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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > We won�t stop military cooperation with Lanka says Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee

IIndia & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

We won�t stop military cooperation with Lanka
says Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee

24 October 2008

from Indira to Rajiv to Manmohan... an amoral phenomenon

�We have a very comprehensive relationship with Sri Lanka. In our anxiety to protect the civilians, we should not forget the strategic importance of this island to India's interests,... especially in view of attempts by countries like Pakistan and China to gain a strategic foothold in the island nation...Colombo had been told that India would "look after your security requirements, provided you do not look around". "We cannot have a playground of international players in our backyard." Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee

[see also India-Sri Lanka Joint Press Release, 26 October 2008 ]

Comment by tamilnation.org :  So whats new? It was after all Indian Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser Dixit who in 1998 described India's  foreign policy in relation to the conflict in the island as amoral.

"...Tamil militancy received (India's) support  ...as a response to (Sri Lanka's).. concrete and expanded military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, Israel and Pakistan. ...The assessment was that these presences would pose a strategic threat to India and they would encourage fissiparous movements in the southern states of India. .. a process which could have found encouragement from Pakistan and the US, given India's experience regarding their policies in relation to Kashmir and the Punjab.... Inter-state relations are not governed by the logic of morality. They were and they remain an amoral phenomenon....."  Paper by J.N. Dixit on Indian Involvement in Sri Lanka and the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement: A Retrospective Evaluation in Negotiating Peace in Sri Lanka, International Alert Publication, February 1998

The people of Tamil Eelam are well aware of the harsh political reality of the international dimensions of their struggle for freedom from alien Sinhala rule.

"The harsh reality is that on the one hand international actors are concerned to use the opportunity of the conflict in the island to advance each of their own strategic interests - and on the other hand, Sri Lanka seeks to use the political space created by the geo strategic triangle of US-India-China in the Indian Ocean region, to buy the support of all three  for the continued rule of the people of Tamil Eelam by a permanent Sinhala majority within the confines of  one state. The record shows that Sinhala Sri Lanka seeks to engage in a 'balance of power' exercise of its own by handing over parts of the island (and the surrounding seas) to India, US and China. We have India in the Trincomalee oil farm, at the same time we have a Chinese coal powered energy plant in Trincomalee; we have a Chinese project for the Hambantota port, at the same time we have the attempted naval exercises with the US from Hambantota (to contain Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean); we have the grant of preferred licenses to India for exploration of oil in the Mannar seas, at the same time we have a similar grant to China and a 'road show' for  tenders from US and UK based multinational corporations;  meanwhile we have the continued presence of the Voice of America installations in the island and the  ten year Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) was signed by the United States and Sri Lanka on 5 March 2007. (International Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka, Nadesan Satyendra 2007)

Mr.Paranab Mukherjee is clearly unhappy with Sri Lanka's 'balance of power exercise' which is turning  India's 'backyard' into a 'playground of international players'. And so Mr. Mukherjee declares with disarming frankness that Sri Lanka has been told that New Delhi will extend military cooperation and also continue to train Sri Lanka forces provided that Sri Lanka does does not 'look around'  to Pakistan and China for assistance. Here, it is perhaps understandable that Mr.Mukherjee has chosen to be silent on the US-Pakistan nexus and its relevance to the Indian Ocean region. After all it was India's Cdr. P K Ghosh who recently quoted US Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan -

"Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia. This ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century, the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters."

Mr.Mukherjee is also silent on the opposition that his Government faces on the US-India nuclear deal from parties such as the Communist Party of India, which has now emerged as a supporter of the struggle for Tamil Eelam albeit for a confederal/federal structure.

Many will see the current posturing (and ultimatums) by Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi in  Tamil Nadu as no more than a drama on a platform provided by New Delhi so that New Delhi may coerce President Rajapakse (and his JVP allies) to move away from the China-Iran-Pakistan axis. President Rajapakse will be told by New Delhi in no uncertain terms that if he does not play ball and come within the Indian orbit, then it will be 'difficult' for New Delhi to manage the feelings in Tamil Nadu. New Delhi knows full well that if President Rajapakse is permitted to continue unchecked with his onslaught on Tamil Eelam and progress it to its genocidal end, New Delhi would have lost its window of opportunity to prevent the embedding of Chinese/Pakistan presence  in what Mr.Mukherjee regards as India's 'backyard'. To repeat the felicitous phraseology of Mr.Mukherjee "We cannot have a playground of international players in our backyard."  

