23 September, 2020

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Tamils And Changing Of The Guard In Delhi

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

There is a tussle in the BJP over 13A and the Indo-Lanka Accord and speculation about what the political line vis-à-vis the “Sri Lanka Issue” may be when the dust settles. It will take time to come into full view, but the writing is on the wall. There are two tendencies pulling in opposite directions; one is continuity with no big changes (tactics aside), the other is that the new government should make a drastic policy shift. Protagonists of the second option call it “looking with new eyes and cutting loose from the past.”

This essay is an arms length look at trends; arms length in that it will not be overweight with moral dimensions and instead focussed on which way the BJP, in its own interests, may swing and impact Lanka (Rajapakse, Tamils, State) and India (not only Tamil Nadu). After Modi gave Rajapakse a dressing down at his inauguration it seemed he intended to hold firm and retain continuity on India’s stance on our national question. This is the line crafted by the mandarins of Delhi who have been running foreign policy for decades. But there is a visible struggle with another BJP section attempting to ditch the 13th Amendment and the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.

Modi, an outsider in the BJP power centre, was catapulted into prominence by the RSS. Critical decisions will be collegiate, not the PM’s. He will be trapped between a pro-change faction and its cabinet opponents supported by foreign ministry and intelligence service bureaucrats. This was clear when a five-man BJP team led by Subramanium Swamy arrived here in July. Their seminar broke new ground and their press interviews were more significant. The coup de grace will be if India prohibits the UNHRC Investigation team from visiting India and collecting evidence to surmount the travel ban imposed by Rajapakse. In that case the message would be loud and clear; India does not want the Lankan state and military probed on human rights and war-crimes Charges. A decision to deny visas has not been announced but Jayalalithaa has raised the alarm. Secondly, if the Indian military participates in exercises planned by its Lankan counterpart for later this month while the UNHRC investigation is still in progress, India and will be mired in a diplomatic morass. The quagmire has been further muddied by the Defence Ministry’s foot-in-the-mouth website.

The last Congress government assisted Rajapakse to destroy the LTTE on condition devolution was ceded to the Tamils. The Indo-Lanka Accord and 13A encapsulated these expectations. While the BJP cheered eradication of the LTTE it has never shown loyalty to the Accord negotiated by its Congress rival Rajiv Gandhi and never had much empathy for Ceylon Tamils. It has negligible standing in Tamil Nadu hence it is immune to home grown Tamil sentiment and cannot be pressured into feigning empathy. Nevertheless till a few weeks ago the expectation was that it would let the mandarins run India’s Lanka policy. It was thought Modi had no incentive for policy reversal, but the visiting BJP team implied that, de facto if not de jure, 13A the Indo-Lanka Accord could end in the waste paper basket; Tamils will be told to go fly a kite; human rights and war-crimes concerns will be swept aside; and an axis between the BJP and lame duck Rajapakse will be crafted. Diaspora busybodies will no longer be welcome in Delhi.

The prime motive in Rajapakse’s recent decision to backdate the review period of the Paranagma Disappearances Commission was to include the time the IPKF was here. Till recently Delhi was leaning on Colombo on human rights and devolution issues. The threat to inquire into IPKF atrocities was to hit back. The Subramanium Swamy team declared that it was besotted with the Rajapakses; hence Colombo’s attempt to embarrass Delhi by opening the door to a recording of IPKF misdeeds is another in the repertoire of Rajapakse brotherhood bloomers.

The BJP visitors

The BJP visitors came for a political purpose in liaison with our Defence and External Affairs Ministries. The seminar and the press interviews could not have pleased these Ministries more if they had scripted it themselves. Subramanium Swamy, a fierce anti LTTE critic, celebrated its demise; he belongs to a fringe of the BJP that has no patience with the ‘Tamil cause’. An apt portrayal would be: Mr Swamy is a virtuoso violinist in the Rajapakse orchestra.

An interview (abbreviated extracts below) in the Daily Mirror of 25 July with BJP Foreign Policy Cell national convener and National Executive member, Dr. Seshadri Chari, is revealing.

Question: Promises made by the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the 13th amendment are yet to be realized. How will India proceed to ensure talk is not limited to mere promises?

Answer: 13A is the product of a particular situation that existed at the time when it was originally drawn up. Much water has flown since then, so in the changed circumstances, all stakeholders need to look at 13A and implement its provisions in a phased manner. If Colombo is able to set a time frame for implementation, it would help build bridges between various communities. It is up to Colombo to reap the peace dividends by implementing 13A.

Question: What are your comments on India’s abstention from voting at the US-backed resolution on Sri Lanka at the 25th UNHRC session this year?

Answer: The BJP has always held views contrary to the former government of India on the voting on the matter at the UNHRC in 2012. We have always believed that the issues between Colombo and the Tamil population is an internal matter of Lanka, opposed internationalisation of domestic problems and strongly believe this problem can be solved through negotiations between India, Lanka and other parties involved. As for human rights violations, (we) strongly believe Sri Lanka has seized up the matter; LLRC is active, it has submitted a report and now the question is implementation. I strongly believe India and Lanka should resolve this issue and collaborate to get the (UNHRC) resolution completely withdrawn. (This combines together the responses to a few questions on the same theme).

Question: Given that victims of these alleged HR violations have fled Sri Lanka, isn’t the internationalisation of the issue inevitable?

Answer: The activities of the Tamil diaspora are a subject matter for the Government of Sri Lanka to tackle (sic!). India is against the kind of negative lobbying carried out by the diaspora; they should better engage in the economic development and post-war confidence building measures.

