Friday, 5 June 2020

Lack Of Foresight In Sri Lanka-Policy

Updated: April 13, 2015 1:21 pm

India voted for the US resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, but didn’t pursue its declared intent of making the resolution firmer. Of the 25 countries that voted against Lanka, only India and South Korea were from Asia. Thirteen members, including Pakistan and China, voted against the resolution and eight abstained.

During the debate, India did not push its seven amendments for an “independent and credible” probe into the alleged war crimes by Lankan forces on Tamils during the final days of the civil war in 2009. After the voting was over, DMK chief M Karunanidhi responded: “I am not satisfied with India’s response and the US resolution. My demands were not considered.”

The Sri Lankan envoy Mahinda Samarasinghe has rejected the resolution as “highly intrusive”. He has questioned the inordinate and disproportionate level of interest in a country that has successfully ended a 30-year conflict against terrorism and has demonstrated so much progress in a relatively short space of time. India must remember that it, too, had to take strong measures in quelling the Sikh extremism.

The outcome of the UNHCR resolution against Sri Lanka will have a direct effect on India’s standing in the world community. The Congress-led UPA and the DMK have opened the doors for future military intervention in Asia under the Right to Protect doctrine. It was this doctrine through which Western powers devastated Libya and then abandoned it after failing to establish a post-war puppet regime.

India has always upheld non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. However, under the Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the UPA has been overturning traditional Indian foreign policy, aligning with the Western/NATO positions, and ditching traditional allies.

We cannot forget the dangers of the West-sponsored resolution on Kashmir—an independent Kashmir is an unrealised British goal—which could translate into action in the event of Pakistan’s further breakdown. We have allowed foreign observers to meddle in our internal affairs, Kandhmal was one example.

Prior to India’s and Sri Lanka’s independence, there was a colonial agenda for a separate Tamil nation on both sides of the Palk Strait. The West is now trying to revive and implement these old unfinished agendas to achieve full dominance all over the world. It is a travesty that the UPA is proving to be a willing tool in this game, disregarding its traditional anti-imperial and non-aligned status.

In recent years, the Church has converted the entire fishermen community along the coast and has a formidable hold on all DMK allies and leaders. Jayalalithaa, too, has been trying to woo the Christians; in fact, she had announced a Christmas gift of a subsidy to 5,000 Christians for visiting Bethlehem every year. The participation of the Loyola College students in the demonstrations in Chennai, and the public posturing of SP Udayakumar, the public face of the anti-Kudankulam stir are examples of the Church and missionary-sponsored protests.

Colombo engaged in some deft diplomacy and forced Washington to water down some provisions of the resolution, otherwise it would have resulted in sanctions against the nation and made it a pariah state.

Chidambaram promised that India would move amendments to the US resolution and said that the UNHCR must adopt a strong resolution to push Sri Lanka to accept an independent and credible investigation into the situation of the Tamil people. By this, the Finance Minister is paving the way for the West to invoke the Right To Protect policy in Kashmir, the Northeast and Tamil Nadu.

New Delhi must realise the importance of preserving the centuries-old ties between India and Sri Lanka, notably via the states of Odisha and Tamil Nadu. If the UPA is unable to resist the pressure to become a pawn in the geo-strategic power game currently being played out in the Indian Ocean area, India will be the loser. In what appeared to be a tit-for-tat move, Sri Lanka almost immediately announced it would repossess part of a strategic oil storage depot from Indian Oil Corp Ltd in the island nation’s north-eastern port town of Trincomalee. In what seems as a retaliatory gesture, Colombo has hiked excise and import duties on small cars, which are mainly imported from India. India’s trade with Sri Lanka in 2011-12 amounted to a little more than $4 billion. Its investments in Sri Lanka amount to $800 million. Indian businesses present in Sri Lanka include the Tata Group, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Piramal Glass Ltd, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Ashok Leyland Ltd, Larsen and Toubro Ltd and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.

China, which has been involved in major infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, including the construction of the $1.5 Hambantota port in Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home constituency, voted against a similar UNHCR resolution censuring Sri Lanka last year.

India’s voting resulted in hundreds of Sri Lankan pro-government activists protesting against the UNHCR vote, holding up traffic close to President Rajapaksa’s residence and they chanted slogans denouncing Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh. As the biggest power of the region, India can ill afford this sacrifice of its foreign policy for domestic political gains. Of course, a fair probe into the atrocities and human rights violations should be conducted and the safety of the Tamils assured, only then will the million refugees who are still in India return to their homeland.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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