Our foreign policy is flawed
H. Raja, Vice-President, Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party
The United Progressive Alliance government’s move to supply military hardware in the form of patrol vessels to Sri Lanka is both extraordinary and regrettable. Through the supply of two patrol boats, the Congress government at the Centre seems to have joined hands with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in completely wiping out the Tamil race in the island nation.
With over 3.5 lakh Tamils butchered and hundreds driven away, the Sri Lankan government is hardly doing anything to rehabilitate the internally displaced Tamils, let alone grant them political rights.
It is clear as day that the Rajapaksa government will use the Indian military supplies against the Tamils in that country or against Tamil fishermen from India who venture into the Palk Strait. Whether one is a Tamilian or an Indian speaking another language, our feelings towards the affected Sri Lankan Tamils is the same.
The supply of defence material to Sri Lanka should be opposed as we have an umbilical cord relationship with the Tamils of that country. I am personally against this agreement between the UPA government and Rajapaksa to wipe out the Tamil race.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is not only opposed to the deal, but also strongly condemns it and wants the government to drop the move to supply the patrol boats by 2017-18.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had unequivocally stated that India would not supply military hardware to Colombo.
But what is happening now is exactly the opposite of the policy of the Vajpayee regime. I am well aware that if we do not supply the defence materials to Sri Lanka, someone else will, probably China or Pakistan. But why do we need to give our ships that may be turned against the Tamil people?
Our policy is flawed. If the Centre believes that the supply of military hardware to Sri Lanka is a strategy to keep China out, then there shouldn’t be practical grounds for such apprehensions.
After all, one cannot maintain a relationship with one’s spouse if it is engulfed by the fear factor. Like its economic and other internal policies, the foreign policy of the Centre is weak and shows that the government is inefficient and incapable of protecting the country.
People did not fully understand the Congress’ gameplan when they voted in the 2009 election. Now they have realised that the party is against the common man and against Tamils. They are upset with Delhi for being soft towards Sri Lanka and particularly for providing military training to the Sri Lankan Army personnel.
They have now fully grasped the Congress’ nefarious plan and will teach it a lesson in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Though I can understand the feelings of Union minister of shipping G.K. Vasan when he said he was against the sale of military vessels to Colombo and that he would urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to drop the proposal, the fact is that nobody will listen to him Dr Singh listens only to Sonia Gandhi. Her voice is supreme. Dr Singh can’t act against her will.
It is time to build bridges
Neena Gopal, Resident Editor, Deccan Chronicle, Bengaluru
India’s proposed sale of two “warships” to Sri Lanka may seem like rewarding a neighbour whose trigger-happy Navy cocks a snook at New Delhi by shooting at and detaining Indian fishermen who stray across the maritime boundary. But it could well have the opposite effect and help reel in a disgruntled ally which frequently signals Beijing.
India’s rationale is that it is only providing the Sri Lankan Navy with the offshore patrol vessels — not warships — it needs to better police the waters based on an agreement signed some two years ago.
In doing this, India may be taking a leaf out of China’s book in seeking to shore up ties by providing much-needed investment in a country emerging from 26 years of civil war. After nearly four years of peace since the annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leadership, Sri Lanka is finally poised for a boom, and India has played no small role in helping it get back on its feet.
Overlooking vociferous protests from former ally, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and J. Jayalalithaa’s All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu, New Delhi may have even helped Colombo walk back from a possible United Nations probe into alleged human rights violations into the brutal manner in which the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s son Balachandran Prabhakaran and hundreds of other innocent Tamil civilians were butchered when the so-called surrender turned into a bloodbath.
India is clearly seeking to look beyond 2009, drawing comfort LTTE’s end, which led to a mass exodus. It also brought an end to the pan-Tamil sentiments since the LTTE leadership was adroit at manipulating Indian Tamil sentiment in their favour.
Ironically, India’s attempts to seek closer ties with the current Sri Lankan leadership have hit a wall. Whether this has to do with an intrinsic distrust of India, seen by the Sri Lankan leadership as unduly sympathetic to the plight of the surviving Tamils, is unclear. But New Delhi’s thrust vis-a-vis investment in infrastructure such as rebuilding ports in Trincomalee and Hambantota, and expanding the Indian Oil Corporation network, has stalled in the face of aggressive Chinese entry into what India sees as its backyard, its strategic underbelly.
Experts say that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government is cleverly playing the China card to keep India in check, while seeking at the same time to keep the Tamils boxed in by refusing to accept New Delhi’s urging to implement the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution that devolves power to the Tamils.
The forthcoming election to the northern province of Jaffna is likely to see the Tamil National Alliance etch out some space for itself, however limited that may be.
But the extreme complexity of the situation is evident. Therefore, even if the actual delivery of the offshore patrol vessels is some time away, these supplies could go some way in recasting the India-Sri Lanka relationship, help Delhi regain a toehold, and reset the balance in India’s foreign policy.