26 October, 2020

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Crimea And Geneva: Reverse Lessons For The Rajapaksa Regime And Diaspora Separatism

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

What is happening in Crimea is what diaspora separatism would love to have happening in Sri Lanka. And Russia is one country that the Rajapaksa regime would be hoping to rely on to prevent northern Jaffna becoming a South Asian Crimea. But what Russia is doing in Crimea is almost a casual demonstration of the fulfillment of separatist aspirations, on the one hand, and an inconsiderate frustration of the textbook expectations of national sovereignty and security – in a country called Ukraine.  At one point, Russia even invoked R2P of all things to justify its army getting out on the streets of Crimea, exercising its ‘Responsibility to Protect’ the Russians who are a minority in Ukraine but a majority within Crimea. Shoved virtually to the sidelines, notwithstanding all the puffed up rhetoric about diplomatic isolation and economic retaliation, are the West and the NATO – the flagship defenders of R2P and occasional promoters of separatist aspirations. Tough luck (more like, up yours), says Putin, grandson of Lenin’s cook, PhD in resource economics, possessed of his own – rather manic – sense of Great Russian history, and reinforced by KGB training.

Let us shift focus to Geneva, where the shoes are reversed and even mixed up.  While Crimea exploded out of nowhere in the last fortnight, Geneva has been the stage for a slow moving drama (with year-long Acts and half-yearly Scenes) of undramatic resolutions that never rise up to the worst fears of the Rajapaksa regime or the best expectations of the diaspora groups. And in Geneva, it is the West that stands accused, by Russia among others, of trying to unnecessarily meddle in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. But the West’s alleged meddling in Sri Lanka is nowhere near what Russia is doing in Ukraine. The leaked draft resolution for this month’s UNHRC meeting is mostly incremental ‘muddling through’ from last year’s resolution. The draft changes are more about acknowledging developments in the past year than about radical action items for next year. Yet, the changes are enough to worry the Rajapaksa regime because the annual agony has started to sap the regime’s energy so much so there could be fatigue failure even without a regime change.

Where is India?

What about India? India has played both sides in Geneva, displeasing the diaspora first and angering the Rajapaksa government later. India played wordsmith to the 2012 resolution famously, or infamously, adding the qualifying words “in consultation with and with the concurrence of the government of Sri Lanka” to the mandate given to the Office of the High Commissioner.  Those words have been struck out in the leaked draft resolution for 2013.  But on Crimea, India reportedly is the only major country “appearing to publicly lean towards” Russia at a time of overall lack of open support barring of course Syria’s Assad. Even China is cagey. While advocating peaceful resolution of the conflict, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon has spoken of Russia’s “legitimate interests” in Ukraine provoking protestations from the Ukrainian Embassy in Delhi.

Sri Lankan ‘readers’ of international affairs will obviously be interested in India’s stance on Crimea because geographical comparisons are unavoidable even if they are farfetched.  In a scenario of Jaffna becoming Crimea, the cloak of Russia will fall on India. Lo and behold, one would hope that Chief Minister Wigneswaran would be able to forestall any lunatic effort in the Northern Provincial Council to copycat the resolution of the Crimean parliament to call for a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. But history teaches us that political lunacy cannot be ruled out any time, especially in election time and that too in India. Ukraine and Crimea are not going to bother the voting masses of India who seem sufficiently fed up with the Congress dynasty and necessarily want change even if that change would bring the anti-Muslim Merchant from Gujarat to the Central Government in Delhi. But foreign policy will be election fodder for India’s chattering classes and we can stay tuned to hear what the BJP and the actors in Tamil Nadu have to say about Russia and Crimea.  All of which will be over-read and over-analyzed by Sri Lankan and diaspora ‘readers.’

And the Muslims

Adding to the complexity of comparisons but forgotten in the Russian-Ukrainian debate are the Crimean Tatars who have as much, if not more, claim to the peninsula as the Slavs, be they Russians or Ukrainians. The deportation of the Tatars out of Crimea began under the imperialist Tsars and ended with Stalin (the Georgian Communist who became the Russian patriot) who packed them off en masse to Siberia. To the Tatars, their land was colonized by the Russians after they were deported.  The Tartars have been returning to Crimea after the collapse of the Soviet Union and are now uneasily sandwiched between the Ukrainians and the Russians. The Muslims in Sri Lanka can justifiably find their parallels in Crimea.

