Colombo Telegraph

Salman Khurshid’s Unease

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Meanwhile in a parallel universe called Humiliy…

As the Minister of External Affairs I have to be diplomatic. I have to be pragmatic.  I have to walk on eggshells, to be honest.  On the one hand, there’s Tamil Nadu, where political parties touting Tamil nationalism don’t give a hoot about Indian Tamils and even as they shed copious tears over Tamil ‘brethren’ across the Palk Straits treat ‘refugees’ from that island like untouchables.  These same politicians, unhappily, cannot be dismissed out of hand; electoral arithmetic just doesn’t permit it.  So I have to give ear to Jayalalithaa.  If that’s not a come down, what is, I ask myself sometimes.

But India, big as it is, ICC-bully though it is, is still not the USA or Russia.  Indeed, it is Lilliput to the Chinese Gulliver.  My boss, Manmohan Singh, and the entire Congress Party can be coy to Jayalalithaa, but virtually handing Sri Lanka on a platter to China is not about tickle-and-smile.

So I said what had to be said.  I said that a no-show would cost India and added a caveat: the Prime Minister’s office has the final say regarding his participation.  That’s where we are now.  I have no idea what boss has decided or what his thinking is at this point, but I can’t seem to fall asleep.

I think of worst case scenarios.  I know that a complete boycott would cost us really bad.  Canada’s decision to boycott didn’t make any waves.   All it did was provoke a bored response, ‘so what?’  Well, not really.  Canada’s track record on human rights was taken out and aired.  Skeletons we all have and ours are easy to pull out and display.  We don’t want that to happen.

I think of a situation where boss calls and says, ‘hey boy, I stay, you go!’  I imagine myself in Colombo looking like a sore thumb.  Well, Colombo will probably be nice to be and that is what would hurt most.  I would feel like a sore thumb sticking out.

And it is not as though the USA were a member of the Commonwealth and had offered us the cover of announcing boycott first.  It is easy to be Uncle Sam’s South Asian pawn.  Sadly, a little more than 200 years ago, some people in that country decided to have a ‘tea party’ that the British hadn’t been invited to.  Today, Britain is client state.  The USA has robbed from Britain the title ‘Common Thief’.  It doesn’t need the Commonwealth.

I would like to think that Britain is proxy for the USA, but that’s giving the Queen too much credit.  I tried to draw strength from British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement about talking tough with (reading ‘talking down to’) Sri Lanka, but I know Sri Lanka and I know President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  He will smile and rattle off a few places names associated with crimes against humanity, whack poor David on his back and let out of a few gusty guffaws.

I am terrified that I will be all alone in Colombo.  There are times when I think to myself, ‘If my boss doesn’t give a hoot about India, why should I?’

There are times I want to resign.  There are times I actually wish I was born in Sri Lanka to Sri Lankan parents.

Most times I break out in a sweat.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at

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