Despite the perceived bonhomie when he was in power, the Rajapaksa camp, now constituting the self-styled Joint Opposition (JO), is high on anti-India rhetoric, with each passing day. In the process, the dividing line between the group’s domestic political compulsions and foreign policy postures is getting increasingly blurred. If anything, India-baiting has become a part and parcel of the JO’s political attacks and protests against the ruling Maithiri-Ranil duo nearer home.
The JO’s ‘Kandy-Colombo march’ is the latest incident, where speakers from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa downwards were critical of the Government’s efforts to fast-track negotiations on the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with the northern neighbour. National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, once the spokesman of the anti-India JVP parent, has threatened national-level protests if the ETCA was signed.
The JO protests seem to be going beyond the urgency to retain constituencies and broad-basing them. Just now, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) is in the forefront of anti-ETCA protests and confabulations. But the Rajapaksa camp protests against India go beyond the ETCA, and occasionally relates to the ‘China factor’, where its sympathies are very well known — and acknowledged too.
In context, Mahinda’s brother and one-time Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has upbraided the Maithiri-Ranil Government for ‘acknowledging’ Indian pressure to cancel the China-funded multi-billion Colombo Port City project. Other JO leaders were quick to join in, if they had not beat Gotabaya Rajapaksa to it.