23 September, 2020

Blog

India Losing Patience With Rajapaksa

By R Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is well known for wrongly timing his foreign visits. In the past his India visits were more successful than his European sojourns because they were diplomatically ‘tenderized’ in advance to avoid any embarrassment to the President. His two-day ‘pilgrimage’ trip, with an entourage of 70, to Tirupati and Gaya after a stopover at Chennai that ended on February 8, 2013, ‘pilgrimate’ visit was also probably tenderized in advance. But this time, it completely failed for two reasons.

The first was the unusually strong and well orchestrated protests organized across India against his visit over allegations of war crimes and genocide. For some time now, Rajapaksa’s hardening stand on the ethnic issue, coupled with the increasingly authoritarian style of functioning has not endeared him to the minorities. Increasing anti-minority activities of Sinhala chauvinist elements particularly against anti-Muslim activities have added to their nervousness. Collectively these developments offered a wonderful opportunity to anti-Rajapaksa and pro-Eelam lobbies in Dravidian parties of different alphabetical prefixes in India to raise their voices against his visit in high decibel.

The significance of the Communists as well as the as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backing the anti-Rajapaksa protests should not be missed. In a belated move, the Congress party also added its bit to this sentiment. Perhaps for the first time, nearly all political parties seem to be realizing the importance of the issue at the national level.

The second was the President’s statement ruling out autonomy to Tamils three days before his visit which enabled anti-Rajapaksa protestors to gleefully point out “we told you so.” This ill timed statement beefed up the protestors.

Clearly New Delhi was extremely uncomfortable with Rajapaksa’s visit particularly after he ruled out granting any political autonomy to Tamils of the North to resolve the political gridlock over devolution of powers in his independence day speech at Trincomalee on February 5. He said, “It is not practical for this country to have different administrations based on ethnicity. The solution is to live together in this country with equal rights for all communities.”

This statement ripped off the last vestige of credibility in New Delhi’s Sri Lanka policy. Implementation of the 13th amendment in full as promised by him had been the only hope for New Delhi’s ruling coalition to save its face so far. It not only to kept its Dravidian partner DMK satisfied, but also saved a bit of Congress leaders’ reputation already tarnished in Tamil Nadu. The Congress party was not amused by Rajapaksa’s statement; this was evident from the Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi’s January 30, 2013 reply to DMK leader Karunanidhi’s letter on the failure of Rajapaksa to live up to his promises. She said: “I share your concern regarding the disturbing developments in Sri Lanka vis-a-vis the Tamils. I shall take up the matter with the Minister of External Affairs (Salman Khurshid).”

So it was not surprising that Manish Tiwari, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, made an unusual comment on the anti-Rajapaksa protests on the day of the President ended his visit. He said “We understand the sensitivities which are involved with regard to the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils, especially in Tamil Nadu. We are absolutely in sync with some of the concerns which have been articulated…”

His further noted that India had walked the ‘extra mile’ at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (backing a resolution against Sri Lanka) and engagement with Colombo “in no way means that we are insensitive or we tend to undermine the concerns, which a section of the population of India, may legitimately have.”

Not to be outdone, V Narayanaswamy, Prime Minister’s points man and Minister of State in the PMO, did not mince his words on India’s likely stand at the forthcoming UNHRC session on the issue of Sri Lanka’s accountability. He said:”When the UN brought forward a resolution against Sri Lanka, India voted for it. If UN’s recommendations are not honoured by Sri Lanka, India will support any resolution brought by it against the island nation.”

President Rajapaksa invariably met with the Indian Prime Minister ‘informally’ during his non-official visits in the past. Prof GL Peiris, Sri Lanka minister for external affairs, met with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh when he was in New Delhi to attend the 8th India-Sri Lanka Joint Consultative Commission (JCM) meeting on January 22, 2013.

Sri Lanka needs India’s support during the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva in March 2013. It cannot afford to take India’s support for granted anymore after it “betrayed” (as some of my Sri Lankan establishment friends termed it) and voted for the U.S. resolution seeking accountability from Sri Lanka. In this context, an informal meeting with the Indian Prime Minister would have been useful to Rajapaksa to put across Sri Lanka’s case for support.