In an inexplicable show of annoyance, President Rajapaksa is reported to have lashed out at the SLMC leader, Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem, about the SLMC providing documented information to the UNHRC about the attacks on Muslim and Christian places of worship by pro-government extremist groups. I say inexplicable because I have never seen any report about the President either publicly or privately taking to task the perpetrators of these attacks or their highly placed sponsors. To his credit, Mr. Hakeem is said to have held his ground saying that he has as much control over the SLMC as others have over the different constituent parties of the UPFA. Making a folksy point, he compared the President’s concern to the absurdity of trying to hide a pumpkin in a plate of rice. The President’s lashing out is even more inexplicable if he is serious about getting the support of the Muslim countries in Geneva. True to form, External Affairs Minister GL Peiris presented statistics in Geneva, which no one believes including the presenter, that the places of worship of all religions have come under attack and the attackers are being apprehended by the police. In other words, the government is protecting religious equality. More laughable is his now worn out argument that the fact that judges have been dealt with for their misdemeanors in accordance with the constitution should not be taken as an attack on the independence of the judiciary by the government.

Back to the future

What sense can one make by juxtaposing Crimea and Geneva?  Together, in my view, Crimea and Geneva illustrate the limits or bounds beyond which diaspora separatism and the Rajapaksa regime cannot do much. Crimea is what diaspora separatism would love to have but cannot have, and Geneva is what the Rajapaksa regime would love to shake off but cannot shake off.  But in politics, as in life, we never know enough about what we can do, and know even less about what we cannot do.  So misplaced comparisons will be made and unrealistic expectations and paranoid overreactions will ensue as per usual. The prospect of the two sides drawing reverse lessons is my wishful thinking, but is unlikely.

In a broader sense, the showdown in Crimea is not merely a “Cold War redux”, but is also Europe going back to the nineteenth century. It was about an year before the outbreak of the celebrated 19th century Crimean War (1853-1856), that Marx famously corrected Hegel that all great world-historic facts and personages appear twice, but “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” And we have it again. The Crimean war itself was a bloody mid-century farce. It was brutal, but shadow boxing according to Marx and Engels. Even though their views were not widely known at that time, subsequent historians have confirmed their assessment. In the tragedy of that shadow, at least for the English speaking world, rose Florence Nightingale and modern nursing, as well as Tennyson’s versification of the “Charge of the Light Brigade”.

It was a war triggered by the fight over the control of the Holy Land between the Catholics led by France and Orthodox Christians led by Tsarist Russia. Russia lost to the combined forces lead by France and Britain. But the aftermath of the Crimean War led Europe into a new flux that saw the emergence of Bismarck’s Germany, the eventual outbreak of the First World War and the Russian Revolution itself.  Today’s Crimean showdown is, on the one hand, a manifestation of one of the unfinished questions of the revolution, and, on the other a comeuppance for European machinations against Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The unfinished question is of course the national question. The Soviet Union did not fall to capitalism as one huge market but disintegrated along pre-existing fault lines of the Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians), the Balts (Latvians, Lithianians, Estonians), the Caucasians (Gerogians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis), and the Central Asians (Uzbecks, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Turkmenians, Kirgiz). Post-Soviet, the Europeans, especially through NATO, have been insensitively encircling what is left of the old Russia, through the former Warsaw countries and Soviet Republics. For Putin, Ukraine became the instance where Russia would draw the line, rather cross the line. His motives and methods are highly questionable, but comparisons to Hitler are outlandish.

Equally outlandish are comments that Putin is getting away as an international cowboy because there is a weak Sheriff in the White House.  To his credit, President Obama knows more about what he cannot do than about what he can do. It is remarkable that Putin and Obama have been able to maintain contact through long phone conversations. It is even more remarkable that despite the tension, the Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and the people in Crimea have been able to maintain their calmness and interact peacefully with one another. As the wife of a Ukrainian soldier remarked that is what she would expect the leaders to do as well.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Look here, Crimea is land linked to Russia whilst Jaffna isn’t. If Sri Lanka cuts of water supply to Jaffna its a 22km trek across a major ocean. Your ideas are as dumb as you look.

    • 7
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      Huh! What water supply does this moron talk about?

      And, what major ocean this man is puking about????

      • 3
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        Good Stuff, Rajan!

