By Prof. Ramu Manivannan
There is an uneasy silence prevalent in New Delhi about the 19th session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva. Though the Indian government wants to keep its cards close to its chest the world is no longer prepared to play blind. At the same time the Indian government may not miss an opportunity of carrying earthen pots to Geneva, like our Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna did in Colombo in January this year to observe Pongal, in order to demonstrate our love for the Tamils of Sri Lanka and their cultural traditions. There are no myths left and all our pots are broken.
The exceptional political and diplomatic support extended by India during the final phase of the war flows from the commitment of the Indian political establishment for the military solution enforced by the Sri Lankan government and its authorities. It is the brutality of the truth that hurts India more, not truth as it is.
The Government of India has a responsibility to explain to the people of this country about the status of political reforms and rehabilitation of the Tamils displaced after facilitating the military resolution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
An unthinkable humanitarian disaster was allowed to take place in Sri Lanka through such pre-match political fixations operated by the Indian political establishment and a string of power manoeuvring bureaucrats. Our moral content is beyond redemption when the retiring foreign secretary of the Government of India went on a personal vacation to Colombo as a private guest of the Sri Lankan President before being appointed as the ambassador of India to United States of America.
The Indian government is caught in an unique twin trap of global sentiments, on the one hand, about the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the demand, on the other, from the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to not to support the Sri Lankan Government in the Human Rights Council in Geneva this month. The Government at the centre shares neither of these concerns even as a remote possibility. It must then hide in absentation like a school boy failing to appear before the scheduled examinations. It may therefore choose to absent itself from voting if it cannot influence the United States and the Nordic countries about the content of the resolution.
The world knows little more than what India wants the world to believe about its role in the brutal military resolution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Above all the complicity factor stares us more than supporting the resolution while absentation would help to keep our feet inside the Sri Lankan politics. We have shown enough stomach for humiliating rebuttals on political reforms and military-strategic turnarounds but cannot survive the exposure of the complicity factor if the Sri Lankan government chooses to use blackmailing strategy to enforce compliance with the its diplomatic ploy. India needs to ponder here. If the Indian Government gives in to this fear factor it will have the company of China and an historical precedent of Tibet before us. India must not repeat and push surrender another Tibet in the North and East of Sri Lanka and ultimately contribute to the growing constituency of homeless and despondent people in South Asia.
There are three basic options that India is likely to explore at this 19th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. First, scuttle the submission of any proposal that would demand even the slightest of political obligation on Sri Lanka. Secondly, to absent itself from voting after participating in the debate with its remarks on record. Lastly, to vote against Sri Lanka after enforcing moderation of the demands on the Sri Lankan government. The last option entails considerable political risks of witnessing the Sri Lankan display of China card in public.
A critical factor is that the Tamils have no demands on India except a stale belief that India would act at least sometime in the distant future whenever it wakes up to the calls of justice for Tamils in Sri Lanka. There is another section that believes that the Tamil struggle for justice must move on with or without the support of Indian government. This notion is more prevalent in Tamil Nadu than anywhere else. This perspective is held not only among the Tamil nationalists groups but also the common public who were stunned by the Indian indifference to the massacres and inhuman treatment meted to the ordinary civilians during the war. It will not be easy to erase the memories of internment camps or the so called welfare centres as the Sri Lankan government wanted the world to believe. An added shame is that our businessmen with access to corridors of power supplied these barbed wires to the Sri Lankan security forces who manned these mass detention centres in the Vanni region. That is why the appeal of the political parties and leaders across the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu including the ruling AIADMK, MDMK and even the pretentious UPA coalition member at the centre, DMK gains significance at this stage. The centre may once again ignore this growing constituency of parties, leaders and people in Tamil Nadu who remain disenchanted with the India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka.
The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms. Jayalaithaa has only been this articulating concern through resolutions passed at the state legislature and political appeal to the Indian government with regard to the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Sri Lankan government and its authorities. There is certain sanctity to popular legislature and peoples’ voice in a democracy that the government cannot ignore for long before it is too late.
(Author chairs the Department of Politics & Public Administration in the University of Madras- The views expressed are his own.)