Feature Article

Demand Tokyo Co-chairs, India to bring international mediation between Tamils and GoSL

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 November 2019, 19:59 GMT]
Unlike during the genocidal onslaught in 2009, the US and India are now more tightly intertwined in their foreign policy approach on the maritime affairs of the states in the Indian Ocean. There is a joint Indo-Pacific outlook, especially after the 2013 launch of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There would be no different approaches or nuances between the two powers, as it was the case in the previous decade. The US and India, along with two other key partners in the region, Japan and Australia, would be acting en bloc. The Rajapaksa establishment is very well aware of this reality. It is time that Tamils muster their historic courage and articulate a joint demand for international mediation. It is also the time that the foreign actors who were pulling the wrong strings during the 2009 genocide and its aftermath now take account of their earlier practices.

Tokyo Co-chairs (Norway, Japan, US and EU) were a concrete formation that represented the international community of the global establishments during peace-process and its break-down, particularly towards the genocidal onslaught in 2009.

The Tokyo Co-chairs were a West-oriented formation that didn't exist at the beginning of the Norway-facilitated process, but a geopolitical insertion of the George W. Bush Administration during the peace process in 2003, a year before Congress coming to power in India.

Apart from the US, the UK was also influencing the conduct of the Co-chairs. The last colonial power of Ceylon was determined in upholding the geopolitical paradigm it had set in the island at the end of World War II (the Royal British Navy's Eastern Fleet was headquartered at Trincomalee during World War II). The UK has long blighted the cause of Eezham Tamils.

In India, the BJP in alliance along with several other parties was in power from 1998 to 2004 with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister.

The February 2002 Ceasefire Agreement was mooted, shadow-managed and supervised by Vajpayee's National Security Advisor, the late Brajesh Mishra.

When the Congress government came to power in 2004, the process was detrimentally controlled by the likes of the late J.N. Dixit (until 2005) and M.K. Narayanan (2005 onwards), both identified as anti-LTTE personalities.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, an American citizen and US-trained infantry officer, who arrived at the scene in 2005 to conduct the genocidal war as the SL Secretary Defence, was well aware of the changes at the NSA level in India and also the limitations faced by New Delhi vis-à-vis Tamil Nadu.

There were several indicators that the then SL Defence Secretary and US Citizen Gotabaya Rajapaksa had secured the backing of the Pentagon in his run-up to the genocidal onslaught in 2009.

Mahinda Rajapaksa had the necessary Chinese backing as well as the support of an array of other countries.

Later, Gotabaya himself has gone on record stating that the way Rajapaksa brothers handled India, not to oppose the final assault out of humanitarian and Tamil Nadu-oriented concerns, determined the outcome of the war in 2009.

How the Rajapaksa siblings handled India through a Troika back-channel has been detailed by one of the members, Lalith Weeratunga, the Secretary of the SL President at that time. The other two members of the Troika were Basil Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Now, after emerging as the SL President with the sole backing of the Sinhala voters, Mr Gotabaya was quick to recognise the role of India in the region. He is also scheduled to visit New Delhi on 29 November.

The news being leaked to media that New Delhi is concerned of Tamil rights is mainly intended to silence Tamils and their naive political leaders such as R. Sampanthan and Justice C.V. Wigneswaran. A group of Eezham Tamil academics and activists based in Tamil Nadu are also trying to influence Tamils on the ground not to mobilise with an international demand. They keep repeating that Rajapaksas are close to China and New Delhi would be taking the affairs of Eezham Tamils into its hands, which is nothing else than a pure deception.

New Delhi based writers such as the former Indian Foreign Service diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar, who seek to set the agenda on geopolitical matters, also imply this message in their recent writings. Bhadrakumar went to the extent of suggesting that it would be exceedingly foolish on the part of New Delhi to adopt a prescriptive attitude towards Colombo. “Any such attempt will meet with rebuff. Success lies in carrying the new president along,” he wrote. The Tamils, “dispossessed by Colombo and disowned by New Delhi,” will have to come to terms with the “grim implications of it and learn to live with what is on offer”, he further wrote.

In the meantime, the leaders of Tamil political parties seem to have buried their heads into the sand. They have been almost non-existent in voicing for the concerns of the Tamils in the international arena. They have limited their role to the useless jargon of ‘united, undivided and indivisible’ Sri Lanka fed to them through the ‘Singapore Principles’ discourse in 2013.

The Tamil and Sinhala proponents of the Singapore Principles, Fr S.J. Emmanuel and Mangala Samaraweera, are now appealing to their respective gods through social media postings.

Grasping the realities and the abilities of the Rajapaksa establishment, Eezham Tamils should make their demand at this juncture very loud and clear. Such a claim cannot be anything less than calling for international mediation to resolve the national question.

One must clearly denounce the futile path of direct negotiations under the so-called internal affairs of the ‘Sri Lankan’ sovereignty.

The foreign actors involved in the geopolitics of the joint US-India outlook should be made to demand the Rajapaksa establishment to accept international mediation between the aggrieved nation of Eezham Tamils and the Government of Sri Lanka. They must be told that they cannot simply trade off Tamil rights with their geopolitical access to the island.

Furthermore, the international mediators must be prepared to propose and implement solutions when parties fail to come to a joint agreement, taking a lesson from the failed history of the facilitator-cum-mediator Norway that couldn't accomplish its claimed mission in the peace process.

Unlike the impression given by certain Indian media, the Tamil question in the island is not a prioritised concern for India or the US at the moment in the dealings with the Rajapaksa establishment.

What matters most for the powers is securing Rajapaksa siblings adherence to the concept of “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP), which the US wants India to implement.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa would be well aware of his limits and possibilities under the FOIP concerns of the Quad.

For his part, the SL President would be interested in finding out India's limits of tolerance, in other words, to which extent he could engage with China in trade and infrastructure ‘development’ in the island.

The US and India would be prepared to sacrifice Tamil aspirations trading off SL State's adherence to their FOIP concerns. They would be more than happy to describe the Tamil national question as an internal affair of the Sri Lankan State. This is the reality of the realpolitik, which must be challenged by Tamil resistance.

The US, during the Obama Administration, transformed the international justice process on crimes committed in the island to an internal process through co-sponsoring UNHRCH Resolution 30/1 with genocidal Sri Lanka in 2015. The resolution 30/1 was fundamentally flawed as it failed to demand investigations on genocide and allowed the SL State to evade international investigation. Under the Trump Administration, the US has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council.

It is, therefore, necessary for Tamils to create an alternative international political space, also within the sphere of the global establishments.

India is pre-occupied with demanding an increased role in the decision making in the emerging defence formation of U.S.-India-Australia-Japan Quadrilateral (Quad) Security Dialogue, which is the topmost forum shaping their “FOIP”.

The prime focus of the Quad is China, and the priority would go to deter the Rajapaksas engaging with China contrary to the joint interests of the Quad.

As far as the national question concerned, Tamils in the island as well as in the diaspora and Tamil Nadu must put their joint demand to the Quad partners in one voice and be ready to shape their struggle for resistance if and when the request gets sidelined by the formations of these establishments.

The leaders of the TNA and other formations should reject direct engagement with Rajapaksas and demand international mediation.

The question is how long those claiming to be the leaders of Tamils are going to keep their heads under the sand and think about the next elections in the island and other deceptive issues by which they are kept divided in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, especially after 2009.


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External Links:
The Hindu: Managing India was key to victory against LTTE: Gotabaya
Daily FT: The Troika: How crucial relations with India were managed in the last phase of the separatist war


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