        The UNP and opposition parties should point out that the Rajapaksa regime’s crimes and CORRUPTION will result in a Crimea – like situation in Sri Lanka – with India invading to protect the minority Tamils..

        The useless Sri Lanka opposition should be educating SInhalaya Modayas on this matter and ask the BBS Balu Sena and its patron Gota the goon to be tried for their crimes against the northeastern communities.

        SInhalaya Modayas need to be EDUCATED about the true state of affairs!

    • 5
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      Russia has very clearly shown the world how to divide a country into two. It is time for India to follow Russia’s footsteps. Jayalalitha in her election manifesto has clearly stated that there should be a referendum held for the NorthEast Tamils in Sri Lanka and abroad to establish Tamil Eelam. In the next Indian election, Jayalalitha will be the king maker and sometimes she may even become the queen (PM) herself. In order to protect the Tamils and their lands from genocidal Sinhalese, Jayalalitha should invade the North & East and create Tamil Eelam if the call for referendum is not accepted by Sri Lanka.

      • 2
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        Ravi:

        When Jaya told the Union Govt to go to hell in the decision to let go the alleged Rajiv Gandhi killers, the Rajapakses should have learnt a lesson or two. I am sure of one thing, if she becomes the PM (hopeful only), it will be goodbye to one SL. She won’t even battle an eyelid in sending the forces to SL. Even if she is not the PM and has a strong hand in the Centre, it will be payback time for the Rajapakasas. The Rajapaksas are real fools.

    • 2
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      Your comment makes me question the advisability of permitting the Irranaimadu drinking water supply scheme to Jaffna.

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

      • 2
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        Dr RN,

        Please tell me more. I do not know what you are trying to say on Iranaimadu…
        Thanks.

      • 3
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        Dear Anpu,

        The government is trying to push a multi-million dollar drinking water supply scheme based on drawing water in the Irannaimadu tank in Kilinochchi, much against the wishes of the Kilinochchi farmers. This is not the same as the ‘ Jaffna River’ project contemplated decades back by Engineer Arumugam. If this scheme comes into being, the self sufficiency for drinking water in most of the peninsular through domestic wells will cease and the wells will fall into disuse, neglect and ultimate elimination. The ‘ Jaffna River’ project on the other hand would have replenished the lagoon system with fresh water and provide for more water in more wells and irrigation water for agriculture in 11,000 acres of additional land in the peninsula.

        What Vibhushana is suggesting/ warning is that the drinking water supply to the peninsula will be cut off if a Crimea like situation arises in the north. This will be blackmail of the worst type to contemplate, even in the unlikelihood of what he envisages happening. I fear the peninsula will lose its water independence, if the proposed drinking water supply scheme is implemented. Vibhushana has rung an early warning bell!

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

        • 0
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          Dear Dr RN,
          Thank you so much. I am interested to find out more about these two projects and I will search the net and find some articles. I have heard about these two Iranaimadu … & Jaffna River Project – but did not spend time to find out more about them. From what you say Jaffna River project is the best and the alternative is a disaster for Jaffna.

          Thanks again.
          Anpu

        • 0
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          Dr.Narendran,

          Iranaimadu should be preserved for the farmers in Kilinochchi.
          Worldwide, there is going to be significant food shortages in the coming decades, and more Tamils who can do so should take up farming in the Vanni.

          Jaffna on the other hand needs immediate construction of desalination plants. The NPC should take this up as a priority.

          • 0
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            Agnos,,

            Unfortunately R.O plants require energy and maintenance inputs that are very costly. When I see the cost of energy to pump water today in Jaffna and its share in farm costs, I regret that we had shortsightedly forsaken the mechanical system of drawing irrigation water from our wells ( Thula mithithal), we had practiced efficiently for centuries, if not thousands of years. We have also given up the practice of burying leaves in our agricultural lands and have become dependent on overused fertilisers, which are costly and detrimental to our health.

            There is no doubt that the Irranaimadu tank water should be available to the Kilinochchi farmers. However, the surplus water from this tank during the rainy season should be permitted to flow in to the Elephant Pass lagoon, a component of the Jaffna River project. It will be a bonus if Mahaweli scheme waters are directed to the Iranaimadu tank, as proposed in the Sirimavo government Mahaveli diversion scheme. This will serve the Vanni and Jaffna.

            As suggest more Jaffna farmers should move into the Vanni, while agricultural land in the peninsula should be consolidated into larger extents to permit more scientific agriculture.

