‘India can do without a highly militarised autocratic neighbour in the south’ - paper

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 29 June 2011, 04:39 GMT]
India’s political engagement and generous financial assistance are not bringing about an equitable post-war settlement Sri Lanka, and instead an authoritarian government and a dangerously powerful military have emerged, The Pioneer newspaper warned Wednesday in an editorial titled 'Necessary Intervention' . “[India’s] policies and initiatives have fallen tragically short [but] South Block has been reluctant to … press for more reforms and greater accountability. This must change. … Rajapaksa should be asked to keep his promises,” India’s oldest English language newspaper argued.

The full text of The Pioneer’s editorial follows:

For long now India has enjoyed a high level of influence over Sri Lanka. Yet, despite its long-standing relationship with Colombo, New Delhi’s attempts to encourage its southern neighbour to address crucial post-war challenges and work towards sustainable peace has only met with limited success. Active political engagement and a generous financial assistance package have failed to convince President Mahinda Rajapaksa to bring about an equitable post-war settlement in the country.

Consequently, Sri Lanka now runs the risk of an authoritarian Government and a dangerously powerful military. This does not bode well for India. Already saddled with a failed, terrorist state in its west and a young, floundering democracy in the north, India can do without a highly militarised autocratic neighbour in the south. To this extent, it is imperative that New Delhi work with Colombo to lay the foundation of a strong democratic state.

Since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, India has focussed on providing humanitarian assistance to displaced Tamils located in the north and the east of Sri Lanka, while negotiating with that country’s Government to devolve power to the Tamils in areas where they are the majority so as to resolve the long-drawn ethnic conflict between them and the Sinhalese, who form the majority in the rest of the country.

Additionally, India also supports several major development projects and is working to bring about greater economic integration. However, these policies and initiatives have fallen tragically short: In the face of widespread Sinhalisation, Sri Lankan Tamils continue to be politically marginalised while increased militarisation of the northern province has left them feeling more insecure than ever before. In the rest of the country, democratic institutions remain under constant threat especially as political power becomes concentrated in the hands of Mr Rajapaksa, his family and the military.

In this context, New Delhi would do well to encourage Colombo to show better results. India’s unequivocal support to Mr Rajapaksa as his Government fought to defeat the much despised LTTE should have fetched India greater leverage but South Block has been reluctant to use that to press for more reforms and greater accountability. This must change: Not only because a politically stable and peaceful Sri Lanka is strategic to Indian interests but because China’s increasing influence in that country must also be contained. India has vast economic interests, as well as security interests in Sri Lanka, and China must not be allowed to threaten those. Mr Rajapaksa, who has been courting the Chinese while gladly accepting Indian assistance, should be asked to keep his promises.

 

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