So it would be reasonable to assume that Prof Peiris probably tried to arrange such a meeting when he met Dr Manmohan Singh. We do not know whether he did so. But such a meeting never came through because Rajapaksa neither visited New Delhi nor met anyone of importance except Alok Joshi, the chief of the Research and Analysis Wing who called upon him at Tirupati after Rajapaksa’s Darshan of Balaji. So either Rajapaksa’s visit was intended only as a pilgrimage or New Delhi wanted to send a clear signal to Rajapaksa of its growing disillusionment with him.

Three senior U.S. officials – Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Vikram Singh, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jane Zimmerman – visiting Colombo last month to assess the progress made by Sri Lanka on implementing the LLRC recommendations. At the end of it they gave notice that a ‘procedural resolution’ aimed at “pushing Sri Lanka” to address human rights concerns would be submitted at the next UNHRC meeting. This has set the dovecotes of power in Colombo in a tizzy.

If we go by the comments of the American visitors it looks doubtful whether Sri Lanka would be pushed to the wall. They said, “Certainly we have seen progress in infrastructure development, demining, rehabilitation and the release of former combatants. However there are still families who feel that their loved ones are being held somewhere. There is a desire for accountability with regards to extra judicial killings. Therefore there is a need for accelerated implementation.”

Last month the visiting British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt had also expressed similar assessment of the work in progress in Sri Lanka’s post war recovery. He said that he was pleased to see the post-war recovery process in Sri Lanka, though challenges remained.

These comments are almost the same as those made before the last UNHRC meeting when the U.S. sponsored resolution was passed. However, this time around the U.S. and British statements would indicate they would not go beyond what was done at the last UNHRC. So for all practical purposes the U.S. ‘procedural resolution’ would probably be a tepid one, reiterating all that was said earlier giving Sri Lanka yet another opportunity to save its face by buying time.

Can India accept this situation in an increasingly embarrassing political atmosphere in which it has been placed by President Rajapaksa?

The political logjam building up in Tamil Nadu over New Delhi’s passive response in the past is unlikely to allow New Delhi to continue with business as usual as far as Sri Lanka is concerned. So New Delhi will have to take a nuanced approach in handling Rajapaksa.

Under eight years of President Rajapaksa’s leadership Sri Lanka is full of ‘mores’. It has become more inward looking, more authoritarian, more worried about the dead LTTE rising up again and more paranoid about foreign influence threatening its freedom. On the whole, the country looks less confident of itself and the leader less sure than they were when they went to war against the LTTE.

The reason for this mess is simple. Rajapaksa is one of those political leaders who thrive on conflict situations because they see themselves as the slayer of the dragon on a white horse. A man blessed with uncanny ability for political manoeuvres enjoying nationwide popularity in the wake of his military victory, he could have helped Sri Lanka become a free, happy and peaceful democracy where the majority and minority worked together. But he has chosen to be different. An oligarchy is being positioned to rule the country with key reins of power in the hands of his immediate family. He is supported by a political class that respects only power and not propriety or people.

As a result Sri Lanka has become a land of contradictions. Pious affirmation to the Constitution goes hand in hand with the ditching of constitutional amendments to ensure transparency and integrity. Talks of freeing the people from the tyranny of Tamil Tiger terrorism goes on even as goons intimidate opponents and media staff. Rule of law is quoted even the highest officer of judiciary is impeached through a suspect process. Political horse trading has been replaced by political killings as criminalization politics has gained upper hand.

So subtle back room persuasions adopted by India so far are unlikely make headway anymore. It would be better for India to spell out in unambiguous terms its increasing concerns at the way things are being done in Sri Lanka.

