Opinion Article

Indo-US competition deprives justice to Eezham Tamils

[TamilNet, Sunday, 18 December 2011, 12:12 GMT]
A historical perusal of the long plight of Eezham Tamils would show that a subtle cold war between India and the USA, played over the national question in the island, and their competition to have the dominant nation of Sinhalese on their side, denied justice to the nation of Eezham Tamils at every stage. After leading the matter into an open genocide and on-going structural genocide, the relationship of Tamils with New Delhi or Washington could never be the same again, unless both come to a consensus of delivering justice to Eezham Tamils. Both the powers now pay for their long injustice, as China’s confident entry into Indian Ocean is directly connected to their failure and loss of credibility in the Eezham war. If Tamils siding with India or the USA is vain without delivery of justice, better to collectively opt non-cooperation against both, writes TamilNet political commentator.

Indo-US competition reflecting on Tamil affairs is as old as the independence of Ceylon in 1948.

India sacrificed Tamil interests by accepting the citizenship act of 1949 and by signing Nehru-Kotalawela Pact, in order to woo the pro-US Sinhala leaders of the UNP towards India’s Non-Alignment agenda. The first pawns of the power competition were the Tamils of Indian origin.

After 1956, SWRD Bandaranayake’s ‘Sinhala Only’, the subsequent pogrom against Tamils in 1958, Srimao’s political oppressions of early 1960s and the Republican constitution of 1972 declaring Sri Lanka a Sinhala-Buddhist country, were all tolerated by India’s ‘anti-imperialist’ or ‘non-alignment’ paradigm that was essentially directed against the USA.

The pre-emptions attempted through Banda-Chelva pact and later by US backed Dudley government’s district councils were alternately thwarted by the opposition friendly to one or the other power.

Pro-US, JR government coming to power in 1977 and its ‘out of the region’ economic policies made Indira Gandhi’s India to support the Tamil cause for the first time. The US-backed pre-emption of the district councils in 1981 failed due to its pathetic inadequacy and rising Tamil militancy.

The two pogroms of the US-backed UNP government in 1977 and 1983, and its policy of addressing the national question with a ‘terrorism’ paradigm, were used by India to design a controlled militant strategy in the name of Eezham Tamils.

Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the changed global balance of power in 1985, abruptly ended the original Indian design.

* * *

The US-USSR Cold War ended, but the Indo-US competition exploiting the national question in the island of Sri Lanka continued in subtle ways.

Despite a favourable military situation to India, the USA encouraging JR to play the card of giving Trincomalee to it, made Rajiv’s India to stop at the half-baked 13th Amendment in 1987. The anger of Tamils turned against India with the subsequent development of India militarily imposing the hoodwink solution.

The US-backed Norwegian peace process failed by its inherent non-genuineness, but according to what was implied in Norway’s evaluation of the peace process last month, India was decisively responsible for the ‘Asian Model’ that ended the war in genocide.

According to WikiLeaks documents, the USA initiated the gang-up of countries, including India, against the LTTE, but India vetoed a joint demarche with the US on any model of post-war settlement.

Speaking in Chennai during the war, the then US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert Blake wanted a ‘strategic partnership’ with India. But a few days before the genocidal end of the war, the US Pacific Commander returning from a visit to New Delhi, said that there wouldn’t be any more impediments for India and China to conduct joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. The sarcasm in the statement was evident later.

After the war, when the US-led countries initiated the war crimes paradigm to patch up their failure and crimes, India repeatedly aligned with China, Russia and Pakistan to defeat the move in all international forums. Despite a resolution in the Tamil Nadu State assembly, India openly shielded Colombo’s war crimes in the Commonwealth.

In July this year, the retiring Indian foreign secretary and ambassador-designate to the USA, Nirupama Menon Rao, categorically said that India had to be directly involved in resolving the situation in the island, and it should be within the region, avoiding any third party’s involvement.

* * *

Writing in The Hindu, October this year, former US ambassadors Teresita and Howard Schaffer, said, “The U.S. and India have always had a harder time working together in the multilateral arena than they do bilaterally and the United Nations has been especially tough.”