            Dr.RN

            Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 6
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    Rajan, Crimea and Ukraine part of Russia until 90’s. In Crimea 60% of the population are Russians. 12% are Crimean native people. And the rest Ukraineans. So how could you compare Crimea’s situation to Srlanka.

  • 5
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    Mr Rajan Philips:

    Your intellectual depth appears to be terribly shallow when you try to compare the Crimea-Russia relationship to that of Jaffna-India.

    Was Jaffna ever a part of the Indian republic?

    You have a fertile imagination. But don’t try to fit a square leg into a round hole.

    • 4
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      D S.A. Geee, Buruwa,

      Baharat, everything belongs to Hindu Baharat not the western concept of banana republics.

      Watch what happens after 31st May.

    • 5
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      Of course, in the past history, Sri Lanka had been a part of India at several instances. Let me take one example:

      Under Rajaraja Chola, the Rajarata (Anuradapura kingdom) became a Province of the Chola empire and was called Mummuda Chola Mandalam. His son Rajendra 1 (1014 – 1044) conquered large areas to the south and took Mihindu 5 as captive. Under him Sri Lanka became one of the nine provinces of the Chola empire and was called Eelam Mandalam. This Chola rule was the longest and the most far-reaching in terms of surface area by any Dravidic power. To this day the influence of the Cholas who were staunch Shiva Hindus can still be seen in the Tamil community of Sri Lanka.

      • 1
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        Even further back India was part of Africa!

  • 3
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    This is another erudite and informative piece of writing from an obviously well-informed and objective person. I agree with everything he says, all the comparisons he makes and the not-so palatable prognostications he makes or implies.

    The powers that be need to get sensible and do the right thing to get Sri Lanka back on a secular, democratic and ethically/morally correct track.

  • 2
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    20 % of the population in Ukraine are Russian.They all live in Crimea.

    Only 10 % of the Srilankan population are Tamils. More than half of them don’t live in Jaffna Peninsula .

    And Srilankan Tartars are nearly 10 % and rapidly increasing.

    Never mind the CM, can the LTTE proxy TNA leader declare independence for 5 % minority?

    If Tamil Nadu was a “Ukraine” Miss Jayalalitha would have had a go with the help of the the same alliance which has been staging the Geneva Show for the last four years since Nanthikadal.

    Ukranian President was chased out because, he wouldn’t put all his eggs in EC basket.

    So the EU organized the ” Spring” ( which our dear UNP Leader fondly calls UDGOSHANA, like the one he is now promising if the Govt bans the FB) with the Ukranian nationalists.who would have gone after the Russians to cleanse any Russian influence.

    Thankfully Putin is back and he won’t take shit from Europe or anyone else , unlike the old Tsars.

    So EU can not stuff around in old Russian territory to please the Ukrainians.

    Hopefully this a lesson for the Diaspora too whose backers think they can change the Regime and fulfil the Diaspora dreams.

    But inhabitant will always welcome them as long as they pay the USD 25 fee for a 30 day pass.

    • 5
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      If you take the whole country it is 10% but if you take only the NorthEast it is 80%. On the other hand, there is hardly any difference between 10% and 20%.

      Since every economic activity is centralized to Colombo, there is very little choice for Tamils to survive in the NorthEast. Attempting to secure a basic economic life, many accept the latent risks of living in the south. Their desperation is heightened by Sri Lanka’s rampaging inflation. However, all the Tamils will leave the South the moment conditions are created (economic, etc) for them to live in the NE.

      Sri Lanka was also one of the Indian Chola province in the past under King Rajaraja Chola. Jayalalitha/India should follow Russia’s footsteps and invade the North & East of SL and create the Tamil Eelam. Let’s wait till the Indian election is over.

    • 2
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      Sumanasekera:

      I think you spoke too loud too soon. Never can tell what the future beholds. Who would have thought of a parippu drop? Funny that you forgot that. What goes around comes around? And lest you forget, the Rajapaksas made a beeline to the courts of Indian wallas to beg and plead to conduct the war. Well, let us see.

  • 1
    1

    Crimea was part of Russia long before the USofA came into existence, wrested from the natives by the use of force. It only became an administrative component of Ukraine, when it was handed over from Russia, when the USSR was run by a Ukrainian, Khrushchev. The Crimeans had no say in the matter. It only became a bone of contention after the dissolution of the USSR.

