Both Pakistan and China are happy with the victory of Lt Col Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, secretary of defence in the previous government of Sri Lanka, in the recent election. Rajapaksa defeated his rival Sajith Premadasa. Sajith was the candidate of the United National Party (UNP), the party of the current Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe.
In the Pakistani media, the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is being touted as a setback for India and good news for Pakistan that sees Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as an ally of India because in 2016, he had boycotted the South Asian Cooperation Organization (SAARC) meeting hosted by Pakistan.
In September, Pakistan was supposed to welcome the Sri Lankan cricket team but after the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s Office issued an alert for the terrorist attack, a crisis started to mount on the tour. After all the efforts of Pakistan, the Sri Lankan cricket authorities reviewed the security situation again and only then sent their team to Pakistan. Ranil Wickramasinghe’s close proximity to India was being blamed for this stance of Sri Lanka in Pakistan.
A Pakistani Foreign Ministry official said Ranil Wickremesinghe was so close to India that his attitude towards Pakistan was always indifferent. Pakistani analysts say that, in view of his close proximity to the ruling party, India wanted to see Sajith Premadasa, who was the candidate of Wickremesinghe’s own party United National Party (UNP), as president. Pakistan wanted the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
A Pakistan Foreign Ministry official, on the condition of anonymity, said, “If Premadasa had won the election, it would have been a big tragedy for Pakistan. Premadasa was a choice not only of India but also of the western countries because of the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka.”
While China’s influence in southern Asia is likely to increase with the victory of Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately congratulated the winner on his victory in the presidential election of Sri Lanka. Minister. “But will not be happy with the results in India reality,” said the Pakistani official.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is considered pro-China and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa is likely to follow this path. India’s relations with the Rajapaksa family have not been very cordial, so the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is being said to be a setback for India.
Another Pakistani official said Rajapaksa’s victory was a positive development for Pakistan. The Rajapaksa brothers have been credited with ending the 26 years of civil war. When Gotabaya was the defence secretary, Pakistan helped in his operation against the Tamils.
Pakistan also congratulated the new president of Sri Lanka without delay. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in its statement, “The government and leadership of Pakistan warmly felicitate president-elect of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on his electoral victory as the seventh president of the country. Pakistan is confident that under his leadership, Sri Lanka will continue its journey towards prosperity and peace. The government of Pakistan expresses the resolve to further fortify fraternal ties and to take this vital partnership to a new level.”
President of Pakistan Arif Alvi congratulated the President of Sri Lanka for winning his election. However, some analysts say that the leadership change will not affect India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations very much. India is an important business and strategic partner for Sri Lanka and no leader gives importance to these aspects more than mutual coordination.
On Sri Lanka’s domestic front, however, people are attributing the electoral success of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the people’s longing for strong leadership — since the massacre of Christians in April — that would give Islamist terror a befitting reply. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s strongarm handling of LTTE, with Gotabaya Rajapaksa helming the defence affairs of Sri Lanka, gave the people that confidence in his leadership qualities. Analysts say if or when this aspect of Rajapaksa emerges stronger, the Islamic state of Pakistan may not like it.
A Buddhist-dominated country, Sri Lanka has witnessed high-strung backlash from the community against Muslims after a Buddhist radical monk echoed the sentiment of the majority that a Tamil Nadu-based Islamic organisation had inspired the local Islamist extremist group NTJ for carrying out the country’s worst terror attack on Easter Sunday.
The sentiment was so strong that two Muslim governors in Sri Lanka resigned after thousands of people, including majority Buddhist community monks, launched a protest in the pilgrim city of Kandy, demanding their sacking for allegedly supporting Islamist extremists responsible for the Easter suicide bombings. Now, the Rajapaksa brothers have emerged as the embodiment of that anti-Islamic sentiment in Sri Lanka while the regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa was never known to be anti-India. Pakistan is clearly reading too much into the electoral setback of the Wickremesinghe camp.