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Monday, November 11, 2013

This is Not What Sri Lankan Tamils Want!

On 9th November, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement while speaking at an election rally at Budhapur in Raipur that matched his matured status of a Statesman. It merits the attention of every political leader in the country. And importantly, every leader worth his salt must ardently practice it, if we have to claim ourselves to be a nation of more than 2000 years old civilization.

Dr. Manmohan Singh advised his party cadre: “We should criticize Opposition parties and their policies with which we do not agree. But we have to distinguish ourselves, especially from BJP some of whose leaders use bad language against other party leaders…” and exhorted them to refrain from using words that are “insulting” besides, belittling the “dignity” of the party. While conceding the fact that it is legitimate for the political parties to aim for power, Prime Minister asserted: “But to achieve the goal, no party should follow the route of cheap publicity…”

A pretty matured statement, that too, to air at a political rally! Although it is an address to Congress cadre and the people attending its rally, it is an education to every political worker of the Nation. And that’s what a Statesman should strive—strive to educate the masses, however difficult it might be, to become good citizens of the nation.

This news clipping indeed gave a hope to every right thinking citizen that the Prime Minister would similarly come out with a matured decision about his participation in the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Colombo despite the mounting political pressure on the Central government from the regional parties.

Alas, that’s not to be true! Once again, the government has preferred to sacrifice the national interests at the altar of the petty political expediency—the pressure mounted by the Tamil Nadu political parties and the ministers from within the government was, perhaps, so strong that the Prime Minister, looking to the forthcoming general elections, had to cancel his participation in the CHOGM. 

The anguish of the regional parties at Sri Lanka’s reluctance to address the alleged atrocities committed against Tamils during the final stages of its battling against LTTE is perfectly understandable. What is not understandable, however, is government’s meek surrender to local demands, that too, after the recent Bangladesh experience.

That said, let us take a look at what our objectives vis-a-vis Sri Lanka are: first, we are interested in ensuring a just deal to the nation’s Tamil minority, and secondly, we want to protect our own interests in a region that has become strategically more important, particularly in the light of the recent moves of China to get a hold on this island country.

Now, it is anybody’s guess that had the Prime minister, as suggested by the external affairs ministry, participated in the CHOGM meeting and following it, paid a visit to Tamil-dominated Jaffna, he would have achieved the objective of addressing the concerns of Tamils and also would have maintained the relationship with Sri Lanka on an even keel.

And remember, it is at India’s prodding that Sri Lanka held elections to the Northern Provincial Council in September that was won convincingly by the Tamil National Alliance. In fact, the newly elected chief minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council had invited the Prime Minister to visit them. Such a visit would have certainly reaffirmed India’s stakes and interests in the region besides, of course, enhancing India’s influence on the Rajpaksa regime to effect a better settlement of the Tamil issue.

True, it is not that our learned Prime Minister is not aware of these diplomatic niceties and compulsions and also the importance of engaging a country in diplomatic negotiations to achieve one's own national objectivesin the instant case, it is of pushing the Sri Lanka to do more in addressing the  wartime atrocities and granting political autonomy to the Tamilsbut what is most painful is that even such statesmen are falling prey to easy options, such as choosing the least resistant path of not attending the meeting. 

Now, having seen what had happened earlier in Bangladesh by virtue of the Prime Minister yielding to the pressure of the Chief Minister of West Bengal, is there any wonder if one is to conclude that the present decision of PM not to participate in CHOGM might nudge Sri Lanka to look for other allies, such as China. And if that were to happen, it would serve no interest of our country. Nor would it serve the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

However, PM’s decision might temporarily serve the political interests of the ruling alliance domestically. But that is not what Lankan Tamils want from their brethren from India, certainly.

What a pity!


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