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Sri Lanka: The Irrelevance Of India In Geneva – OpEd


By Dr Kumar David

No one knows how India will vote on the US sponsored resolution at the UNHRC in Geneva but its jellyfish like slithering has become such a farce that how it votes has become irrelevant. Delhi has shown such prevarication and slobbered so much, that it has shown its hand; it is lost, confused, at sixes and sevens and does not know where it stands.

Since it is at a loss for words, whichever way it eventually raises its robot hand makes little difference, it does not signify anything important. Is it not amazing that the presumed regional power is dumb about what is intends to do? It has been said that Delhi was blind to the nature of the Rajapakse regime and deaf to the wails of the miserable dregs of humanity in the Vanni; now it has compounded its ailments by going dumb. Deaf, blind, and now dumb in Geneva!

Eventually Delhi will have to make a statement of sorts and vote one way or the other, or abstain, but it has made itself so juvenile that truthfully it does not matter what it does. Like a many limbed Hindu deity it wants to be all things to all men, but will end up a cipher to everybody. It may still believe that best way to keep the Chinese at bay is to mollycoddle real and potential dictators, vide Burma! Or it may be terrified of resolutions that identify specific countries – meaning Indian atrocities in Kashmir, in tribal areas, or in the red belt. The rout of Congress in the state elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa may drive it to further obfuscations on the foreign policy front.

Neither has India’s CPM (Communist Party – Marxist) outgrown its Stalinist-Maoist shackles. It took up an extremist position on the agreement with the US to open up nuclear fuel supplies. The criticisms it raised were important and should have been pressure points in the process but the extremes to which it took its opposition proved that it had not outgrown a Cold War mentality. Its ideological beacon, China, has long discarded the Cold War and its Soviet progenitors long dead in defeat. Now to the surprise of Sri Lanka’s left and human-rights lobbies, the CPM has opposed the US sponsored HRC resolution for the sole reason that it is US sponsored. Like Don Quixote the CPM is tilting at windmills, still fighting long forgotten Cold War battles.

Thank heavens for foreign intervention

For three years political and non-governmental entities have been pressurising, pressing and pleading for action on post–war issues. The Rajapakse government has ignored consistently. Thousands are said have been “rehabilitated” but they have been rehabilitated only in name; no homes, no facilities, and no livelihood; it’s a charade. There has been a demand for demilitarisation, publication of names of missing persons and detainees, reopening the cover up of the murder of five students in Trinco allegedly by the police, and 17 medical personnel in Muttur allegedly by home guards and the police. The regime has scorned these supplications.

Hey presto, then come the UNHRC session in Geneva and we have GoSL doing incredible somersaults and a volt-face. SL delegation member and Ex Attorney General Mohan Peries promises to reopen cases of multiple murders by state-linked institutions, Ministers in Geneva offer undreamt of assurances of implementing the LLRC report, the regime swears that it is laying down road maps. Though these promises are not worth a fig it is significant that the government has been pushed to the ropes.

The point is this: One week of international pressure has achieved wonders that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men in country have not been able to do in three years! Of course the government, as is its habit, will forswear and be mala fides the promise it makes, but it is obvious that sustained international pressure is doing what internal campaigns never could. Why are some folks protesting against international pressure; shouldn’t they be demanding more of it!

Whichever way the Geneva vote goes, and irrespective of India, a new scenario has emerged. Time has run out for the siblings, they are cornered and will be forced to yield ground. The Geneva resolution mandates the UNHRC and “special mandate holders” to provide “advice and technical assistance” to implement the measures in the resolution. This will institutionalise their involvement which is essential since otherwise GoSL will flout everything from day one.

Benefiting from international pressure and having illusions about what the Americans did in Iraq, or the British elsewhere, are not to be confused. If American pressure is helpful for human and democratic rights in this country it should be welcome, but no way does it mean relaxing criticism of American atrocities anywhere.