For starters such a statement made at the highest level should include:

  • Non implementation the 13th amendment in full as promised, although it is still figures in the Constitution. Remind Sri Lanka that it is imperative to do so as it forms part of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement which is still in force.
  • Expression of India’s concern at the slow progress made in implementing rehabilitation projects financed by India in war ravaged areas to speed up the process.
  • Expression of India’s serious concern at Sri Lanka’s tardy and selective implementation of the LLRC recommendations which could affect India’s tradition support to Sri Lanka at UN forums.
  • Need for adopting non-discriminative trade practices on Indian business to enable the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement to encourage further Indian investments with an assurance to improve facilitation for such a growth at the Indian end.
  • Kick start the stalled political reconciliation process with Tamils by evolving a game plan with a clear schedule of action. Emphasize India’s readiness to assist in this respect.

Then only Rajapaksa would understand that New Delhi has ended its futile exercise of running with horses and hunting with hounds on complex issues affecting India-Sri Lanka relations which are getting out of hand. And the people on both sides of Palk Strait would understand that India means action now and refuses to be a pushover anymore.

Of course, the $64 question is would India do it? Should not the national parties take it up rather than leaving it to Dravidian parties to keep the limelight on this issue?

*Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: colhari@yahoo.com Blog: www.colhariharan.org 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    General, please explain why India is insisting on building a Coal Power plant in Trincomalee District on land grabbed from Displaced Tamils – if it is so concerned about human rights of Tamils in Lanka?! No one in Lanka wants this plant which will be an ENVIRONMENTAL and DEVELOPMENT DISASTER in addition to the Human Security disaster it currently is for all the Sampur families who are languishing in IDP camps..

    Let us get things straight. The Coal power project in Sampur, has displaced thousands of TAMIL civilians (whose Human Rights India loves to talk about… The Sampur IDPs are the victims TODAY of the GOVERNMENT OF INDIA as much as the Rajapaksa military dictatorship’s land grab. The IDPS of Sampur are victims of India’s NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS which trump all other concerns including Human rights of minorities.
    India wants a Coal power plant in Trinco to control the place since China has one in Norrochcolai. The Trinco Coal will be an Environmental pollution DISASTER for Lanka, is NOT in the interest of the PEOPLE of Lanka and is being accepted by Rajapassa in order to get Indian support at the UPR in Geneva.
    India is hated by Nepal because it has stolen that country’s water and electricity through corrupt dam building project deals with corrupt Nepali politicians so that today Nepal which has more water than any other South Asia country (snow melt from Himalayas) has 15 hour power cuts on a daily basis.. The similar is about to happen in Lanka with the dirty Sampur Coal power project by India.
    The Sampur Project in Trincomalee is India’s response to China’s presence in Hambantota and Sri Lankan citizens are paying for BOTH Rajapakse’s and the Indian State’s putrid governance interests.. SO please be a little more sophisticated in your analysis General – its wheels within wheels!

    • 0
      0

      Sampur is very important to India’s national security establishment especially as Rajapassa is now talking about taking back the Trinco Oil farm from Indian Oil. Forget about Tamil’s human rights and Tamil Nadu’s grand standing!
      The Indian security establishment (RAW and IB) think that northeast Lanka is their border and they need to have their boots on the ground, (who cares about Tamil IDP?). The Sampur Plant that no one in Lanka wants will be an alibi for the Indian intelligence clowns to run around..!

  • 0
    0

    What is this uniformed fool (Retd) saying?

    Does he know India’s voting position? No.

    THen shut up!

    • 0
      0

      Serving Colonel

      “Does he know India’s voting position?”

      Indians defined all 64 positions in Kamasudra. The retired Colonel should know one or two.

  • 0
    0

    The old Colonel seems more pissed off for Rajapaksa not accommodating his Motherland’s Economic wish list, than the LTTErs lead by Vaiko Nedu Seeman front.

    The Colonel reckons Narayanswamy will bring the Whip out to smack Rajapaksa again in Geneva .

    How frightening?.

    Narayanaswamies seem to have forced Dr Singh to follow the Pillai line after three years of her hard slog.

    Would this be enough to put the skids under post Nanthikdal new Lanka?.

    If one Vignamoorthy , a TNA MP also participating in the in the President’s progress meet on the Jaffna Development, is true, even the one time LTTE supporters seem to finally acknowledge that there is life after Prabakaran.

    And that matters more to the inhabitants.

