Colombo lacks realpolitik strategy- Furuhovde
30 January 2006
reported in Tamilnet, 12 May 2006
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
"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
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
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
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
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."