By Vijay Kumar –
The Government – TNA talks have reached an impasse with the TNA withdrawing from talks two weeks ago. Frustrated by the lack of progress in the talks, the TNA wanted the government to make its stand clear for talks to continue. The local government elections have shown beyond doubt in that the TNA enjoys the overwhelming support of the Tamil people. This, together with political changes in Tamil Nadu, has strengthened the hand of the TNA. While Karunanidhi acceded to pressures from the Central Government to soft pedal the Sri Lanka issue in order to maintain good relations with the Rajapakse government and thereby thwart China’s moves to replace India as its strategic and trade partner, Jayalalithaa who fought the Congress-DMK alliance in state elections is under no such obligation. During the war, India’s policy on Sri Lanka was to totally support the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE. During the past year, its foreign policy appears to have been transformed into one of half-hearted pressurizing of Sri Lanka to make the promised concessions in order to satisfy Tamil demands, its strategy being governed by the overriding need to ensure the maintenance of good relations withthe Sri Lankan leadership.
Significant changes have taken place in Tamil Nadu’s attitude to Sri Lanka since Jayalalithaa took power. Apart from a meeting with Hilary Clinton to discuss Sri Lanka and state assembly resolutions calling for economic sanctions on Sri Lanka, the transfer of power in Tamil Nadu has given a free rein to Tamil nationalist elements in the State.
Although there was no significant support for the LTTE in Tamil Nadu, the indifferent attitude of the Rajapakse regime to the Tamil problem has provided space for these groups to re-emerge and mobilize support in Tamil Nadu against Sri Lanka including demands for India to de-cede Katchaitivu. Although events in Tamil Nadu seem to not have had much impact on Indo-Sri Lanka relations, there is no assurance that this will continue to remain so. The corruption scandal involving the DMK together with developments in Tamil Nadu may lead to a realignment in Indian politics with overtures being made by Congress to Jayalalithaa sooner than later. Any analysis of regional geopolitics will show that India’s Sri Lanka policy is having little effect on Sri Lanka-China relations and that India is being overanxious of China’s activities as the dynamics of China’s activities in the Indian Ocean will be shaped by other international forces such as the US as well.
The Left has meanwhile awoken from its slumber and shown the courage to voice a position on the Tamil problem, albeit within the confines of the Government’s Parliamentary Select Committee proposal. While emphasizing the dangers of allowing the Tamil problem to persist, the Left has echoed the Government position that all parties should participate in the PSC but underscored the need for compromise in order to arrive at a solution to the problem. The mandate of the PSC has meanwhile been changed from one of addressing Tamil grievances to one of empowering the people as one nation! With a two third majority in Parliament, a powerful Presidency able to make decisions at will, a history of recanting on promises, a continuous shrinking of the limits of devolution and statements at cross purposes by different Ministers, one can understand the apprehensions of the Tamil community. The Left has to convince the Tamil community of the sincerity of the Left movement and re-establish confidence within the community of the negotiation process and the Left is ideally positioned to do so for it can take a public stand that it would be pushing for the 13A Plus and the Majority Report of the APRC in the PSC.
*Vijaya Kumar is senior Professor of chemistry at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. He also a senior member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party.