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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Interim Self Governing Authority & Aftermath > Think, India, Think
Think, India, Think
Sabesan,, Melbourne, Australia
16 January 2004, Courtesy Sangam.Org
This article is a translation of the analysis broadcast
on Melbourne's 3CR Tamil Voice on the 22nd December 2003.
The Tamil version is published in http://www.tamilnaatham.com
Sri Lanka is going through political turmoil caused by a constitutional crisis, whilst the Indian political arena is also tensed at the moment. The ruling BJP has achieved unexpected victories in the recently held state elections. At the same time the BJP’s allies in Tamil Nadu (DMK, MDMK and PMK) have severed their ties with the ruling coalition, citing the treatment meted out to Vaiko. These events have led to speculation about future coalitions both at the state and central government levels in India.
Political analysts observe that change in government in India does not result in a change in India’s foreign policy. This is not an exception to the international practice. However, we need to point out that the Sri Lankan Tamil community has been yearning for a change in India’s foreign policy for a long time.
The Sri Lankan Tamils have had political as well as cultural ties with India, especially South India, which dates backs thousands of years. These ties continued even after India gained independence from Britain. The relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and India peaked during Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s last tenure, due to her visionary politics and her empathy towards the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils.
The relations soured after the Indo Sri Lanka Accord, which was orchestrated as beneficial to the Sri Lankan Tamils, notwithstanding their non-participation. The Rajiv Gandhi regime’s failure to comprehend the Sri Lankan Tamil problem thoroughly and its lack of long-term vision drove hasty decisions which brought pain and destruction to all parties concerned. India would have reacted the same way the Sri Lankan Tamils reacted, had a foreign power imposed an accord like the Indo Sri Lanka Accord on itself. Therefore, any right-minded person would see the justification behind the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle against the imposition of the Indo Sri Lanka accord.
Addressing the Remembrance Day event in London recently, the LTTE’s Political Advisor and Chief Negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham, stated, "We would not act in anyway prejudicial to India’s geo-political, strategic and economic interests. We want to establish friendly relations with the Government of India. As such we are seeking a radical change in India’s attitude,"
The LTTE has always sought friendly relations with India. The LTTE leadership has maintained this position despite the politico military pressures imposed by India. LTTE did not waiver from this stance even when it succeeded both militarily and politically against the Sri Lankan government.
Mr.V.Prabakaran, addressing the masses at Sudumalai in the aftermath of the Indo Sri Lanka accord in August 1987, stated, “We love India. We love the Indian people. There is no question of us taking up arms against Indian soldiers." He reiterated the LTTE’s friendly stance towards India, despite making the obvious observation that the accord was not going to benefit the Tamil people.
Whilst criticising the flawed Indo Sri Lanka accord, the LTTE leader clearly expressed his friendliness towards India and its people. It should be noted that Mr. Prabakaran articulated that the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Tamils will never be a danger to the interests and sovereignty of India and its people 17 years ago.
Mr. Prabakaran reiterated this stance in the media conference he held at Kilinochchi in April last year. It is worth pointing out that the Politico-Military strength enjoyed by the LTTE in 1987 is vastly different from that it experienced in 2002. Therefore, despite the improvement in its Politico-Military profile, the LTTE supremo has maintained a steadfast policy of friendliness towards India.
It is also noteworthy that the LTTE initially sought Indian facilitation for the direct talks with the Sri Lankan government. The LTTE’s Chief Negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham, tried to seek India’s facilitation through direct and indirect channels. However, it is unfortunate that the present Indian government failed to react positively to these signals from the LTTE.
However, LTTE continued with its expression of friendly relations towards India.
Mr.V.Balakumar, one of LTTE’s senior political leaders underscored these sentiments again in one of his recent speeches. Expressing confidence that India would soon come to know the true position of the LTTE, Mr.Balakumar said that, if India comes forward to improve its relationship with sincere heart, the LTTE would be pleased. “The LTTE will not engage in activities that could disrupt the regional politics of India,” he said, adding that the LTTE leadership is also very keen to mend fences with India. Mr.Balakumaran commented that India had been using the LTTE’s freedom struggle for its political interests, but said that the LTTE would not engage in any confrontation with India or work against its interests
The LTTE and the Tamil people have been both vocal and consistent in their sincere friendliness towards India right throughout history. However, has the Sinhala nation expressed the same gratitude towards India? Have the Sinhala political parties behaved in a consistent manner towards India? What does the average Sinhala citizen think about India?
