Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Smashmouth In Serendip

Nitin feels -- based on his reading of Sri Lankan bloggers -- that some form of federalism will resolve the Sri Lankan civil war. As always, we take his perspective very seriously.

However, our reading of William McGowan's Only Man is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka leaves us far less sanguine. The core dispute there is too large a volcano for the tiny paradise to absorb.

We are, therefore, not interested in the resolution of the civil war, per se. Why attempt the impossible?

India's interest there is much clearer -- and more achievable. We want Pirbhakaran dragged into an Indian court and made to answer for murdering an Indian Prime Minister. If he's man enough to swallow his cyanide pill instead of hiding behind his child soldiers, we'll take that too.

This is about one man, not about the Tamil people nor about peace in Sri Lanka.

Our 80s intervention failed precisely because our objectives were not clear -- we didn't know who the enemy was and were not clear on what our end-game was. Consequently, we became convenient punching bags for political extremists on all sides -- while we absorbed vicious losses.

Indians recoil from military intervention now because they believe it to be a repeat of the 80s. It is emphatically not -- indeed, we too believe India shouldn't become an arbiter of an impossible civil war. Rather, India should fight there for its own narrow interests. Defined in these terms -- with a clear definition of victory, i.e. Pirbhakaran in a cage -- Indians, including a vast majority of Tamils, will support the war. Let's not forget, Pirbhakaran embarrassed Indian Tamils by having Rajiv Gandhi killed in Chennai. Surely, their memory is still quite fresh.

For Vaiko to suggest that Indian Tamils will favor the terrorist LTTE over their own troops is extremely offensive and patronizing to the former. This is akin to questioning their patriotism -- indeed, just as offensive as questioning the loyalty of Indian Muslims during our Pakistan wars.

Vaiko threatens that Tamil Nadu will become Kashmir if India were to move against the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils. First, LTTE's interests are not Tamil interests -- in fact, in our judgment, they are exactly the opposite. Second, last we checked, Tamil Nadu is aspiring to emerge a better Bangalore -- if Vaiko wants to turn Tamil prosperity into the ashes of insurgency, well, good luck to him in keeping the loyalty of his own people. We credit the Tamil, among whom we've lived, with far greater intelligence than Vaiko apparently does.

New Delhi really needs to quit worrying about non-issues like Vaiko and begin flexing its muscles for a smashmouth intervention into Serendip. That it likely won't is a disgrace that right-minded Indians should not accept without aggressive protest.

11 comments:

Jaffna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cynical nerd said...

Some questions:

- Let's say we decapitate the LTTE leadership. What happens next? Are there any credible moderate leaders whom we can work with? Remember the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, You own it.

- I would like to know about the origins of Srilankan Tamils. I am told that there is the first category of them who exist there for a couple of millenia and then there are some brought in by the British to work in the plantations. I am also told that many of the latter fleed to India during 1980s anti-Tamil riots by Sinhala nationalists. Are their aspirations of freedom different? How are their perceptions towards India? Perhaps Jaffna can pitch in with some response.

- Abt the sympathy in Tamil Nadu, let's get back a little in time when it was the TN govt under MGR as CM (with the support from Mrs. Gandhi) funded and armed the LTTE. This practice was later continued post-IPKF by the DMK's MK much to the chagrin of the Central govt. Remember the heinous killing of non-LTTE leaders in Chennai. There was full blown LTTE propaganda during those times. I would'nt write off this old influence (especially among many Tamil writers and intellectuals) to wane-off so easily. Even now, the only bete-noire politician to stand up firmly against Mr. Pirabaharan is Ms. Amma. Let's hope that she wins the upcoming election before we talk of any adventures in Sri Lanka.

Regards,

Jaffna said...

Dear Cynical Nerd,

I can not comment on Sri Lankan politics for institutional reasons. However, I do know that there are several Sri Lankan readers of this blog and by way of this note, I invite them to respond to your queries.

Here is some neutral information that might be useful for you. Sri Lanka probably has a population of 19 million today. The 1981 census was the last islandwide census held in Sri Lanka. According to that Sinhalese were 73.9%, Sri Lankan Tamils were 12.6%, Indian Tamils were 5.5% and Muslims were 7.6%. The religious breakdown is as follows. Buddhists were 69%, Hindus were 15.5%, Muslims were 7.6% and Christians were 7.4%. Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country.

The 1971 census had enumerated the Sinhalese in two categories i.e. low-country Sinhalese - 42% and up-country Sinhalese - 29%. It has since jettisoned this breakdown.

