The latest crisis in the UPA following the announcement of the DMK to pull out of the ruling alliance over human rights violation in Sri Lanka is unveiling a new pattern in the national politics. This pattern establishes two things.
One, sub-nationalism has emerged as a defining force as a result of deepening of democracy in this country and second, the centralist force has weakened significantly. This is a victory for democracy but puts issues like national security under great stress.
Regional forces having a say in foreign policy issues
The DMK's threat and subsequent pulling out from the UPA might be a eye-wash for it is desperately trying to revive itself in Tamil Nadu politics where a leader like Jayalalithaa is currently calling all the shots. But the bigger pattern that is being set is how the regional parties are turning to cash in on foreign policy issues to make domestic political gains and the central government is playing a second-fiddle to their assertive role.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is another regional leader who made her voice heard in the foreign policy issues by creating a hurdle on the way to bilateral agreements between India and Bangladesh. New Delhi is yet to overcome the hurdle by taking Banerjee into confidence on the twin pacts on land border and Teesta water-sharing.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is another regional leader who stresses foreign affairs at public forums often.
This assertive regionalism or sub-nationalism has undoubtedly given birth to a new chapter in the nation's politics and the more the authority of the Centre weakens, the more there forces will dominate.
In the days of a strong central authority in India, only the Left parties were found to be making foreign subjects a part of its domestic political agenda but they were too limited to leave a national impact. But now, it is the tail which has started wagging the dog and not the other way round.
The point is: Such assertive voice by the regional leaders is not entirely negative. It is important that India gets more and more decentralised so that every corner of the vast country is served in all respect. The Centre is not the best authority to deal always with the localised issues. For example, the Tamil parties can raise the voice against human rights violation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka more adequately than perhaps a government in Delhi can do.
But that does not mean that we allow opportunist forces to benefit themselves in the name of regionalism or sub-nationalism and in the process, endanger the country's central authority. DMK's latest drama shows how dangerously the central authority of the nation is being bullied to feed its regional ambitions which have been cornered.
Do sentiments have political colour?
If all the major Tamil parties are indeed feeling disturbed by the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government, then why don't then join hands and create a pressure on the island-state through proper means? Sentiments can't have political colours and pro- or anti-forces can not be allowed to take a national government to ransom.
The DMK, which is cornered on various fronts, is feeling pressurised to take the 'Sri Lanka line' because all other parties have taken the same line of action. It is more of a political compulsion to do well in the polls.
But by allowing these disruptive political elements to have a free run, New Delhi will actually weaken its position externally and also lose precious time in focusing on important issues (the already-delayed anti-rape bill has gone for a toss because of this pull-out drama).
Our foreign policy stance was weak, indecisive and now fragmented?
We have already seen how even the smallest of neighbours have taken advantage of our indecisive and weak national stand and now if also add to that a sense of marked disunity, then it will dig up further graves for us. We can not thrust anything on Sri Lanka on moral grounds for realpolitik doesn't understand soft politics. The moment we cater to the likings of Karunandihi, the Lankans will find a great opportunity to tilt towards China and the onus will be back on New Delhi to deal with the external challenges.
Why take a rigid stand on Sri Lankan affairs?
By the way, a few days ago we had been shouting at the top of our voice that Pakistan's resolution condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru and demanding return of his body to his family is equivalent to meddling in our internal matters. Then why are we poking our nose into Sri Lanka's affairs? We can surely back the cause of the victims in the neighbouring country but can we start adopting a sort of coercive diplomacy vis-a-vis Colombo?
Has any outside power succeeded in making any of our politicians accused of fuelling divisive politics based on religion which killed innocent people?
Let's give a thought to our own double-standards first.