The ultimatum (and deadline) given by Karunanidhi will help New Delhi to impress upon President Rajapakse the urgency of the 'crisis' that New Delhi faces. Whether President Rajapakse's tenuous hold on power in the Sinhala heartland will permit him to allow New Delhi to permanently embed itself in the island of Sri Lanka  will remain a matter for conjecture. President Rajapakse's JVP rooted political constituency  may find it difficult to stomach the role of being New Delhi's 'backyard'. Again, President Rajapakse may be emboldened enough to call New Delhi's bluff, believing that given the international frame, there is little that New Delhi can actually do if he does. At the sametime,  President Rajapakse may not have forgotten the Tamil Eelam Unilateral Declaration of Independence made by an India backed and Varatharaja Perumal led EPRLF  when the IPKF faced being kicked out by President Premadasa in 1989. Constructive ambiguity is a useful tool in diplomacy.

If President Rajapakse does play ball and distances himself from China/Pakistan/Iran to the extent that New Delhi desires,  then something like the 1988 comic opera Provincial Councils Act (and that too, with a divided North and Eastern Province) sweetened with 'humanitarian aid' for the suffering Eelam Tamils will be presented by New Delhi to the Tamil people, including the people of Tamil Nadu, and marketed as a great boon - and will be dutifully welcomed by the likes of Karunanithi and Jayalalitha as a victory for the 'tough stand' that they had taken to 'persuade' New Delhi.

"'India loves to play all sides, and has always done that,' said Reva Bhalla, an analyst with the U.S. private intelligence firm Stratfor.  'They can cater to the Tamil politicians and benefit from the Tigers' military capability going down without taking too much political risk.'  Underscoring India's dual-track approach to Sri Lanka, furious denials erupted from Colombo and New Delhi last month after two Indian radar technicians were injured in a Tiger assault on a Sri Lankan military base. Rajapaksa later said the men were providing after-sales service to radars India's Bharat Electronics sold to the military. India has also helped Sri Lanka intercept Tiger boats, which it considers a threat to national security..." C. Bryson Hull in India Rumbles over Sri Lanka war, but to what end?, 17 October 2008,

The present, ofcourse, is not the first time that New Delhi has sought to manipulate Tamil Nadu sentiment to further its geo political interests in the region. Twenty four years ago, in October 1984, Karunanidhi's protests against US leaning  President Jayawardene's actions against Eelam Tamils reached a crescendo - and it was suggested that another 'Bangladesh' was around the corner. That was during Indira Gandhi's tenure as Indian Prime Minister and an Indian General Election was a few months away. And the significance of the month of October was also that it was in the run up to the 1984 US presidential elections on 4 November and therefore a period when US foreign policy responses may not be quick and  focussed.  It was a window of opportunity. But in the event, Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984. And we know from Jyotindra Nath Dixit  that the thrust of Indira Gandhi's 'amoral' policy was to move Sri Lanka President Jayawardene away from the US-Pakistan-Israel orbit.

Be that as it may, as we have noted elsewhere, at  a meeting with a Gandhian non governmental organisation in New Delhi a few days before the Indira Gandhi assassination, a north Indian peace activist bitingly remarked to a Tamil lobbying group - "Do not imagine that you have the support of Mr.Karunanidhi. Please remember that when Indira Gandhi tells Mr.Karunanidhi to stop, the barking will stop." He added, "Indira Gandhi has enough ammunition to make Mr.Karunanidhi stop."  It was not a matter for surprise therefore when Mr.Karunanidhi declared frankly in May  2006 that 'New Delhi's Policy on Sri Lanka will be Tamil Nadu's Policy'.  For Mr.Karunanithi, it always was - and is.