    Stalin, another non-Russian deported the Tartars who had suffered under him to Crimea during his reign. Kievan Rus founded the lands known today as the Russian Republic, Ukraine and Byelorussia, and Kiev is named after him. Ukraine has always had a big Russian (Slav) population, even though it was part of the Polish empire for a while. The Poles refer to it as a land on wheels as it’s borders have been rather fluid, and some parts that were Polish were turned over to Ukraine post-WW2. It must not be forgotten that some parts of Ukraine were with the Nazis during that war, and the present violent coup was carried out by groups led by such Nazi elements, funded very well by the West (the US has spent $5 billion, according Victoria Nuland of the US State) and trained by NATO. In fact these same Nazi groups were used by the US in anti-Russian activities in the Baltics previously.

    NATO wants to deny a warm water port to the Russians, and this area also has important oil/gas reserves and more pipelines to transport the same through them to Europe is paramount to the EU. The 88 day long intense bombing campaign of Yugoslavia under the baseless claim that 200,000 Albanians had been massacred by the latter was the start of the
    process, with the resultant balkanisation of that country and the creation of multiple NATO bases there.

    Sri Lanka and Crimea are different stories.

    • 3
      3

      “Crimea was part of Russia”

      Tamil Eelam was a part of Tamil Nadu in the past. Rajendra Chola 1 (1014 – 1044) conquered and ruled Sri Lanka for a very long period. He also created the second Kingdom in Sri Lanka at Pollonaruwa. Under him Sri Lanka became one of the nine provinces of the Chola Empire and was called Eelam Mandalam. This Chola rule was the longest and the most far-reaching in terms of surface area by any South Indian power.

      • 3
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        till 48 it was ruled from Hindu Baharat- specifically from Chennai as per Treaty of London records.

        Wait for 31st May and another Crimea not too far away.

        Why not who needs an Egyptian, Libyan Syrian style??

        Nothing like Bangala Hindu style even for the Muslim.

  • 1
    0

    Rajan Phillips,

    Thank you, a decent summary. What Russia fears is Ukraine joining NATO, and NATO on its doorstep. NATO is much bigger than Russia.

    “It was a war triggered by the fight over the control of the Holy Land between the Catholics led by France and Orthodox Christians led by Tsarist Russia. Russia lost to the combined forces lead by France and Britain. But the aftermath of the Crimean War led Europe into a new flux that saw the emergence of Bismarck’s Germany, the eventual outbreak of the First World War and the Russian Revolution itself. Today’s Crimean showdown is, on the one hand, a manifestation of one of the unfinished questions of the revolution, and, on the other a comeuppance for European machinations against Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

    Back to Sri Lanka, the Northern Sri Lanka, the TTamil Nadu Tamils and the Indians invading Northern Lanka, Turkey-Cyprus style, is now very viable. Tamil Nadu, with the support of Tamil Nadu and India, can go for a Cypress-Style invasion, and make Northern Sri Lanka, a separate District or province, autonomous, but a protectorate of Tamil Nadu and India.

    In such a scenario, the, Monk Mahanama Sinhala Buddhist Racists would have achieved their greatest fear, the division of the Island, because they did not want a just and egalitarian society, based on the Monk Mahanama Imaginations and Racism.

    The Rajapaksas and the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists are helping in this direction.

    There was a Greek Guy called Sampson in Cyprus, who made Turkey to invade Cyprus. Crimea. Next?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprus

    Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Byzantines, Arab caliphates for a short period, the French Lusignan dynasty, and the Venetians, was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman control. Cyprus was placed under British administration in 1878 until it was granted independence in 1960,[15] becoming a member of the Commonwealth the following year. In 1974, seven years after the intercommunal violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,[16] an attempted coup d’état by Greek Cypriot nationalists[17][18] and elements of the Greek military junta[19] with the aim of achieving enosis (union of the island with Greece) took place.[19] Turkey used this as a pretext to invade the northern portion of the island. Turkish forces remained after a cease-fire, resulting in the partition of the island; an objective of Turkey since 1955.[19] The intercommunal violence and subsequent Turkish invasion led to the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots[20][21] and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots,[22] and the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriots political entity in the north. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute.

    DejA Vu,.. have seen this before.

