Opinion Article
Part II

Eelam and Indian Security: Need for policy alternatives

[TamilNet, Friday, 16 November 2007, 23:33 GMT]
"The history of the past sixty years has brought us to a point that makes separation a necessary condition to renegotiate a union on an equal basis," writes Ampalam in the concluding part of his opinion column. "We live in a time witnessing the European nation states that gave birth to modern nationalism and fought two world wars, involving the entire world for the sake of their nationalistic competition, coming together as European Union. The Asean countries have set a similar agenda. Such wonders became possible when there were no conquests or outside interferences. Perhaps it is much easier to come together and achieve unity if the concerned parties are free to choose," he writes.

Many think that the strained relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and India is a result of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. This is not entirely true, even though elements with vested interests and devoid of political farsightedness bring it up from time to time with the rhetoric of not forgetting and not forgiving.

It is not a secret that ever since the beginning of the liberation struggle of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, a small but influential group of individuals worked against it in India. People from opinion making sections of the society, i.e., journalists, professors, diplomats, former diplomats, bureaucrats, and officers of the armed and intelligence services were in this group. They were the main advisors of the government. Their words carried more weight than the public opinion.

It is an interesting irony that the members of this group predominantly come from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the immediate neighbours of Eelam / Sri Lanka. And, they come from certain powerful elite communities that have considerable influence in shaping India’s foreign policy. There is another section of them, who harbour a grudge, especially against the LTTE, resulting from their failures in handling it earlier.

In their opinion, the militant Tamil nationalism of Sri Lanka is a serious security threat to India. Even if the Sinhalese come forward to concede Eelam, these sections of opinion makers in India would sabotage it. For them, more than the national security of India, it is a question of emotional security of their own communities and for some of them it is gratification of wounded ego.

Perhaps a century old sociopolitical equations of Tamil Nadu and Kerala lie behind the biased attitude of this section of the high priests of Indian security. The way the Dravidian movement developed, especially during mid 20th century, it is always viewed as a threat to the existence and supremacy of certain sections of the elite of Tamil Nadu. The movment is a matter of contempt for competing ethnolinguistic formations who have to compete with Tamils for their opportunities within India and outside.

Unfortunately, the liberation struggle of the Tamils of Sri Lanka against oppression and genocide, which could find genuine and steadfast sympathy only from the Dravidian elements of Tamil Nadu, came to be viewed by the biased sections as a manifestation of what they perceived as the 'Dravidian monster'. It was projected in that way to the rest of India and was endorsed by the government. The sectarian security concern became a general security concern.

For more than a quarter century, the members of the said elite group took a personal interest in weakening the struggle of the Sri Lankan Tamils. They were passionately opposed to Tamil militancy but were blind to State terrorism, which forced the Sri Lankan Tamils to take up arms. There were intellectuals who worked to create a wedge between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Upcountry Tamils. Prominent journalists actively participated in exploiting breakaway militants to pave way to the division of the Tamil homeland of North and East.

The Sri Lankan government and other governments interested in South Asia made the best use of this group. Some of them from the group even didn't hesitate to openly receive awards from the Sri Lankan government for their services.

The Dravidian politics and public opinion in Tamil Nadu seem to be limited in countering this sabotage. They don't seem to have the same leverage of the Bengalis who were able to support their brethren of Bangladesh, despite the difference in religion.

It would seem that ruling the state, organising public rallies, owning commercial media and having a number of ministers and MPs in the central government are not enough to meet the requirements.

An ability to rise to the occasion with a global vision to intellectually and fearlessly present the cause of the Tamils to be heard nationally and internationally is what required.

In a way, by its near total dependence on the Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu to garner India's support, the Sri Lankan Tamil movement has failed to address and convince the Indian elite of its larger dimensions of liberation politics and its worthiness to regional stability and security.

The real security threat and catastrophe that is knocking the southern gates of India today, by not caring for the freedom aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils but, allowing and strengthening the genocide programme of the Sri Lankan government, is yet to be perceived, analysed and effectively articulated by the intellectuals of Tamil Nadu and the rest of India.

Everybody knows what is meant by the phrase 'International Community' today. The Sri Lankan Tamil militancy has not committed any offence to USA or EU. It is a local freedom struggle. If it has been internationalized that was with the connivance and encouragement of the International Community.

