Colombo Telegraph

Geneva, India, And American Imperialism

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

At the moment of writing I have not had access to the full text of the US Draft Resolution on Sri Lanka that has been presented at the UNHRC Meeting in Geneva. But the most important fact about it is known: there will be no meaningful action of any sort at the present stage, and there will be such action only after the lapse of another year if Sri Lanka fails to show that there has been progress in taking credible action on internal investigations into war crimes etc. In the meanwhile there will be no international investigations into war crimes and no sanctions, both of which were being confidently anticipated. We don’t of course know what might happen by the time of the final vote on the Resolution. But it does seem that what threatened to be a dazzling Western pyrotechnic display at the expense of Sri Lanka has turned out to be a damp squib – not pathos for Sri Lanka but bathos for the US and the West.

What went wrong for the latter? Probably nothing. We are probably witnessing the unfolding of a game plan worked out between the US and India in 2011, as I argued in my article The Ban Ki-moon Conspiracy.(Island of May 2, 2011). Everything falls into place, in my view, if were recognize the fact that the outcome in Geneva depends not on the US, not on the Eu, not on the international community, but on India as I argued in my article Dawn on the Ethnic Front? In the Island of February 17. I quote from that article: “The present expectation is that the UNHRC vote will go against us I believe that the best way of countering that possibility would be to get India to act on our behalf, not necessarily openly but effectively. There are several reasons why India could have very special clout with the Western bloc. It is a regional power and an emerging great power, for which reason the Western bloc would very probably be prepared to recognize that Sri Lanka is India’s turf.

“I have in mind two other reasons as well. As I have been arguing in earlier articles the Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic problem is really an Indo-Sri Lankan ethnic problem because Delhi can never ignore the fall-out in Tamil Nadu of what happens to the SL Tamils. India is therefore an integral part of the SL Tamil ethnic problem, not just an ancillary factor. The Western bloc would therefore probably recognize that India should have a legitimate say in any action to be taken against Sri Lanka in connection with the SL Tamils. My other reason why India could have very special clout with the Western bloc is my theory propounded in 2011 that the Us and India were engaged in a benign conspiracy to make Sri Lanka move towards a political solution and ethnic reconciliation by using the threat of war crimes investigations as an instrument of pressure. My guess, for all these reasons, is that the US – which will be the prime mover behind any anti-Sri Lankan Resolution – will go along with India if the latter adopts firm positions against war crimes allegations and sanctions”.

A clarification is due at this point. The interests of India and the US in regard to Sri Lanka are not identical. For the US the fate of the Sri Lankan Tamils is of no great moment whereas for India it could be of vital importance, vital in the sense that under certain contingencies it could even threaten the very unity of India. We do not know what dark forces might not be unleashed by the coming to power of the neo-Fascist BJP. On the other hand, the issue of war crimes investigations probably matters little or nothing to India, except as an instrument of pressure. It could matter much more for the US as it could serve the purposes of American imperialism – I will explain this point later.

The reason why India would not be enthusiastic about war crimes investigations, or rather would be against them – perhaps accepting them only if they are of a token order – is that they would be incompatible with moving meaningfully towards a political solution of the ethnic problem and ethnic reconciliation. Our Government has in recent weeks taken to emphasizing this argument and giving it central importance. However this argument can be taken seriously only if the Government is really serious about moving towards a political solution and ethnic reconciliation. But for almost five years it has given the contrary impression: it sees no need for any special action towards a political solution or ethnic reconciliation because all that will follow if the Tamils accept the gifts of the benign Rajapakse Government which embodies the will of the majority.

There might apparently be a case for arguing that war crimes investigations will not be really divisive if the actions of both sides – the Government forces and the LTTE – are investigated, and the investigations are not limited to the final phase of the war. There will be impartiality if there is no invidious focusing on the actions of the Government forces alone. May be, but it is impossible to believe that the whole process of investigations involving allegations and counter-allegations and detailed enquiries stretching over years will not further polarize and envenom our ethnic relations,, making impossible the spirit of mutual accommodation required for ethnic harmony. The dead cannot be resurrected and our primary obligation is to the living. This means that accountability has to follow at some stage after the process of ethnic reconciliation takes hold.

The Congress Government is practically certain of losing the next elections, and it would not want to leave office with the record of having been a party to the creation of an insuperable problem for Sri Lanka. The ethnic problem has to be sorted by the next Indian Government on the basis of a quadripartite agreement or understanding involving the SL Government, the SL Tamils, the Indian Government, and Tamil Nadu. That will probably become inevitable unless the present SL Government changes course and becomes fully democratic, which could lead to a political solution. For these reasons it seems very probable that the Indian Government would want to see that war crimes investigations are postponed.

There is a new factor that could make the US give much weight to what India wants. I refer to Ukraine, the most momentous development in international relations since 2000, which will come to be seen retrospectively as a landmark, a landmark in the US imperialist strategy of containing Russia. I am influenced to think along these lines by my experience of Russia from 1995 to 1998. At that time Russia was in a state of collapse but it was apparent that it would, sooner rather than later, get a grip on itself and re-establish itself as a power that the rest of the world has to reckon with. That is happening under Putin. The American Empire has been in decline since the 1970s and is most certainly doomed. But Russia can establish itself as the centre of a Eurasian configuration, not an imperialist centre, but some sort of centre exercising influence in an important segment of the world. Kissinger and Brzezinski, both of whom influenced American foreign policy even after they left office, saw all that very clearly and advocated a policy of containment of Russia. That policy has consisted of expanding NATO right up to the borders of Russia and the prizing away from Russian control and influence of some countries on the Russian periphery. That is how we have to make sense of ongoing developments in Ukraine.

But what has all that got to do with India? I used to think that the special, very special Indo-Soviet relations were a product of the Cold War and had disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During my spell in Moscow I found that that was far from being the case. The prestige and influence of India in Russia was really on a grand scale, partly a result of the fact that over many decades India sent many of its ablest diplomats to Moscow. The point I am getting to is that the US will give much to loosen or break the Indo-Russian special relationship. That means, I think, that if India wants the US to forget about international investigations into war crimes in Sri Lanka, the US will probably do so.

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