Feature Article

India was not happy about Norwegian peace: Prof Shanmugaratnam

[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 June 2010, 10:40 GMT]
India was not happy about Norway being given a role in peace brokering in Sri Lanka. Japan was keen to be the broker, but India was more against Japan than Norway, said Dr. N. Shanmugaratnam, Professor of Development Studies and Head of Research of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, while addressing a session on the failed peace process and Norway’s role in Sri Lanka, at a conference held in Nansen Peace Centre in Norway last Friday. The Norwegian Tamil academic also said that in his view the key challenges to the peace process were internal than international and the internal has always been decisive. Post mortem of the peace process has become a hot topic in Norwegian circles nowadays since the failed envoys of Sri Lankan process have embarked upon fresh peace initiatives elsewhere.

The 5-day conference titled ‘Norway in Peace’, held between 11-15 June was organized by the Norwegian Peace Centre and Nansen Dialog. Both the organizations have merged recently, forming Nansen Peace Centre.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting this week Oslo Forum, an annual event acknowledged as the leading international network of ‘armed conflict mediation practitioners’ consisting of conflict mediators, high level decision makers and key actors from across the globe in a series of informal, confidential and discreet retreats.

Post mortem studies on failed peace processes may help the world to learn where it failed or may help to acquit the brokers who failed in their neutral responsibility of loudly telling the truth to the world at the right time to check the peace process ending up in genocide. But what Tamils have to learn internally from the peace process ending up in genocide is the futility of any of them still continuing to harp on ‘united Sri Lanka,’ commented Tamil circles in Norway.

When sections of articulating Tamils fail at such a time as this in justifying the need for Tamil independence and in independently demanding the powers to recognize Tamil liberation, some world leftist circles currently misinterpret it as pro-imperialist tendency inherent to the Tamil struggle. Colombo is now capitalizing on it for justifying its genocide as its struggle against an imperialist plot and thus painting a sympathetic picture to the naive third world that it is a state standing up to the powers. The Tamil struggle is doubly penalized by the internal failure of its elite, Tamil circles pointed out, adding that some of the best Tamil minds should come forward in arguing for the due status of the struggle in the international arena, leading to Eezham Tamil independence.

The fundamental flaw of the peace process is that it approached a chronic national question with the ‘development’ agendas of corporate colonialism that have no ‘appetite’ for national questions. As a result, instead of coming out with logical-end solutions it got bogged down into the terrorist paradigm, Tamil circles said.

The outcome of the failure of the peace process now not only affects the national liberation of peoples suffering from prolonged genocide but also affects even struggles dear to Marxist minds, Tamil circles pointed out.

The ‘Sri Lankan’ model of crushing ‘terrorism’ makes some countries with civil wars adopting the ‘model’ to end their wars. More recently, Sri Lanka has offered to assist India to militarily defeat the Naxalites. India assisted Sri Lanka to defeat the Tamil Tigers and now Sri Lanka reciprocates, says Shanmugaratnam. A couple of days back even the US extended its help to India’s Sri Lankan style civil war.

In his presentation Prof Shanmugaratnam said: “I would like to raise some questions about Norway’s role, questions to which I may not have complete, definitive answers but questions that need to be asked and gone into in-depth if one wants to assess Norway’s role and learn the lessons.”

The following were his questions for discussion:

  • How well informed was Norway of the history, asymmetries & complexity of the Sri Lankan conflict to play the role of a mediator/ ‘facilitator’?
  • What was Norway’s understanding of the larger context and the highly fluid political conjuncture/s of 2001-2004?
  • Was there strong professional backstopping?
  • How did Norway view and assess the political rivalry/irreconcilability & the resultant problem of cohabitation between the Executive (the all powerful President) and the legislature (the less powerful Prime Minister and his party)?
  • How well placed was Norway as an international actor in terms of political clout/ influence and diplomacy to play its role at the national (Lankan parties: GOSL, LTTE &others), global and geopolitical levels? (Geopolitics: India in particular)
  • What was the role of the International Community (IC)?
  • How helpful were the key players (USA, EU, India, Japan) to Norway’s endeavour to facilitate a negotiated settlement? More specifically the Role of the co-chairs (US, EU, Japan, Norway)?
  • How important was Sri Lanka to the US and its allies, (compared to Sudan for example)?
  • Was Norway able to anticipate the rise of strong anti-Norwegian feelings and campaigns among the Sinhalese people? How did Norway handle this situation?
  • Was the Lankan armed conflict too intractable for a negotiated settlement and hence the war could only be terminated by military means?
  • What went wrong?

Prof Shanmugaratnam ended his questions by citing Eric Solheim saying to reporters, "Even if Jesus Christ or Buddha came, they will not be able to do this easily," soon after meeting the Tigers' political head S. P. Thamilchelvan at LTTE’s Peace Secretariat in Ki’linochchi, in September 25, 2004.

What Shanmugaratnam has not asked, but many a Tamil mind ask within, is whether the whole peace process was in fact a deception designed primarily to deviate and finally to devastate the Tamil national cause in the island, Tamil circles in Oslo said.


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