Yet, many may wonder the kind of vengeful ferocity shown towards the LTTE and along with it towards the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka, by the so-called International Community.

It is not that the IC doesn't know that the terrorism they speak of is a counter-product of genocide. The real reason for their wrath is the refusal of the LTTE to sell out the struggle to the strategic and economic interests of the International Community, where as the Sinhala polity is prepared to give away everything to have the Tamils exterminated as a nation.

It is disgusting and saddening for any fellow South Asian to see the way the leader of a huge country, that too a nuclear power, such as Pakistan, being openly dictated to by the US president, and the opposition leader aspiring for power, wooing the IC. Sri Lanka is fast heading into such a situation. It could happen to India tomorrow.

India has to consider the point seriously. A committed Tamil Nationalism is security for India in its southern frontiers. It is futile to compete with the USA, UK, China or any other country in giving military assistance to the Sri Lankan government, thinking of winning over the Sinhalese. Both the IC and the Sri Lankan government are playing the China card with India. Collaboration with the IC against the interests of the Tamils will boomerang on India in the long run.

It is often pointed out that India is worried about Sinhala nationalism turning against it in the event of any support to Tamils. Those who watch the paranoid Sri Lankan polity know that it won't be any better even by not supporting the Tamils.

Decades of appeasement policy helped only to worsen the situation in Sri Lanka. The isolation of the Tamil cause and the support of the IC and India to Sri Lanka have only encouraged the government to pursue its genocidal agenda with greater zeal.

It should be noted that so far neither the IC nor India is able to implement any political or human rights agenda with the Sri Lankan government.

Everyone including India has given guarantees and assurances for a united Sri Lanka. Some, who are now keen in placating the Sinhala nationalists, are prepared to go as far enough to advocate even a unitary Sri Lanka, suggesting that development, learning languages and local government are enough to solve the problem.

It is illogical to think unity can be thrust upon unwilling people. But, it seems that in the postmodern world of International Community, logic has been deconstructed and abandoned. Decisions need not to be logical. You decide and search for the logic afterwards.

However, given the conditions of Sri Lanka, it is sensible to think that one day or other, the Tamils and Sinhalese have to sit together to sort out matters for the sake of peaceful posterity.

With the current background of Sri Lanka it is unimaginable to achieve peace or unity through winning or losing a war. Decades of confrontation have led Sri Lanka nowhere.

We live in a time witnessing the European nation states that gave birth to modern nationalism and fought two world wars involving the entire world for the sake of their nationalistic competition, coming together under the common banner of European Union.

The Asean countries have set a similar agenda to be achieved in the next 15 years. Such wonders became possible when there were no conquests or outside interferences.

Perhaps it is much easier to come together and achieve unity if the concerned parties are free to choose.

The history of the past sixty years has brought us to a point that makes separation a necessary condition to renegotiate a union on an equal basis.

Rather than giving assurances for unity, providing arms, encouraging genocide and verbally talking about human rights, the IC and India should engage themselves with positive alternatives to resolve the human tragedy in Sri Lanka.

Some of the political boundaries we see in South Asia today are accidents in history.

Ceylon didn't become a British colony through the conquests of English East India Company. The British crown acquired it from the Dutch through a treaty. So, it was administered separately. Even when it was put under the Indian administration in 1796, the corrupt Indian officials of the Company bungled it. Had these events not happened, Sri Lanka would have been one of the states of India and with the re-organization of linguistic states, the North and East would have become parts of Tamil Nadu.

The Sultan of Maldives signed the protectorate treaty in 1885 with the English governor in Colombo. So, it became a protectorate of Ceylon. When Ceylon became independent in 1948, Maldives was excluded and retained by the British until 1965. Had the Sultan signed the treaty with the governor in Madras or Bombay, Maldives would have become a protectorate or a Union Territory of India.

The boundary of Sri Lanka is not a Sacred Cow. It was neither shaped by the people of the land nor evolved through a conducive political process, but merely a creation of colonialism.

Assurances given to the unity of a country, which has become a burden to the people concerned, and military might, are no guarantees for regional or international security. The real guarantee lies in the hearts of the people. If any government acts against the wishes of the people, it loses security.

What is needed is a strong political will in Delhi and Chennai to search for creative alternatives rather than leaving the matter in the hands of advisors, bureaucrats and intelligence officers. India need not tag herself behind the International Community at least in matters related to its own backyard.


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