The case against Isolationism
Sri Lanka has just received a handsome bouquet from
the world community, which is, in a way, a foreign policy
triumph for this country, of considerable note. 'Sri Lanka has
achieved excellent results in its North-East rehabilitation and
resettlement programme and post-conflict economic
development....Sri Lanka should share these experiences with
other countries', John Ging, Response Division Director of the
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who was
in Sri Lanka on an official visit, was quoted by this newspaper
as saying yesterday.
While the UN official just quoted was giving Economic
Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa his positive impressions of
Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris was
engaging with a visiting British Parliamentary delegation which
was apparently here for an in-depth discussion of current local
In the latter meet, the visiting delegation was given a
comprehensive overview of what has been done by way of returning
the country to complete normalcy, by the state and its agencies.
In focus was the National Action Plan for the implementation of
the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation
These are times when a judicious and farsighted foreign
policy would prove most handy. Fortunately, the Lankan state has
chosen to remain engaged with the international community, and
very vibrantly so.
This is proving very beneficial because the world is seeing
for itself what Sri Lanka has been doing over the past three
years by way of North-East reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The world is in a position to see, as a result of Sri Lanka's
non-isolationist and Non-aligned foreign policy trajectory, that
much has been accomplished in terms of national rejuvenation
following the defeat of terrorism.
Without much fanfare and trumpeting, Sri Lanka has remained
open to a steady stream of visitors from abroad over the past
few years, despite some sections of the West seeking to
victimize her in some international bodies, and this aspect of
her foreign policy has enabled this country to achieve much in
the foreign relations sphere. It has been a quietly assertive
foreign policy intervention which enabled this country to win a
multitude of friends.
Even as we write this commentary, President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
we are told, has requested the visiting British Parliamentary
delegation to visit the North-East and to see for itself what
this country has achieved by way of national development.
The message is that visitors need to have the evidence of
their eyes on these matters rather than be passively receptive
to adverse propaganda unleashed against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's unflagging efforts to win more and more friends
in the developing world, with External Affairs Minister Prof.
G.L. Peiris leading from the front in this endeavour, is
entirely consistent with this central foreign policy thrust of
getting on board, more and more friends and well wishers who
could see for themselves Sri Lanka's accomplishments and comment
favourably on them to the world outside.
The upshot of these insights is that it would be foolish and
counter-productive to turn back the hands of time, as it were,
and seek isolation and insularity as a country. Unfortunately,
there are sections which advocate this policy line. Following it
would be disastrous because this country would, in that event,
court isolation and alienation from the rest of the world in a
most irrational fashion.
But it is credit-worthy that the state has chosen to do
otherwise and be engaged with the international community.
Engagement, does not translate into subjugation and this
important policy nuance needs to be kept in mind. Amity with the
world is not enslavement to it. Rather, it amounts to building
bridges with the polities and publics of the world, with the aim
of conducting constructive ties and informing them about where
we are getting as a country.