  • 2
    1

    Rajan deliberately hide the truth about Crimea. It was in February 1954 that Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine. And that was as a “symbolic gesture,” to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire. And Crimea was a province of Russian SFSR. And Ukraine was a part of the USSR. In January 1991, the Crimean Oblast was upgraded to an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR.

    Only when Soviet Union collapsed and Crimea became part of the newly independent Ukraine, tensions between Russia and Ukraine arisen.

    Situation in Jaffna peninsula has never been like in Crimea or Tamil Nadu to Ukraine or India to Russia. India is no Russia. Its a recent creation by the British Raj. Tamil Nad is a declared unwilling and unhappy partner of Indian union. Adjoining Dravidian provinces that are seemingly happy partners of the Indian union have uneasy relationship with Tamil Nad on very many issues.

    No Indian leader at the centre ever claimed any part of Sri Lanka an integral part of that country. What more to say if Indira Gandhi had dropped any indirect claim to its nearest Sri Lankan Island – Kachchativu. And it was confirmed by the Supreme court of India recently.

    Putin is no cowboy. He knows the size of Russia today, what Russians want and what he can give them. Pew Research Center says Americans see U.S. power in the world is declining. It also says most Americans think the U.S. ought to concentrate on solving domestic problems. the US no longer dominates the global economy. It is China that has made enormous leaps to occupy the number two spot today. IMF says, the Chinese economy would become the world’s largest in 2016.

    I suggest Rajan watch Charli Ross’s recent interview with Henry Kissinger in Bloomberg to get a real appraisal on Crimea.

    • 2
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      Banda,

      Yes. It was all coming to terms with the expansion of Russia Under Peter (The Great) and Catherine, and others need to dominate the Black Sea. See link below.

      http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/143010/Crimea/314881/History

      In the 10th century these coastal cities were claimed by Prince Vladimir I of Kievan Rus, but Kiev was unable to retain the Crimea, which fell to the Kipchaks and later to the Tatars of the Golden Horde. In the 13th century the Genoese established commercial outposts along the coast, making their headquarters at Kaffa (modern Feodosiya) and eventually coming to dominate Black Sea trade. In the early 14th century, Islam made dramatic inroads among the Tatar population in the Crimean interior under Öz Beg, a khan of the Golden Horde who had converted to that faith. The remnants of the Golden Horde came to be known as the khanate of the Crimea, and they submitted to Ottoman suzerainty in 1475. Although their power had waned dramatically from the days of the Mongol conquests, the Tatars made frequent raids on the Muscovite state from their capital at Bakhchysaray in southern Crimea.

      The Ottoman Empire was the dominant force in the region for several hundred years, but the expansion of Russia’s southern frontier, begun in earnest in the late 17th century by Peter I (the Great), frequently brought the two powers into conflict. Over the next two centures, Russia and the Ottoman Empire engaged in a series of wars for control of the Black Sea region. One of those conflicts, fought from 1768 to 1774, concluded with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774), which ceded to Russia fortresses on the Kerch Peninsula and established an independent Crimean Tatar state. In 1783 Catherine II (the Great) annexed the peninsula, and it became Russian territory.

      The regional rivalry between the Russians and the Turks persisted, however, and in the Crimean War (1853–56), it expanded into a broader European conflict. Anglo-French armies, reacting to Russian encroachments in the Ottoman-held Danubian principalities (modern Romania), landed at Sevastopol in September 1854. Lacking the heavy artillery needed to reduce the fortified city’s walls, the British and French besieged Sevastopol for almost a year before Russian forces withdrew. Many Crimean Tatars were forcibly dispersed to other parts of Russia after the Crimean War.

      When the Revolution of 1917 led to the collapse of the Russian Empire, the remaining Crimean Tatars declared the Crimea to be an independent democratic republic. During the Russian Civil War (1918–20), the Crimea served as the final redoubt for White (anti-Bolshevik) forces, and their defeat spelled the end of the independent Crimean state. The peninsula was reorganized as the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921. The Soviet collectivization process was especially harsh in the Crimea, and tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars perished during Joseph Stalin’s suppression of the ethnic minorities. In May 1944 the remaining Crimean Tatars—some 200,000 people—were forcibly deported to Siberia and Central Asia for allegedly having collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. The Crimea was downgraded from an autonomous republic to an oblast (region) of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, and in 1954 it was transferred to Ukraine in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Agreement, a treaty that submitted Ukraine to Russian rule. With the death of Stalin and the ascent of Nikita Khrushchev as Soviet leader, other nationalities that had been subjected to internal deportation were eventually allowed to return to their native regions. Although legally rehabilitated in 1967, the Crimean Tatars were a notable exception to that rule.

