The ‘China Factor’ in post-war Sri Lanka
Malathi DE ALWIS
On May 18th 2009, Sri Lanka officially declared the end of a thirty year civil war fought between Sri Lankan government forces (GoSL) and Tamil militants, namely the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Such a sea change in the life of this tiny island nation has come at a tremendous cost. Not just in terms of the dead, on both sides, but also those displaced, dispossessed, maimed, traumatized and made bereft. While the de-mining, re-settlement and development of the war-torn regions seems to have been embraced with gusto by the Sri Lankan government, the deeper and more enduring psychic wounds of a war torn nation sadly remain unaddressed.
It is clear that a military resolution of the ethnic conflict would not have been possible without the pivotal power play which ensued between two regional giants --the quiet dominance of China and the 'hands off’ approach of India, particularly during the past three years. Chinese aid, de-linked from human rights conditionalities, included military hardware which was crucially buttressed by extensive loans and investments in infrastructural projects which considerably plumped dwindling foreign currency reserves, and significant diplomatic support at international fora. These varied and disparate forms of interventions contribute to what I have termed the ‘China Factor’, the unfolding of which during and after the war in Sri Lanka, will be discussed here along with reflections on what it augurs for a new global and regional order.
Malathi de Alwishas a Phd in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and teaches in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo. Her recent publications include the co-edited volumes Tsunami in a Time of War: Aid, Activism and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka and Aceh (South Focus, 2009) and Feminists Under Fire: Exchanges Across War Zones (Between the Lines, 2003). She is currently working on mourning and memorialization in the wake of disaster and atrocity.