Again, New Delhi will not be unmindful of the influence that US Green Card holders (including General Sarath Fonseka) may wield within the Sinhala body politic.  U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Blake, pointed out in Chennai on 24 October 2008 that India and the United States could use their "strategic partnership to good effect in Sri Lanka."  though he did not spell out the details of that strategic partnership and whether it included preventing Sri Lanka's tilt towards Iran and China. Mr. Blake suggested that the U.S. position was to militarily weaken the LTTE and then to defeat it politically with a political solution.

In the midst of all these machinations,  the words of Sardar K.M.Pannikar, Indian Ambassador to China from 1948 to 1952, and later Vice Chancellor, Mysore University in Principles and Practice of Diplomacy, 1956 come to mind -

"Foreign Ministers and diplomats presumably understand the permanent interests of their country.. But no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as they pertain to the future. The Rajah of Cochin who in his resentment against the Zamorin permitted the Portuguese to establish a trading station in his territories could not foresee that thereby he had introduced into India something which was to alter the course of history. Nor could the German authorities, who, in their anxiety to create confusion and chaos in Russia, permitted a sealed train to take Lenin and his associates across German territory, have foreseen what forces they were unleashing. To them the necessity of the moment was an utter breakdown of Russian resistance and to send Lenin there seemed a superior act of wisdom..."

The posturing by Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi (whatever may be their  motives) is, in the final analysis, an appeal to an underlying  Tamil national consciousness, and therefore their actions will help to nurture Tamil togetherness - and for that reason will be welcomed by many Tamils and used by them to further strengthen that Tamil togetherness. Tamils committed to freedom. may strike together with those who do not have the same commitment,  but they will continue to organise separately so that they may preserve the integrity of their own purpose. Lenin's old advice: 'Strike together but march separately' still holds good.

Pala Nedumaran at Karunanithii organised
Human Chain Protest in Chennai, 24 October 2008

Time does not stand still. 2008 is not 1984. And the togetherness of the Tamil people living in many lands has grown from year to year and that particular river is not about to flow backwards. It is a growing togetherness reflected in the widespread support that the ordinary people of Tamil Nadu have extended to the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom from alien Sinhala rule  - a wide spread support across caste and religion and  given eloquent expression by persons such Bharathiraja, Director Seeman, Director Cheran, Vaiko, Nedumaran, Suba Veerapandiyan, Pulamaipithan, Thol. Thirumavalavan, Arivumathi and many others Some of  them have paid the price of being arrested and incarcerated for giving  expression to their feelings - arrested and incarcerated by the police of a Tamil Nadu government headed by Chief Minister Karunanithi.

New Delhi may  want to recognise the truth of that which Natteri Adigal said in  Merinews on  9 October 2008 -

C.N.Annadurai Statue in Coimbatore"...if the fictitious concept of placing  'country�s interests above human rights, ethnic pride and identity' continues to be promoted for long, it will be a matter of time for India too to meet the fate of USSR or Yugoslavia or now Sri Lanka... In 1965, when Tamil Nadu faced the possibility of military action from a powerful New Delhi, Annadurai opted to abandon his demand for full autonomy for states under a lose confederation with one currency but multiple ethnic, cultural and national identities.

Today, Tamil Nadu appears headed for revolutionary political changes in a culmination of a combination of events: For one, the two main Dravidian political outfits � Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), headed by three-time chief minister M Karunanidhi and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), headed by former two-term CM Jayalalitha � are both reeling under overwhelming outrage among the Tamil population...The ground reality in Tamil Nadu is that almost every Tamil � belonging to whatever religion or strata � has a primary affinity to other Tamil-speaking people of whatever domicile or religion. .. Dravidian leaders, in their zeal to get on the right side of Delhi bosses, are seen to be conniving with New Delhi�s policy of aiding Sri Lankan government in exterminating Tamils... Developments in October will decide if New Delhi will be adding to the Kashmir imbroglio another hopeless embroilment in the South."

