What will TN govt's excesses against Sri Lankans bring?

Written by: Shubham Ghosh
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While the Congress-led UPA government is being attacked over domestic issues like innumerable scams and communal flare-ups, the Sri Lanka-Jayalalithaa face-off down south shows its foreign policy failure and how that can go a long way in messing up with another country's domestic affairs. The poor leadership shown by South Block in dealing with the crucial Sri Lankan case has not only allowed provincial leaders hijack it to their own benefits but is also creating such an international situation where the country's national interests will find itself seriously threatened.

Tough stance will worsen situation

Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa has sent a Sri Lankan football team back, suspended an officer of Chennai's Jawaharlal Nehru indoor stadium for allowing the Lankan team to play in the match and her moves found close support when Tamil groups opposed Lankan pilgrims from visiting Tamil Nadu. Sri Lankan tourists were even attacked in the southernmost state of India.

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It was said that the excesses committed by the Lankan army against the now-decimated LTTE some years ago and the brutal killing of mostly Tamil innocents had hurt 'sentiments' of Indian Tamils. Very soon, we may also hear the AIADMK chief will do a Shiv Sena by threatening Sri Lankan cricketers not to enter this country.

Her political rival, the DMK is no less innocent and has called to revive the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO). Although Jayalalithaa has clearly outwitted DMK chief Karunanidhi, who has been plagued by serious family scams, in the current projection of 'saviours of Tamil sentiment', but it was the DMK that had pressurised the Indian government to vote in favour of US-backed resolution on censuring Sri Lanka for its poor human rights record.

Following Jayalalithaa's tough talks, the Sri Lankan government too has warned its citizens against visiting Tamil Nadu and the situation has intensified. If Jayalalithaa decides to stick to her firm stance, the Sri Lankan government will also do the same and it will only add to the Tamils' woes in the island nation.

Is politics of hatred the identity of today's India?

The increasingly weakening central authority in India is evident from the way New Delhi has been messing up at all fronts. The Tamil episode was preceded a few days ago by deadly instances of violence in Assam and the after-effects of the incident in the form of violence in Mumbai and mass exodus of the northeastern people from the southern and western parts of the country.

The opposition parties slammed the ruling party for allowing infiltration of Bangladesh, which was for them, the actual reason behind the Assam flare-up. The slogan then was: "Drive away the Bangladeshi immigrants." And now, AIADMK is bent to put away Sri Lankans. In between, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray warned: "Throw out Biharis from Maharashtra."

How is India shaping up today? Regional leaders with little all-Indian appeal are deciding the future course of action for the nation while those at the Centre are looking helpless. Issues of ethnic incompatibility are being selectively and comfortably chosen by selfish party leaders to create a bigger problem for the nation. Northeastern people in far-off south are 'feeling threatened' for something that went wrong in Assam while ordinary Sri Lankans are being targetted for the majoritarian regime in that island-nation carried out wrong deeds in the past.

For narrow electoral gains?

According to Col. R Hariharan, a retired military intelligence specialist and who had served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka between 1987-90, there are four main issues in Jayalalithaa's Sri Lanka agenda and she wants New Delhi to work on them. They are: Holding a referendum for creating the Tamil Eelam, international action against Sri Lanka military and political leaders for alleged war crimes against Tamils, pressurise the Rajapaksha government to work towards a political solution to bring justice to Tamils and impose economic sanctions on Sri Lanka.

Jayalalithaa might be eyeing to strengthen her own electoral base by adopting the anti-Sri Lanka stance. In 2009, she tried to strengthen her image by playing the Tamil card (the LTTE was destroyed that year). Later, she protested the creation of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) saying it was eroding the states' powers in the Indian federal structure. These issues show that the AIADMK chief is actually aiming to attain the role of a king-maker after the 2014 elections as that could also bring her closer to the formation of the country's foreign policy, particularly vis-a-vis Sri Lanka.

But why would New Delhi abide by these recommendations and execute a kind of unilateral diplomacy? India after all, requires to maintain cordial relations with its immediate neighbours and not allow the south Asian ambiance turn into a hostile one. The international terror network against India has also included Sri Lanka in its route while China is always looking out for newer opportunities to encircle India and corner it in south Asia. If India is indeed granting training to military men from Sri Lanka, it should do it in a transparent way and not allow Tamil sentiments to get attached with it in a way which will lead to a bigger issue.

India's interest lies in good relations with Sri Lanka

New Delhi can not afford to go on a diplomatic offensive against Sri Lanka just because the country's government had committed a crime against the Tamils in the past. In that way, India should target US for the gurudwara attacks, Australia for the racist attacks and several other nations across the world whenever there is any case of backlash against Indians. Politicians in this country have a skillful understanding of how to win the trust of the people through rhetoric and populist measures and they don't waste a minute to grab the given opportunities with both hands.

In the past, we saw a former prime minister of India was brutally assassinated for pursuing immature and unclear policies vis-a-vis Sri Lanka. The unnecessary meddling in a foreign country and the consequent assassination complicated the India-Lanka ethnic issue but why do India really has to play with such a sensitive issue? If India has to look after all ethnic minorities, then it must also speak in favour of Pakistani Hindus, Bangladeshi Hindus, Myanmarese Rohingyas but is it possible to challenge the sovereignty of another nation? If Sri Lanka was a Muslim country or Tamils were maltreated in China, what would have been the Indian position? Why do we lack an objective approach?

This is high time that the selfish and short-sighted political leaders in the country are reined in before they cause an irreversible damage to the nation. New Delhi clearly lacks a balance in its approach towards Sri Lanka in the post-LTTE days and that leaves enough room for others to indulge in excesses.

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