Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sowing Seeds of Discontent in Success?

In May 2009, I had written a piece appreciating the coordinated approach the military and the civil administration had taken in Sri Lanka to tackle the menace of the LTTE.
I thought the manner in which the grand defeat of the LTTE was orchestrated was an ideal example for the Indian establishment, which is why I had titled the blog post as "The Fall of the Tiger - A Lesson for India".
But the way events have played out in Sri Lanka only go on to show that if the success is not managed, seeds of discontent leading to a potential disaster could be immediately sown.
The squabbles between former General of the Sri Lankan Army, Sarath Fonseka and the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa only show that success is not easy to manage, it's certainly more difficult than managing in a crisis.

It's all too easy to stand together in times of crisis. That's when you can see doomsday right in front of your eyes. It becomes a fight of survival, an existential fight. And you can't make it without standing together. You need each other to survive.

But success changes everything. Existence is no longer threatened. And egos take over reason. It becomes every man to himself, at least in the mind. Each individual sets out to achieve what his ego dictates.

That's precisely what happened in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa's actions against Fonseka were certainly a clear indication of an ingrained insecurity that successful politicians have. Rajapaksa is not the only politician like that.

The greatest political leaders have deeply ingrained insecurities. At home, the hugely successful Indira Gandhi was so terrified of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw following the 1971 war that she confronted the Field Marshal and asked him if he was plotting a coup. The witty Field Marshal replied "Don't you think I would be a worthy replacement for you, Madam Prime Minister? You have a long nose. So have I. But I don't poke my nose into other people's affairs."
The Russian case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is another example, where Vladmir Putin's insecurities were at work.

I am not trying to suggest that Sarath Fonseka's conduct following his resignation from the army is not questionable. He had been spilling beans on what transpired in the military campaign against the LTTE. That's not what is expected of a seasoned general.

The real risk for Sri Lanka would come in now. How Rajapaksa deals with Fonseka and other opponents will determine the destiny of Sri Lanka. If he's not careful, he may end up sowing seeds of discontent leading to another round of unrest, which is highly undesirable from India's perspective.

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