Crying for Tamils in Lanka, what about Muslims in Syria?

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Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said on Thursday the Centre should ask the Tamil Nadu government not to interfere in New Delhi's policy towards Sri Lanka and ensure that the Sinhalese people residing in the state are assured of protection.

Swami recently advised the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksha, to try to effect a national reconciliation in the island nation so that the continuing civil tension could be brought to an end. He criticised Vaiko's protest against Rajapaksha's visit to Madhya Pradesh later this month.

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Fair enough. Some political parties are going on an overdrive to follow a tit-for-tat policy against the Sri Lankans, justifying their targetting of innocent citizens of the island-nation as a retaliation against the Lankan government's excesses against the Tamils. But why only the regional political parties? The principal opposition, BJP, was trying to play safe by saying it did not invite Rajapaksha and suspected that its leader Sushma Swaraj was being targetted in an effort to help the Congress-led Centre, which was accused of helping the Sri Lankan government in its fight against the LTTE.

The Tamil issue has been clearly messed up by the poor leadership of the Centre and the populist political parties have reaped the benefits by even putting the country's foreign policy priorities in jeopardy.

Politics for narrow gains?

What capacity do the ethnicity-centred political parties have to settle a serious problem like state atrocity in Sri Lanka and the Tamil's woes? Packing off a football team or targetting innocent pilgrims or opposing the visit by a foreign head of the government --- what will these ultimately lead to? I found even a section of the 'enlightened' civil society shouting in favour of these steps. There have been calls to boycott Sri Lanka till all Tamils get justice! Such idea looks totally illogical. The problem could spiral into a bigger threat in no time but hardly there's a place for such logic.

Illogical demands

It actually just exposes the 'big brother' mentality that we possess as Indians vis-a-vis our smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka. What will boycotting Sri Lanka result in? Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa has been speaking in favour of economic sanction. This is an utterly suicidal recommendation. What does a regional leader like Jayalalithaa want? The Centre bows before such one-sided view and allow the national interest perish in the crucial Indian Ocean area?

Coercive diplomacy doesn't work that way

What Sri Lanka has done in the last few decades vis-a-vis the Tamil minorities is definitely not right. The government of that country must learn how a multi-cultural state is governed by taking a cue from India. Several states in the world have faced serious backlashes whenever they chose not to acknowledge the identity of the minority population. But that does not mean India can force a coercive diplomacy and try to deliver justice to the Tamils and if it failed, the 'sentiments' in us give us the licence to treat them with vengeance.

India can not internalise Sri Lanka's problem

The Sri Lankan problem can not be considered as its own problem by India. The island-nation is a sovereign country with its own domestic rules and governance and whatever it perpetrates, conceived as a terrorist act against the Tamils, no country can interfere into its domestic affairs. Yes, there is surely a concern for human rights violation. But that is not a problem only with Sri Lanka and several other countries across the globe.

It is a task of the international community to take a stand on the crisis and not an exclusive task of the Indian government. It is utterly unfortunate that some people are saying that the Tamils are being given a second-class preference by the Indian government which is accused of aiding Sri Lanka more. If that is the case, thenwhy do the dissatisfied Tamils enjoy all facilities under the country's constitution? And if these forces are so much touched, why don't we see similar cries against the massive brutality in Syria or atrocities against minorities in Pakistan or Bangladesh or the Chinese action in Tibet?

International law for fishermen's issue

The issue of fishermen being killed is undoubtedly a serious issue. But again, this problem is subject to international law and maritime skirmishes. India and Sri Lanka are geographically so dangerously close that violating each other's water is bound to happen. The territorial water issue can be solved with the help of observers just as the Sri Lankan government-LTTE conflicts were monitored by Norwegian authorities in the past.

Two reasons encouraged the regional parties

Marginalisation of the Tamil is not today's problem. These regional parties are fuelling ethnic sentiments mainly because of two reasons. First, an apparently paralysed central government led by an ineffective leadership has led to such a logjam that it is an easy ploy today to attack it and gain popular support, more comfortably if the issue is an ethnic one.

Second, those political forces who are attacking Sri Lankans indiscriminately have selected this particular time for it has been a season of muscle flexing. We have seen Assam burning over the so-called issue of immigration, which was soon followed by a violence in Mumbai. Then we saw scores of northeastern people fleeing Bangalore and other cities in western and southern India and then the MNS chief, Raj Thackeray, issuing threats against Biharis and Upites. The political parties, particularly those against the Congress, have found this time an ideal time to reap more from the exclusivist agenda.

But while the problems in the northeast and Maharashtra are restricted to domestic politics, the Sri Lanka-Tamil face-off has a great potential to undermine the national interest.

Centre has failed to follow a consistent policy

It is undoubtedly the Centre which is responsible, more than the angry Tamil voice, for letting this situation evolve. We have seen how an interfering policy by New Delhi in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s led to the brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and ever since, the India-Sri Lanka ethnic issues have stood complicated.

Hate politics will breed more hatred

Today, once the LTTE have been decimated, there is a big vacuum as far as the cornered Tamils are concerned. If the pro-LTTE voices still remaining in fringes of the southern Indian state succeed in finding a patronage in the 'Tamil Elam' of the local parties, then it will undoubtedly fuel the anti-India forces in Colombo and bolster the Sinhala chauvinism. In such a situation, it will lead to clash of nationalities and invariably push Sri Lanka closer to the anti-Indian orbit, centred mainly around Beijing. Economic embargo won't help India's cause and alienate the strategic location of the Indian Ocean further.

We can only create pressure on Sri Lanka, can't force it

It is high time that we try other diplomatic means to create pressure on Sri Lanka and not indulge in mindless violence against innocent citizens. We can only try to enforce an international pressure on the Rajapaksha regime to effect reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We can offer economic and other development so that political cooperation also finds a way out but then again, the angry voices will consider it 'helping a murderer'.

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