There have been several population changes since the 1960s. A few hundred thousand Indian Tamils were repatriated to India with the Sirimavo Shastri Pact of 1964. A few hundred thousand Sri Lankan Tamils (the numbers are disputed) left for Europe and North America after the civil war had commenced. And one million Sri Lankans now work in the Persian Gulf states. So in all likelihood, the 1981 census is outdated.

Nitin said...

PR: Fully agree with you on what we need to do about Prabhakaran. Indeed, India's lack of will to capture the assassin of its ex-prime minister has not gone unnoticed in Jaffna (pun obviously unintended, apologies to your co-bloggers). The LTTE is portraying this as a sign of weakness on the part of India, and making political capital out of it. While I think the world will be a better place if he decides to pop the pill, I would be much happier if he's dragged before the sessions judge of Sriperambudur and tried alongside pickpockets, pimps and petty thugs.

Beyond this, I think India has an interest in a democratic and peaceful Sri Lanka. Putting it in another way, a Sri Lanka in perennial civil war is not in India's interests. There is tremendous potential for bilateral trade and investment, and a booming Sri Lanka (with an open economy) can create competition that will keep India's southern states on their toes. I would argue, therefore, that India has a much broader interest in Sri Lanka beyond capturing Prabhakaran.

Btw, I agree with Cynical Nerd. The only politician with the gumption to take on the LTTE is the Puraitchi Thalaivi. She's also taking on the Naxalites.

cynical nerd said...

Interesting info Jaffna. Had only a vague idea about "Srilankan Tamils" and "Indian Tamils" there.

Nitin: yes, it is in India's interest in a peaceful Sri Lanka. But what about the other powers. The US is literally a stone's throw away thanks to Diego Garcia. Plus, the expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil community in Europe is extremely savvy in lobbying for political support there. Do you think it is also their interest to find a solution for peace? I am not so sure.

nukh said...

if syed shahzad's source is right [see link below], it should provide added impetus and leeway [diego garcia] for an indian intervention.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/GL22Df01.html

London Tamil Lawyer said...

There is no need for a lawyer mind to address the trash on this web site. We treat with utter contempt what is said therein. At best it betrays total ignorance of the situation in Ceylon and of the history of our liberation struggle.

Nitin said...

Dear London Tamil Lawyer,

If we are ignorant, pray educate us. Otherwise your contempt is merely gratuitous.

Colombo Tamil Lawyer said...

i think there is a bravado and hyperbole here. india can not capture prabhakaran. it failed before and is unlikely to succeed now.

for one, the ipkf experience was a fiasco. the indian army won impressive battles. it lost the war. the ltte linked up with the government in colombo to get the indians out. premadasa armed the ltte and demanded an indian withdrawal. the ltte resumed the war against colombo 3 months later. it assassinated premadasa.

prabhakaran influenced the course of indian history by eliminating rajiv gandhi. india never had a single party government after that. it was all unstable coalitions.

the ltte is no angel. it has violated human rights. it has killed numerous tamils. and it now needs to fear the american global war on terror. if it resumes the war, america is likely to arm colombo. and that will hurt the ltte big time.

but yet, sri lanka will not gain. while the army will capture lost ground in the north, the violence will continue like in iraq. the ltte will unlease terrorism in colombo and the economy will crumble. so we are all screwed regardless.

it in not in india's interest to have the americans in sri lanka either.

for all those sinhalese nationalists proud of rajapakse's belligerence, let me remind them - rue the policies of your earlier politicians. you guys are trapped, india is irrelevant and the tamils are screwed.

what a country. pathetic indeed.

but otherwise, the blog is good.

Primary Red said...

Colombo Tamil Lawyer:

You are absolutely right about the India's IPKF experience.

We've been careful not top argue for a similar adventure. Instead, we've argued focusing on one man -- getting him will be difficult & costly, but is doable.

There will be harsh consequences for the locals -- but, as you point out, life ain't picnic for them right now. Perhaps with Pirbhkaran gone, there may be a light at the end of this long dark tunnel.

Ultimately though, Sri Lanka has to resolve its own internal problems. Neither India nor Norway will be able to make much headway in resolving the deep hatred that runs through Sri Lanka's recent history.

Best regards.

doubtinggaurav said...

Am I the only old one to remember that it was Rajiv Gandhi and His mother who armed Prabhakaran.
And while Indian sodiers were being butchered , Rajiv Gandhi was involved in oneupmanship for stakes in Taminadu striking backroom sweetheart deals with both Sri Lankan government and LTTE.

Regards

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