    • 0
      0

      what is this fool trying to say He is more of an idoit than Hariharan. Colonel Could not stomach the truth of the startegic mistake of his goevrnment and his personl wish of defeating LTTE by war commitiing war crimes and crimes againmst humanity. This fool licking MaRa’s back will realize when MaRa kicks him as he has done to Previous CJ, Fowzie and teh like

  • 0
    0

    The well-read Colonel has written many splendid and considered articles on the Lankan scene. This must remain one of his best. If the Rajapakses have savvy men around them to advise them, they must take careful note of this fine study. If Hariharan is right “New Delhi wanted to send a clear signal of its disillusionment with him” – and I think so – then Rajapakse might be smarter in making suitable and prompt adjustments than the naïve night-school student Premadasa – who fooled himself he has got the better of the wily Delhiwallahs.

    At best UNHRC/Geneve in the coming weeks may give the Rajapakses one more chance but that may more be to prevent a further wholesal slaughter in this part of the world – not because Rajapakse has in any way reformed.

    “Perhaps, for the first time. nearly all (Indian) political parties seem to be realising the importance of the issue at National level” is a gloved warning the Lankan regime should not ignore. The CPI, BJP, Congress just about is the entire Indian political structure and one is well advised not to take them for granted.

    MR’s astonishing and inexplicable about-turn in the Trinco Feb 04 speech may also mean he is losing to the hardliners within in an obvious below-the-surface power struggle that is on. Clearly GR has the more vocal and influential hawks – JHU, PNM, the political Buddhist clergy – with him. Years ago GR has already declared his thoughts “there will be no further concessions. Tamils have got all what they possible can” The top in the army, the Sinhala chauvinists and the anti-minority cabal would love to hear the strains of this belligerent language. Looks like this line of thought will hold sway in the coming months.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
    0

    K.A. Sumanasekera

    “even the one time LTTE supporters seem to finally acknowledge that there is life after Prabakaran.”

    The Tamil people were made to fee there was no life without VP.

    Now the same people are being made to feel there is no life without MR.

    This is Sri Lankan Gangnam style.

  • 0
    0

    gen.hariharan yet another wonderful article by you.i have taken even more keen interest after you wrote an article how you became a general rather than a journalist.while i broadly concur with your views mahinda rajapakshe himself has contributed to the hardenitng of public opinion in tamilnadu.secondly correct stand taken by jayalalitha has also helped the srilankan tamil cause or else i dont think rajapakshe would have taken a even more chauvinistic stand than now.what tamils worldwide now need to do is to put pressure on developed countries like america,france,briton and countries like india which have influence over srilanka to implement 13th amendment which is the only solution for the ethnic problem in srilanka.last but not least we should not forget that it is not only north but also east which has to be integrated because nowadays we are hearing more about northern province rather than east which also is traditional homeland of srilankan tamils.i do hope that sanity prevails over sinhalese and they accomodate the feelings and sentiments of tamils.

  • 0
    0

    Hariharan’s wish list also contains India’s economics dreams and therefore exploitory motives over Sri Lanka which make India’s concern a crocodile tear-Sampur against Hambantota, Indian Rail Road Projects against Chinese Highway Projects etc. are all morbid manifestations of India’s exploitory demands over Sri Lanka. The decent thing for India to do is to press the trying to break free despot Rajapaksha Regime to implement the 13A, restoration of democracy and law and order in the country including conduct of free and fair elections. Any efforts by India along the lines of regime change would also be welcome by the majority of the people in the country. Any encroachment with ulterior motives of consumerism instead of upholding democratic values would be viewed as inimical.

  • 0
    0

    Manmohan Singh is more dead than alive as far as Sri Lanka is concerned. Rajapaksa is able to do and say whatever he wants regardless of his promises to India on many issues – either relating to the SL tamils, Indian fishermen or the Sampoor power plant. Rajapaksa knows Singh is a pushover. Sing’s apologetic letter to Rajapaksa after the first UNHRC vote showed what a weak coward Singh is. Allowing Rajapaks to set foot in India after the humiliating way the Indian government has been treated by Rajapaksa was shameful to the Indians.