New Delhi may also want to recognise the truth of that which  Director  Cheran said  at the  Rameshwaram Protest by Tamil Artists & Writers on 19 October 2008 -

And the warning of M.S.S.Pandian in the Times of India on 23 October 2008 may help to focus New Delhi's mind (and hopefully its heart as well) -

"Tamil Nadu had a history of demanding secession from the Indian Union. Yet, over time, it has chosen to integrate itself fully with the national mainstream. If New Delhi does not change course in its Sri Lankan policy, it may plant the seeds towards a reversal of such history. That will be India's misfortune". (Change Course in Sri Lanka or Face Misfortune - M.S.S.Pandian, 23 October 2008)

That which we said in 2001 concerning the unity of India remains true today.

"The unity of India will not come simply by English speaking 'Indians' speaking to each other in English...  the strength and unity of India lies not in the nuclear bomb, but in its peoples. Nuclear capability will not guarantee unity. The nuclear bomb did not prevent the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the non-nuclear states of Latvia, Estonia and Georgia.  There is a need to understand that a people's aspiration for equality and freedom is an energy which is in many ways more potent than that contained in a nuclear bomb. Those concerned to secure the unity of India will need  to adopt a more 'principle centred' approach towards struggles for self determination in the Indian region.. ." (Tamil Nation and the Unity of India, Nadesan Satyendra, February 2001)

Finally Mr.Pranab Mukherjee will not take it amiss if we  recommend to him to revisit  the words of Arundhati Roy in 2007 in  'It�s outright war and both sides are choosing their weapons'-

"You don�t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrialising Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonise ourselves, our own nether parts. We�ve begun to eat our own limbs. ..While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people � human scavengers � earn their living carrying several kilos of other people�s shit on their heads every day. And if they didn�t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some f***ing superpower this.... What we�re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India � the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It�s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They�re fighting for the right to merge with the world�s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere... There is a civil war in Chhattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chhattisgarh government, which is publicly pursuing the Bush doctrine: if you�re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynchpin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salva Judum - a government-backed militia of ordinary people forced to become spos (special police officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed ..... thousands tortured, and thousands have disappeared. Any banana republic would be proud of this record... to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice with the government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence � revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates...does this mean that people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can�t find saints to lead them into battle?. "

[see also Time for Colombo to defeat LTTE with political solution: U.S. Ambassador Blake's Foray into Tamil Nadu, 25 October 2008]

We won�t stop military cooperation with Lanka
says Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee,
Indian Express, 24 October 2008

While reiterating its stand that the civilian Tamil population in Sri Lanka, caught in the crossfire after Lankan Government's offensive against the LTTE, must be protected at all costs, India on Thursday made it clear that it would not stop its military cooperation with the island nation because of the humanitarian crisis in that country.

Responding to clarifications sought by the members in the Rajya Sabha on India's stand on the current crisis in Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said security cooperation with Colombo, including training of Lankan forces by India, was "necessary".

�We have a very comprehensive relationship with Sri Lanka. In our anxiety to protect the civilians, we should not forget the strategic importance of this island to India's interests,� he said in response to questions raised by a few members over the rationale of India continuing its military cooperation with Colombo in view of the plight of ethnic Tamils in that country and also incidents of firing on Indian fishermen entering Sri Lankan waters by mistake.

Mukherjee said all these issues will be taken up with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's advisor Basil Rajapaksa when he comes to New Delhi this weekend. Mukherjee said the demand to review India's security cooperation with Sri Lanka in the wake of current crisis was not advisable, especially in view of attempts by countries like Pakistan and China to gain a strategic foothold in the island nation. He said Colombo had been told that India would "look after your security requirements, provided you do not look around".
"We cannot have a playground of international players in our backyard," he said, while reiterating that the safety of the Tamils in Sri Lanka has to be ensured at all costs. "We have made it clear to the Sri Lankan Government that we would not like a situation in which there is an influx of Tamil refugees to India because of events over which we have no control," he said.

He said India was ready to provide whatever assistance was needed for rehabilitation of the displaced civilians but the ultimate solution lay in "devolution of power" in Sri Lanka as recommended by a high-powered committee appointed by the Sri Lankan President.


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