India’s Quiet Diplomacy Has Its Limits In Sri Lanka – OpEd


Letters written by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the DMK and AIADMK leadership clarifies India’s stand on the US-sponsored UNHRC resolution asking Sri Lanka to address the issues of human rights violations during the last phase of the Eelam war in 2009. New Delhi wishes to underline its position as a benefactor rather joining the US to corner Colombo. However, even as it duly plays out the role as per Colombo’s expectations, there is an urgent need to emerge from the rather prolonged phase of quiet and virtually ineffective diplomacy to purposefully ensure that the rights and dignity of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka are restored.

Two issues remain. First, Sri Lankan security forces did commit widespread atrocities on the Tamil population during the final phases of the war. Second, three years since the end of war, Colombo has failed to address issues of resettlement, rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils, has progressed nowhere with regard to devolution of power and, has only done lip service to address human rights violations by its forces.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government has gone about defending its actions at home and abroad. It says that 99 per cent of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been resettled. It points at a massive development drive in the north and east of the country to provide infrastructure facilities to the Tamil population. It also says that recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) “that can be implemented instantly” have already been implemented and “the rest will be implemented systematically”. Such claims, however, have few takers outside Sri Lanka.

New Delhi thinks that the tactic of shaming Sri Lanka at the UN might produce a counter-effect: hardening Colombo’s stand. It will push the country further into the lap of the Chinese — a constant fear that has influenced Indian foreign policy towards Sri Lanka in recent years. India would, thus, hold on to its policy that it does not support any country-specific resolution at UNHRC. Such a position would fend off potential attempts to internationalise similar human rights debates in India’s own conflict theatres. Further, it would prevent focus on India’s own role as a military aid provider during the Eelam war.

Interestingly, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna maintains that the “welfare and well-being of the Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka”, their “resettlement and rehabilitation have been of the highest and most immediate priority for the government”. Any honest assessment, however, would reveal that India’s achievements have remained negligible.

India keeps insisting on devolution of power through the implementation of the 13th amendment, forgetting the fact that the 18th amendment has already increased the executive powers for the President and ensures the consolidation of his government in Parliament with Sinhala nationalist vote. There is little dependency on minority votes to stay in power, which further means that Colombo has very little reason to be compliant to India’s suggestions.

In the Parliament on February 14, Krishna spoke of the Indian project to build 50,000 houses for the Tamil IDPs in Sri Lanka. During his January 2012 visit, he handed over the first lot of few hundred houses and bicycles to some of the IDPs. What Krishna did not mention is that these projects in no way reverse the systematic attempts by Colombo to marginalise the Tamil minorities for all times to come.

Recent reports indicate that the reconstruction projects in the Tamil-inhabited areas have seen a surge in military activities. The armed forces have occupied both public and private land and are gradually establishing themselves as a major economic force by involving themselves in commercial and agricultural activities. Northern and eastern Sri Lanka, as a result, is being systematically converted into some sort of a green zone, all in the name of checkmating any future revival of Tamil extremism. An attempt to impose the culture of the majority on the entire geographic expanse of the country is also underway. The gains made by Colombo are irreversible and the project of marginalisation of the Tamils is complete, almost.

Notwithstanding the token positive developments, which include relaxation of some emergency regulations, Tamil NGOs continue to face harassment. The “white van phenomenon” — mysterious men in white vans accounting for abduction and subsequent disappearance of suspected anti-establishment persons — continues to be a reality. Colombo is in no mood to change and that is more than evident.

Post-Geneva, India needs to revisit its utterances on and its action in Sri Lanka. Not just an LTTE-free Sri Lanka, but also a contented and secure Tamil population within it, is in India’s national interest.

(The article was written few days before India voted in favour of the resolution on March 22.)

Source: Express Buzz

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray served as a Deputy Director in the National Security Council Secretariat, Government of India and Director of the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM)’s Database & Documentation Centre, Guwahati, Assam. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at the South Asia programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore between 2010 and 2012. Routray specialises in decision-making, governance, counter-terrorism, force modernisation, intelligence reforms, foreign policy and dissent articulation issues in South and South East Asia. His writings, based on his projects and extensive field based research in Indian conflict theatres of the Northeastern states and the left-wing extremism affected areas, have appeared in a wide range of academic as well policy journals, websites and magazines.