  • 0
    0

    Why is India losing patience with Sri Lanka? It should lose patience with Pakistan who recently beheaded an Indian soldier.

    • 0
      0

      Bedrock Barney

      ” It should lose patience with Pakistan who recently beheaded an Indian soldier.”

      Tit for tat, India hanged Kashmiri Muslim on flimsy charges.

      However, India is very patient with its own, rapists, corrupt politicians,…………

  • 0
    0

    Colonel,

    Where are S.M. Krishna and Sushma Swaraj hiding, after falling for Rajapaksa’s false assurances during their visit to SL?

    And if Rajapaksa is such a liar now, why do Indians and other foreigners still think he did not lie brazenly when he committed the most atrocious war crimes in Sri Lanka, or when he mentioned the number of civilians murdered under his command. History will one day hold many Indians, including yourself, guilty of complicity in the war crimes; when it was obvious, you and others by your obtuseness failed to make the obvious call about the bestial nature of the GoSL during the war.

    Moreover, as even a sycophant of the Rajapaksa regime, Dayan Jayatilleka, has argued, how can Tamil people and the TNA put their faith in internal war crimes investigations and parliamentary select committees(PSC) under this regime when it was such a farcical PSC investigation that impeached the CJ?

    When it comes to understanding politics, most Indians I have talked to in the US, who are accomplished in their careers, nonetheless seem very dense. India cannot hope to be a member of the UN security council when its Prime Minister and thought leaders act like zombies.

  • 0
    0

    The RAW chief has met the president at the Thirupathi guest house where he was staying for thirty minutes. It is believed he delivered a message. What was the message? I hope it was a message from Lord Venketeswara , and not one from Manmohan Singh! MR’s prayers may have been probably answered.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
    0

    Sri Lanka is probably the most unfortunate country on planet despite having beautiful land and nice people!

    Mahinda Rajapaksa had a great chance to be a statesman and revise his country’s fortune. In fact, he had promised to act in way that would have made him a great statesman. But he wasted away that opportunity.

    Indian support was based on his promise. It is conditional. If he doesn’t keep his words, he will have to live with India’s adversity, not support. India had supported Prabhakaran the same way until the later changed his commitment to support Rajiv Gandhi-Jaywardene agreement.

    Having tied himself in knots, there is nothing much is left for Mahinda Rajapakshe to do other than just pray at Buddgaya and Thirupathy and wait for the divine intervention.

  • 0
    0

    Indian says:

    “Sri Lanka is probably the most unfortunate country on planet despite having beautiful land and nice people”

    Sri Lanka is another unfortunate country on planet because its people are irredeemably stupid. By the way could you stop being patronising.

    You say:

    “Mahinda Rajapaksa had a great chance to be a statesman and revise his country’s fortune.

    No chance, he neither has the heart nor the wisdom. He is a Sinhala/Buddhist so were his predecessors.

    You say:

    “In fact, he had promised to act in way that would have made him a great statesman.”

    And you would like us to believe India trusted him.

    “Having tied himself in knots, there is nothing much is left for Mahinda Rajapakshe to do other than just pray at Buddgaya and Thirupathy and wait for the divine intervention.”

    He believes and many in this forum agree with him that he is the divinity.

  • 0
    0

    Colonel Hariharan is still living in an era when New Delhi was easily able to twist the hands of SL Presidents and Prime Ministers.

    New Delhi may succumb to Tamil Nadu pressure and issue a statement like the one Hariharan wants in order to appease some Tamil Nadu politicians. That may not be of much help to the SL Tamils. India’s support to the proposed US resolution at the UNHRC will not be any help to the cause of the SL Tamils either.

    The prudent thing for New Delhi to do now is to make use of the opportunity opened up by the forthcoming UNHRC session to quietly talk to MR and convince him to fully implement the 13th amendment with suitable changes in the spirit of the Indo Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. MR can be asked to do it unilaterally or through the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee.

