subject
and be brought closer to the people in these times when Sri
Lanka is facing some tough challenges on the foreign policy
front. The BCIS has succeeded a great deal in this venture,
hopefully other institutions would follow suit.
While some Western powers, their media backers and sections
of their publics have got into the act of vilifying Sri Lanka,
there are a host of issues on which the local public needs to be
further enlightened to enable them to take-up Sri Lanka’s cause
in the public sphere and even in the ‘Councils of the World.’
This could be achieved only if the local public is exceptionally
knowledgeable and intellectually alert in foreign affairs.
Hence the need for an in depth and widely spread knowledge of
At this hour when an outrageous effort is being made by
sections of the world community to pillory Sri Lanka over its
inalienable right to defend its sovereignty and territorial
integrity, Sri Lanka’s legitimate interests must be clearly
understood and intelligently defended. A knowledgeable local
public would prove a huge boon in this great enterprise.
International Relations must be brought closer to the people’s