India and the US have worked most closely together on thematic issues, but “when it comes to country-specific issues, however, US-India interaction at the UN is more difficult.” The former US ambassadors said in the article “India & U.S. at U.N.: a complicated dance.”

“How do things look nine months after India joined the Security Council for a two-year term? Finding ways to work together has been a challenge for both countries,” they commented on the current Indo-US relationship.

The ambassadors didn’t touch the point on Eezham Tamils and Sri Lanka, but were referring to Syria, Libya and Palestine.

“India has decades of practice in building support in the Non-Aligned Movement […] Working in coalition with the U.S. is a more unfamiliar pursuit,” they further observed.

Meanwhile, reading a paper in April 2006, at a seminar at Zurich, organized by Western donor-oriented Tamil outfit Centre for Just Peace and Democracy and Europe-based Burghof Foundation, Dr Karen Parker said that in her view “the U.S. interests in Sri Lanka pose the most serious barrier to the establishing of a just peace in Sri Lanka.”

“The U.S. substantial interests in Sri Lanka result from its plans greatly to expand its role and power in Asia. First of all Sri Lanka has airfields, such as in Palaly, that could provide highly useful bases for the U.S. airpower. In addition, Sri Lanka has several deep-water ports that would be very useful for basing U.S. naval forces,” she said.

“U.S. interest in Trincomalee harbor, for example, was a major factor in the direct involvement of India in Sri Lanka beginning in 1987, as is apparent by the letter of annexure to the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of that year in which the Prime Minister of India stated that no action would take place in Trincomalee that was against the interests of India,” Karen Parker observed.

“Current discussions of widening the Palk Straights to allow large vessels to pass through are disturbing in light of U.S. interests. Other U.S. interests in Sri Lanka are its natural resources, such as titanium, and the potential for the exploitation of natural gas and petroleum. Most of the land and resources coveted by the U.S. lie in the traditional Tamil areas,” she further observed.

* * *

From the sequence of events from 1948 to 2011, any one could see how the Indo-US competition was the real bedrock-impediment for any righteous and lasting solution to the national question in the island.

The competition not only reflected in the two Sinhala political parties that alternately stood in the way of any solutions, but also within the Tamil politics as well. Tamils should not think that examples were confined to Varatharaja Perumal or Amirthalingam in one shade and AJ Wilson, Neelan Thiruchelvam and Lakshman Kadirgamar in the other shade. The Indo-US competition existed within the Tamil militancy from its inception. It also operated within the monolithic LTTE, even though Pirapaharan’s LTTE tried its best to uphold the Tamil national cause above the power interests.

If competing India and the US have any consensus over the island, that exists only in saving the Sri Lankan state, whatever oppressive or genocidal it is, because both want an agent state and want to eat the cake in full. The consensus reflected in both saving the state from the Sinhala insurgency of the JVP too, whether during the SLFP regime or UNP regime.

In the past, after every pogrom against Tamils in the island, from the section of the Sinhala elite that backed the pogrom to the street hawkers in Colombo used to call the Tamils to come back without fear, saying everything is now OK. No wonder it is repeated from the side of the Sinhala elite, but now we have the international street hawkers, New Delhi and Washington, calling Tamils to come forward with ‘reconciliation’ to save the genocidal state.

Apart from this ‘consensus’, Indo-US competition continues unabated both within Sinhala as well as Tamil polity in the post-war scenario.

Even after contributing to the genocide, both the powers, showing all kinds of intimidations or lures, expect the Tamil polity to take their respective sides. They don’t want Tamils to talk about genocide, not that seeing the truth will affect reconciliation between Tamils and Sinhalese but it will affect the reconciliation between them and Tamils.

Any astute Tamil political observer, who could keep the eyes open around him or her, could see how frantically both the competing powers try to perceptibly and imperceptibly gang-up Tamil polity through long-operating intelligence outfits, foundations, funds and ‘silent’ working groups. Who is who and where is one are immaterial here. The individuals involved are not important, but grasping the dangerous phenomenon is more important.

The deviating tactics of the competing powers once again deceive Tamils, their fighting spirit is blunted, they do not know against which impediment they should actually wage their struggle, and they run after the mirages set by the powers.