      In the late 1980s and early ’90s, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, many Tatars resettled in the Crimea, their numbers swelling from some 38,000 in 1989 to roughly 300,000 at the turn of the 21st century. The legal status of the Crimea was also clarified during that time. In 1991 it was once again made an autonomous republic within the Soviet Union, but with the formal dissolution of the U.S.S.R. in December of that year, the Crimea passed to the newly independent Ukraine. The relationship between Kiev and the Crimea was a complex one. Ethnic Russians constituted a majority of the population in the Crimea, and a short-lived independence movement in 1994 resulted in the abolition of the post of president of the autonomous republic. Moscow’s interests in the Crimea further complicated matters, and negotiations over the disposition of the Black Sea Fleet and its base at Sevastopol were especially heated.

      The Budapest Memorandum, signed by Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the United Kingdom in December 1994, committed the signatories to respect Ukraine’s post-Soviet borders, while Ukraine pledged to transfer its massive stockpile of Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia for decommissioning. The question of the Black Sea Fleet was resolved by dividing it proportionally between the two parties; Russia was granted an extended lease on the port facilites at Sevastopol, and, with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership (1997), the Crimea was once again affirmed as Ukrainian territory. Its border questions seemingly settled, independent Ukraine delicately balanced its European aspirations with its lingering ties to Russia. The attempt by Russia to construct a dam in the Kerch Strait sparked a major diplomatic incident in 2003, and Ukrainian legislators characterized the move as an infringement on Ukrainian territorial integrity.

      In the early 21st century, as Ukraine’s political landscape was shaken by the Orange Revolution, the Crimea’s predominantly Russian population remained staunch supporters of Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russian Party of Regions. When Yanukovych became president in 2010, he extended Russia’s lease on the port at Sevastopol until 2042. The agreement allowed Russia to base as many as 25,000 troops at Sevastopol and a pair of air bases in the Crimea. In February 2014 Yanukovych fled Kiev after months of popular protests toppled his government. Within days, unidentified masked gunmen seized the Crimean parliament building and other key sites, and legislators convened an emergency session to elect Sergey Aksyonov, the leader of the Russian Unity Party, as prime minister. Pro-Russian demonstrations were commonplace throughout the Crimea, but equally visible were rallies by Crimean Tatars, who overwhelmingly supported continued association with Ukraine. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin received parliamentary approval to dispatch Russian troops to the Crimea in March, ostensibly to protect the ethnic Russian population there, and within days Russian and local pro-Russian paramilitary groups were in de facto control of the peninsula. As Russian and Ukrainian forces maintained a delicate standoff, the Crimean parliament voted unanimously to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. A popular referendum on the matter was scheduled to be held in the Crimea on March 16, 2014, although the interim government in Kiev characterized the proposal as unconstitutional.

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    I think President Obama is wise enough to pick his battles. I think the US will focus its energy on making sure the Ukrainian mainland is protected and remains independent, but it is not going to go to war with Russia over Crimea. Let them have it, but make sure that Putin pays a heavy price in terms of Russian moral authority and credibility. Crimea is not important in the grand scheme of things, it’s in the Black sea, and the real action is in the Indian Ocean which has become the global energy “highway”. The next time Russia starts its sanctimonious preaching about “sovereignty and territorial integrity” they will have zero credibility.

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    A very good and bold analysis given that it is a bit too early to tell at this stage “.. misplaced comparisons will be made and unrealistic expectations and paranoid overreactions will ensue as per usual.” It is going to be interesting speculation. Bensen

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    ” In a scenario of Jaffna becoming Crimea, the cloak of Russia will fall on India. Lo and behold, one would hope that Chief Minister Wigneswaran would be able to forestall any lunatic effort in the Northern Provincial Council to copycat the resolution of the Crimean parliament to call for a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia”

    I very much doubt Ceylon Tamils want to join that blot on humanity known as India but the brutal treatment by the GOSL of Northern and Eastern Tamils will no doubt make it a less worse proposition than remaining a part of SL. Still it is all just hypothetical with less than 1% chance of probability.