What are the motives of those that pressurise Lanka? China, Russia, India, the West none is motivated by love of Serendib; each has its agenda. India to strengthen its position as a regional power, the Chinese to contest this and penetrate the Indian Ocean, the Russians support killer Assad in Syria and the Sri Lankan regime for reasons of cold war power play, and America and the EU are determined to correct the strategic balance in Asia in their favour. If anyone imagines that any government, including the Sri Lankan regime, acts for motives other than its own benefit, he needs to have his head examined.

The point is not “their” motives, but what Lanka’s people get out of it. There will always be a price to pay and the cost-benefit equation must be evaluated soberly. The Rajapakses adore China and love Russia because both have thrown them a lifeline. Conversely, rational Lankans should go along with the West if it benefits human-rights and defeats authoritarianism. What is the price to be paid? If it’s a less febrile love affair with China, it is worth paying.

The TNA grows up

The TNA is acting with commendable good sense despite pressure from the regime on one side and a loony-fringe Tamil nationalist circus on the other. The demand that it must advance right now is: “Hold PC elections in the Northern Province.” The degree of devolution contained in 13A is inadequate, but it does include land powers. The demand for police and fiscal powers is justified, but the TNA can contest NP elections without signing up to a political solution that excludes them. The campaign for police and fiscal power must continue. The two matters, signing up on a political agreement, and demanding and contesting PC elections in the NP, are separate, and to use a Maoist expression, the TNA “must walk on two legs.”

It seems inexplicable that the TNA is not demanding the establishment of a northern PC; but there is a reason, it is allowing itself to be held hostage by a small but boisterous section of the Tamil community living in cloud cuckoo land that styles itself a “civil society” movement. This movement is extremist in that its programme is too Tamil nationalist. It is opposed to the TNA taking control of the NP-PC (the TNA is sure to win) until Rajapakse gives the sun, the moon and acknowledges the right of the Tamil people to self-determination.

The right to self-determination was most comprehensively developed by Lenin. These kaluthaihal know nothing of Lenin or the principles of that debate. Nobody expects the bourgeoisie and oppressors to recognise the right to self-determination. If the Tamils are waiting for Rajapakse, Weerawansa and Patali to accept self-determination they will have to wait till Nataraja ends the celestial dance! This is garbage; Lenin’s position and his debate with Rosa was about whether the Marxist party recognises this right or not. By extension the Tamil nationalists can argue with the TNA about whether the latter recognises the right to self-determination or not. That’s fine, but it has nothing to do with the negotiations for a political settlement with Rajapakse.

The matter does not arise in the negotiations with GoSL unless there is a groundswell of opinion among the Tamil people demanding that secession to form a separate state of Thamil Eelam be placed on the agenda. There is no such mood in the Tamil public now, so the debate about self-determination is one of principle in the programme of a left or a Tamil party, or the TNA, not a matter for negotiating with Rajapakse. The principle comes to life only if and when the people themselves raise the question of secession – vide Scotland today.

These Tamil nationalists need to be educated on the first principles of self-determination, and the TNA needs to buck up and demand provincial council elections. In parallel, negotiations with the government may go on forever; no problem. A Northern Provincial Council in the hands of the Tamils is a huge asset. There is no excuse in pluperfect heaven for GoSL to refuse to hold elections when every other province in the country enjoys a council. The TNA, Delhi and Geneva must demand it right now, under 13A, and irrespective of 13A-plus.

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SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

2 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: The Irrelevance Of India In Geneva – OpEd

  • March 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    This is the most comprehensive convincing and arguable article I have read from a Sri Lankan writer on Ge neva UNHRC.It gives a correct picture and reviews true intentions of all major players. Comrade KumarDavid very correctly points out that if US pressure is helpful for human and democratic rights in the country it should be welcome.

  • March 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Excellent comment. The TNA must press immediately for the NPC election and “walk on both legs”


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