7 thoughts on “India’s Quiet Diplomacy Has Its Limits In Sri Lanka – OpEd

  • March 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Two issues remain. First, Sri Lankan security forces did commit widespread atrocities on the Tamil population during the final phases of the war. Second, three years since the end of war, Colombo has failed to address issues of resettlement, rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils,
    The author of this article and the editor of this journal must be either completely naive and incompetent to judge an issue based on factual evidence, OR, in the pockets of the LTTE diaspora.

    widespread atrocities were committed by the LTTE, shooting civilians fleeing to the government forces. Prior to this the LTTE literally hacked to death civilians of border villages, chopping babies in front of their mothers. Shot dead 70 year old devotees at a buddhist temple.

    Sri Lankan soldiers carried elderly tamil civilians on their shoulders to safety

    You people need to get your heads examined

    • March 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Dr.Pibhu Prasad is talking about the Sri Lankan Government and its responsibilites and not about the LTTE. The LTTE is finished and destroyed. One must be sensible while talking about the dead and their attrocities when the living is not concerned about its people and committed crimes. Dr.Ajith De Silva is viewing the situation with a racial motive. If the president is for the Tamil people as well , then he should have done the right thing without asking. He did not?

      • March 27, 2012 at 1:02 am


        Isn’t it so easy to talk about punishing only one party when the other is dead and gone!!!!!
        Let’s not forget the massive rescue operation of the tamil civilians, carried out by the SL army.
        Of course there would have been some inhuman acts perpetrated by some inhuman soldiers of the SL army too. These have to be isolated from the normal violent deaths that occur during any war, and punished accordingly. But, that is not going to happen at the behest of the self-righteous western nations and people like you.

      • March 27, 2012 at 1:31 am

        “The LTTE is finished and destroyed.”

        Not judging by the LTTE flags that were on display in Geneva, with well known LTTE supporters in the UK, USA, Canada, etc. (who have now donned on the “victim” and “human rights” cloaks after shedding the Tiger-stripe pants) actively and visibly working on the same SL-destruction agenda as the ones who carried guns and explosives and carried mass death and destruction in Sri Lanka for over 30 years.

  • March 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    The peoples elected government everything’s has to decide in the parliament, or they have to call general election to see people what they say.

    We will never vote in favor of this proposal. Alternatively, what India wants to do in sri lanka.
    I was there in habaran 1987 to 1996. I saw what Indian army did to Sinhalese people and the property
    example-habaran(a village in north central province) school they were in by force four months and when they leave the school, they have even used our school well as toilet now talks about human right.

  • March 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Indira Ghandhi’s India created, armed and trained LTTE to destabilise Sri Lanka and take control as a big brother at the time. It burned it’s hand when loosing lives of IPKF and Rajiv’s death by LTTE. Prabhakaran said struggle for Tamils begin from Sri Lanka and then they fight India to form Tamil Nadu and Jafna one country. Thats why india woke up and sent IPKF to SL.I wonder this theory is still valid in the minds of LTTE tamil diaspora ? I also wonder what would Rajiv’s ghost say to all this support to pro LTTE lobby. Now India support Pro LTTE daispora/Tamil Nadu politicians and are going to burn it’s hands again by encouraging separatist sentiments of Tamil Nadu from India. Why ? government want to stay in power instead of India’s foreign policy interests. UNHCR has not finished with India’s own human rights role in Kashmire. What goes around may come around.

    Of cause SL should and would implement LRRC guidelines and will give autonomy to tamil brothers and sisters. Ofcause SL past leaders made mistakes and did not give Tamils what they deserved. Current diaspora is just angry at Rajapakse finishing off LTTE and looking for revenge. Government always said they will implement LRRC verdict but at their own time and space.

    Sri Lanka will open Chinese navy docking in it’s shores and award the oil exploration blocks nearest to India to chinese companies. BTW US is brining this motion not to please Tamils but to gain control of SL not to tilt to Chinese who made are only the second country to made stealth fighters and mass produce aircraft carriers to become second superpower with nuke powered ICBMs. Chinese do have issues with India but they have bigger ambitions against US not a reagonal India. Google what is meant by ‘Ring of Pearls’ or ‘String of Pearls’ the american theory of chinese. Then you understand what is Hambanthota harbour. There is no chinese card to play it is only in Indian minds. Chinese have always been a friend and SL is the second country in the world to recognise PRC as China. Chinese don’t ‘Foget the Past’ and they will ‘Save their Face’. These are chinese sayings. SL will treat China the friend-in-need to be friend-in-deed.

  • March 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    The Indian govt was naieve in trusting the Rajapaksas. The Rajapaksa brothers, in the name of fighting ‘terrorists’, got the help of India and the other countries to eliminate the LTTE but they had and have no intention of resolving the Tamil question.

    The Rajapaksa regime has no intention of implementing the LLRC recommendations or complying with the UNHRC resolution. The only way for progress in Sri Lanka is regime change. This should happen sooner rather than later


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