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    As seems increasingly to be the case with Rajan’s columns, a slightly bizarre mishmash of brilliant insights, rhetorical flourish, occasionally awkward metaphors and hyperbole. And of course, delicious trivia. I now know, on Rajan’s authority, that Vladimir Putin is the grandson of Lenin’s cook, and I am disproportionately grateful to Rajan for that nugget of information.
    But it is this sentence that I wish to comment on briefly: ” To his credit, President Obama knows more about what he cannot do than about what he can do”. The first three words constitute an adjunct phrase which is quite peripheral to the main proposition in the sentence. The latter is an assertion by Rajan, and can be analyzed further into two component assertions: ‘ Rajan knows what President Obama knows about what he cannot do’ and ‘ Rajan knows what President Obama knows about what he can do’ , and further, the use of the comparative quantifier ‘ more’ implies another proposition, that ‘”Rajan has some reliable way of quantifying and comparing the ‘amounts’ of knowledge involved in each of the component propositions’. If all this were true, we would have to say that Rajan has unprecedented access to President Obama’s cognitive domains. Or can we just say that Rajan is simply talking rubbish.

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    Rajan philips a pro tamillian..if i am not mistaken. no offence for those tammilians who are not LTTE..

    you show your stupidity and the dream well in this article.

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    Despite my (almost) fanatic loyalty to Mr Philips and his writings, I tend to agree with Mr Joseph Pillai.

    If I may add my two cent’s worth, comparing and contrasting Sri Lankan predicament with those of other countries is a bit like using the same spatula to cook chilli (food) and meth (drugs); it is completely unnecessary and highly dangerous. So there!

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    Despite my (almost) fanatic loyalty to Mr Philips and his writings, I tend to agree with Mr Joseph Pillai and his well-written comment.

    If I may add my two cents worth, comparing and contrasting Srilankan predicament with those of other countries is a bit like using the same spatula to cook chilli (food) and meth (drugs); it is completely unnecessary and highly dangerous. So there!

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    So many comments but the truth is, if INDIA wants a seperation, they can do it in just few minutes. Lets be honest about it. The problem in Sri Lanka is, no unity, even among the sinhalease.

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    I hope India takes note, Rajapaksa will be a loser very soon if they dont tow the Indian line, Tamilnadu sentiment is very strong to be noticed by Intl community witch is more important to them than Srilanka.

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    ravi the (EElam Supporter)

    “Russia has very clearly shown the world how to divide a country into two. It is time for India to follow Russia’s footsteps. Jayalalitha in her election manifesto has clearly stated that there should be a referendum held for the NorthEast Tamils in Sri Lanka and abroad to establish Tamil Eelam. In the next Indian election, Jayalalitha will be the king maker and sometimes she may even become the queen (PM) herself. In order to protect the Tamils and their lands from genocidal Sinhalese, Jayalalitha should invade the North & East and create Tamil Eelam if the call for referendum is not accepted by Sri Lanka. “

    Jayalalitha Will never become prime minister of India, unless she joins the BJP or Congress which is unlikely. If Jayalalitha becomes the king maker there is a possibilty India could send in their army. Establishing a seperate state in the North is a possibility then. East very unlikely atleast the greater part of East. Most likely scenario would be that North Sri Lanka will become a satellite state of India.

    Before India sends its army to Sri Lanka it is likely to take into account the cost of Pakistani advances into Kashmir and also advances by China on the other side.
    Fun times ahead lets wait and see

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    If you watched the debate you would know that Obama said (American point of view) is that international law dictate that one part of a country can not declare independence from another by a referendum by themselves. Such a referendum will concern the whole country not part of the country. That is the international law. Look there is more to Russian actions than the simplified bullshit we are hearing form you. There a power play between NATO and Russia. Do you see something like that in here? Also there were Russian troops in Crimea Do u see Indian troops here in SL ? And today Putin recognized that Crimea as an independent country. WILL INDIA DO THAT FOR YOUR SO CALLED ELAM ? INDIA IS THE FIRST COUNTRY AFTER SL TO SHUT DOWN ELAM BECAUSE THEY DONT WANT A DRAVIDASTAN CURVING OUT OF INDIA . IN SHORT IT IS INDIA THAT DOES NOT WANT A ELAM TO BE FORMED HERE IN SL MORE THAN ANY ONE ELSE!!!!

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