It is worth noting that, in contrast to the friendly relationship Tamils had with India, the Sinhalese have always expressed enmity towards India. Even after gaining independence from Britain, the Sinhala nation continued with its anti Indian sentiments. Sri Lanka entertained Political, Military and Economical relations with many anti Indian countries such as Pakistan and China. During the cold war era, whilst India was in the USSR camp, Sri Lanka sided with the USA.
It is sad to note that the Sinhala nation harboured enmity towards India and its people right throughout. It is worth remembering that the Sri Lankan government declared a public holiday to celebrate its cricket team's first ever test cricket win over India.
What is the reason for the opposition to the Indo Sri Lanka accord in the South? Whatever the problem it may be there should not an Indian invention and anti Indian sentiment is the major driving force behind these upheavals.
The Sinhala nation, which was so vociferous in its opposition to the Indian intervention in the Eighties, has been recently inviting India to intervene in the ethnic crisis. This is not because of a change in heart from the Sinhala nation. It is because of their desire to break the strength of the Tamil liberation struggle at any cost.
It is in this background I would like to analyse India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka.
India is a multi cultural, multi lingual and multi religious country. Its government considers itself as a true representative of these various factions of the society, which is a prudent policy. Indian government should perceive its neighbours through the concept of “pluralistic society” in the same way it perceives its own nation. Unfortunately the Indian government seems only interested in the well being of the Sinhala nation as far as the Sri Lankan conflict is concerned. Therefore India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka is biased towards Sinhala hegemony. India’s foreign policy should not be partial towards one side of the conflict; it should be neutral towards both societies. This change needs to happen in India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka.
If one takes a deeper look at the Sri Lankan Tamils' struggle for independence, it will be evident that the Tamil liberation struggle has to a certain extent enabled India to preserve its superpower status in the South Asian region. It is worth noting that it is because of the effective control the LTTE exercises over the NorthEast of the Island, both in the sea and land, anti Indian forces have not been able to penetrate India’s corridor. If not for the presence of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government would have sold out the Island to anti Indian forces long time ago. Sri Lanka would have entered into the same defence agreements it is talking about and entering into with anti Indian forces and foreign troops would have occupied India’s corridor by now.
India should open its eyes to these realities and think.
The LTTE has clearly articulated their policy towards India consistently over a long period. The Tamil nation has been yearning for friendly relations with India, then and now. It is understandable that a super-regional power like India will have many issues to be concerned about. However, it is an undisputable fact that the LTTE has been the force which has transformed the Tamil nation living in the Island of Sri Lanka into a nation to be reckoned with. In this context, the LTTE leadership has been addressing various concerns India may have publicly, in a very articulate manner.
What are these concerns, which are being addressed by the LTTE leadership?
Ø LTTE does not want to harm the regional superpower status enjoyed by India
Ø LTTE is not against India’s sovereignty, the Indian nation or the Indian people at large.
Ø LTTE will not be an obstacle to India’s national interests.
Ø LTTE does not act against the geopolitical interests of India.
Ø LTTE does not want to hinder the economic well-being of India
Ø LTTE does not intend to cause any trouble in India’s domestic political scene.
In contrast the LTTE and its leadership is seeking and is willing to
Ø Maintain cordial relations with India.
Ø Consider India as a friendly neighbour
Ø For a change in India’s foreign policy towards achieving a friendly and cordial relationship with India.
India should accept the reasonable and justifiable aspiration of the LTTE. India should take necessary steps towards achieving this relationship. If India needs further clarification in any of its concerns, it should not hesitate to open a communication channel with the LTTE. Therefore, India should approach the LTTE diplomatically. This is the request of both the Tamil people and the LTTE Leadership. Hope this wish will materialise in 2004.