The past record should tell us that siding with one of the competing powers or opposing one at the instance of the other is not going to bring in lasting solutions. Tamils should realise that the forces in question would have operated in the same way even if Tamils had achieved independence in the war. Whether in success or in failure, intelligent political preparedness of the nation is of utmost importance.

* * *

Grasping the unending competition of India and the USA, the Sinhala polity for long was grooming the China card.

However, the China card shown by India or the USA to Tamils as an excuse in the past was not real. It was a smokescreen to their competition. But China in reality has now come into the region, as a direct consequence of the failure of India and the USA in resolving the national question dodged by their competition.

If not for the war that had put the credibility of India and the USA to shambles, China wouldn’t have had the confidence and space to come into this part of the Indian Ocean.

Both the Sinhala polity and Eezham Tamil polity, in their own ways, have taken their revenge on long-blighting India and the USA.

The Eezham war and the entry of China has its telling effects on many others in the Asia Pacific region too, who either tagged behind the USA or India, blindly supported genocidal Sri Lanka.

An Indian military commander swore a couple of days back that India would build a base in South China Sea in retaliation of China’s base in Seychelles.

The USA this week has taken efforts to strengthen its base in Singapore and Philippines, apart from its military presence in Darwin in Australia and around 70,000 US troupes in Japan.

The Establishments in Australia, Japan and in the South China Sea countries, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore were blindly supporting Colombo’s war that has brought in the Chinese to the scene.

Not only the Establishments in the Asia-Pacific, but some Islamic countries also supported the anti-humanity war of Colombo, thinking that they contribute to anti-US polity. They had their turn of seeing Sri Lankan-model-inspired action.

As China’s entry into the region has become a reality, Tamils should seriously consider the positive aspects of the phenomenon. They should explore avenues – if needed even effective non-cooperation – in persuading India and the USA to deliver the righteous political justice long due to the nation of Eezham Tamils.

There is an inherent lacuna in Tamil polity compared to the Sinhala polity that was using all avenues.

* * *

The Sinhalese elite may brag about the success of their international ‘diplomacy’ that was always preoccupied with the Tamil question ever since independence or even before that. But they paid for it by getting a military regime.

If unchecked, the option that would be preferred by the powers in competition is obvious: The SL military will be competitively nurtured forever by the powers to shield their crimes, to facilitate their entry into the island, and to serve as a security service to their interests.

All the while, the existence of such a military will be justified to the dominant Sinhala nation, by continuing the Tamil question unresolved on one hand, and by tacitly approving the genocidal orientation of the ethnically Sinhalese military on the other hand.

The way out for the Sinhala nation is to concede the independence of the nation of Eezham Tamils and then to work for a genuine reconciliation, getting rid of the military and the preying powers.

Genuine reconciliation comes from peoples of parity. Sinhalese settling in the North and East or building Buddhist stupas there won’t be issues at all, when nations in the island have sovereignty in their countries.

The ‘reconciliation’ that comes from the USA and India and chanted by the militarised state in the island is only ‘reconciliation’ of the oppressed with the oppressors.

If the ruling elements of the Sinhala nation is continued to be incapable of conceiving what is reconciliation, and if the competition of the powers also is continued to be deceitful in delivering justice, then the democratic and mass struggle of the Tamils may have to be widened to include the Tamils of Tamil Nadu too, against the military-colonial state in the island and its competing god fathers outside. Such a struggle should be in partnership with the Sinhalese, aiming for their liberation too from the militarised state.

The capacity development of the grassroot in Tamil Nadu in coming out of the shackles of the elite sitting on it and the Eezham Tamil diaspora coming out of its subservience in political thinking are crucial in this respect.

Genuine voices have started coming from the Eezham Tamils in the island facing untold suffering and suffocation. The diaspora and Tamil Nadu should get the cue.

Mobilising a concerted and genuine people’s struggle against the real impediment ie., convincing the competing powers to acknowledge the self-determination of the genocide affected Eezham Tamils, is more important than chasing a mirage in Geneva in next March.


External Links:
TamilNation.Co: Re-Envisioning Sri Lanka
The Hindu: India & U.S. at U.N.: a complicated dance


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