  • 0
    0

    Thanks you Col Hariharan, I can see even your tone is changing now towards this brutal regime. Mahinda-the-murderer will only understand the gunboat diplomacy….! India should earnestly launch it with the full backing of the main actors on the international stage…!! I can’t wait to see this…..!!!

  • 0
    0

    Naga

    “Colonel Hariharan is still living in an era when New Delhi was easily able to twist the hands of SL Presidents and Prime Ministers”

    When people are divided among themselves, state and its rulers are estranged/alienated from its people, mad monks are free to abuse, and destroy its own congregation and other religious symbols, advocate violence,………………..no wonder Indians and other powers poke their nose in Sri Lankan politics.

    Create a contented society underpinned by principles of unity in diversity, you can avoid strangers bearing gifts or waving stick. Internal cohesiveness keeps the foreigners away.

    The Sri Lankan constitution should be redrafted in such a way it reflects and recognises the diversity of its people, particularly my people.

    I am sorry when your Sinhala brethren do not even recognise this fundamental urgent requirement. They are full of themselves so are the Tamils.

    • 0
      0

      Dear native vedda,
      I like your punches…keep it up.

  • 0
    0

    There certainly will not be any more ‘political solutions’. There is already a provincial council system in place to resolve this issue since 1987.

    Besides Sri Lanka cannot afford to give over 28% of its land area and over 66% of its coastline to less that 12% of northern tamils at the expense of over 88% of the rest of the population. The coastline and the EEZ is critical for the existence and security of any island nation. Sri Lanka cannot afford to handover over 66% of its coastline and EEZ to less than 12% of its population and not gravely compromise its existence. Sri Lankans are stupid but we are not unbelievably stupid. It cannot happen under any circumstances, not under any circumstances.

    Will India hand over 28% of its land and over 66% of its conastline to less than 12% of its population at the expense of over 88%? I think not. India is stupid but not that stupid.

    Will the northern sri lanka tamils if they were the majority, hand over 28% of the land area and over 66% of its coastline to less than 12% sinhalese if the boot was in the other foot? I think not. They will laugh at us. It would be a joke.

    So there will not be any more ‘political solutions’. There is already a provincial council system in place to resolve this issue since 1987.

    About eelam or separate state why not grant a separate state in Canada, after all Canada is a very large country. I think it is the best solution. The population of Canada is only 35 million (Sri Lanka 21 million) but it is a huge country, huge.

    What about Australia perhaps population only 22 million (same as Sri Lanka) but a huge country. Surely eelam could be granted here.

    How about Norway (population 5 million) but a huge country. Or how about Sweden (population only 9.5 million) but a huge country.

    I think the TNA should demand that eelam be given in Canada, Australia, Norway or Sweden since these are huge countries with very little people. I think this is the best solution.

  • 0
    0

    We don’t want the west’s prescriptions for sri lanka. The west what is their solution for the world today? To bomb a country (especially the oil rich countries) to smithereens and grab that countries resources. That is their solution for the world. Sri Lanka want to have nothing to do with these war criminal west and their behaviour. The west is who should be sanctioned at the UNHCR for setting dangerous precedents and for war crimes.

    India I hope a civilised country should have nothing to do with the west and their criminal behaviours. It is well known that Sri Lanka is being witch hunted by the west for no reason whatsoever. What ever they are accusing sri lanka of they themselves have committed a thousand times over.

    • 0
      0

      Monkey, Why not the Sinhalese go to Canada, Austrailia or ASSam which incidentally may be their real homeland since they think they are Aryans although most can only pass as Kalu aryans.
      Tamils who are part of the south Indian cultural zone are naturally adapted to be in the southern portion of India including sri lanka and have always been here.

  • 0
    0

    Reader who goes as Monkey may note last week Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani was given pride of place in Fareed Zakaria’s popular CNN show – GPS. To Zakaria’s question as to why MA is bullish on the US economy for this and next year, the answer was because Obama has decided to reduce oil imports and make do with their own ample stocks – including new technological innovations. In the coming months this decision plus the Canadian opening new supply lines into the USA are expected to have a marked impact manipulated by the greedy. So you may not have to lose sleep on this “dirty West” for sometime.

    Senguttuvan

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.