Dr Swapan Dasgupta, described as a close Modi confidante and tipped to be the next Indian High Commissioner to London, spoke to Ceylon Today (29 July). A few abridged extracts convey the flavour.

Question: The position of the Congress was the implementation of 13A and 13A+. Would that be the same with the BJP?

Answer: It is too early to tell. I believe 13A is something for Sri Lanka to work out. They have their constraints; it is not a matter for India to decide. It is important for India to encourage Sri Lanka to resolve its own problem.

Question: the 13th Amendment stems from a bilateral agreement, the Indo-Lanka Accord.

Answer: Let’s wait and see what importance the new government attaches to the Jayewardene-Rajiv Gandhi accord (sic! Note the deft and deceptive switch from country-to-country Pact to a deal between two individuals) . . . to what extent it moves on with fresh eyes.

Question: What is the position of the BJP on the UNHRC war crimes investigation?

Answer: It is work in progress . . . look at it with fresh eyes and see what elements need to be continued and what needs to be changed.

Question: Could the issue over war crimes investigation be sorted out amicably between Sri Lanka and India?

Answer: I believe Sri Lanka itself can resolve the issue.

Such carte blanche neither the Rajapakses nor the military hoped for in their wildest dreams.

Why rapprochement with Rajapakse?

The BJP has no inherited allegiance to the Indo-Lanka (or as it now calls it the Jayewardene-Rajiv Gandhi) deal; it has no Tamil clientele in India that it needs to be sensitive about; it has no interest in human rights in Lanka; and most important its ideology and value system are different. I need to spell out this last point.

The outgoing Congress government was corrupt, a failure and rotten. But it was ideologically and historically different from the BJP. Congress is secular to a degree more than skin-deep; the BJP will not challenge the secular basis of Indian polity only because it dare not. Congress did not subscribe to a Hindi-Only ideology paralleling our god forsaken Sinhala-Only policy, but Modi has already got into dogfights with non-Hindi states by pushing Hindi on the sly. The BJP represents the ethos of a muscular commercial bourgeois allied to merchant capital whose norms are different from the Westernised elite (Nehru style), spiritualists (Ghandiji style) and the old industrial bourgeoisie (Tata-Birla class).

Modi, obviously, will be asking ‘What is there in it for us in switching policy; what is there in not switching?’ The case for continuity is stability in Tamil Nadu, indeed all non-Hindi states, alignment with the moral high ground occupied by these old elites, conformity with the worked out strategies of the Delhi mandarins, and association with the US and the West which have pretty much decided on regime change in Colombo.

The contrarian is the BJP faction that thinks the Rajapakse regime is a going concern with many more years of virility. The China factor, the Pakistan factor and so on, are subsidiary footnotes that follow only if the Lankan regime is secure. Secure in this context is not just remaining in office, but strong and stable. If the BJP power centre opined that this was so, it would be making a different call of judgement from the West which sees a limping regime with diminished authority. My view that this is a crippled regime, even if it scrapes through the next election cycle, is irrelevant. What matters is the new Indian government’s judgement, which will unfold in time.

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Latest comments

  • 15
    2

    dear sir,
    foreign policy in india is a omplicated one.foreign policy towards each country is dictated by domestic concerns as prevalent in many countries.when it comes to srilankan tamil issue i dont think modi government can make a u turn.government of india policy towards srilanka has been the same as previous government but this government does not have the baggage.what subramaniya swamy and his fellow travellers say does not count much .bjp cant ignore fourty seats though it has no base in tamil nadu.most of the people who accompanied mr.swamy are non tamils who dont know the ground reality.their views dont count much hence we can ignore their views and let us focus on devlution which is the bed rock of tamil people aspiration in srilanka.

  • 13
    2

    It is highly unlikely that the BJP regime in Delhi will totally ignore Tamilnadu sentiments. Even though its clout in Tamilnadu now is very meagre, it will definitely want to build its power base even outside the Hindi belt if it has concerns about the future. People like Swamy will hardly be taken seriously in the higher echelons of the BJP!

    Sengodan. M

  • 3
    11

    of-course SL should ditch the infamous indo-lanka agreement if possible- which was enforced at gun point on a sovereign country by a bullying power in the region. If LTTE was allowed to be crushed in 1987 instead of India molly codling them- this country would be in much better place today – think of 20yrs of bloodshed saved!

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

  • 12
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    Modi still needs the support of Jayalalitha’s. in the upper house, hence he will still pay attention to what the CM of Tamilnadu says. Modi cannot get any legislation through without CM’s support.
    Subramania Swamy cannot be taken seriously. According to Wikileaks he is a CIA Agent.

    • 1
      11

      The last sentence is a contradiction.
      If he is a CIA agent he will be pushing for regime change
      in Colombo, not speaking up in support of the Rajapakse regime!

      • 0
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        There is going to be Regime change of a different sort – MR has
        to be credited with a hidden plan. He has Army camps in 26 Districts
        and can “arrange” for a Coup when suitable, when CJ will rule that under
        the prevailing threat to Sovereignty by UN and IC the current National
        Leaders will continue until the Army releases its grip – like in other
        Countries. MR has had tuition from Burma in the May 2009 visit?

        The active Army Officers posted under MEA have been given a rest and
        are kept to be summoned to manage the “Coup” in the next stage of
        “Governance”. Sanctions are nothing to the Royal family. All Dayan/Rajiva types will be paid Consultant fees to keep silent and
        manage propaganda. Media will be under strict Army censorship.
        man

        The intellectuals in the Legal/Medical/Health sectors will just hang out.
        Anti MR TU Leaders will all be bought-over with hidden Chinese funds.
        Henchmen and cohorts will happily continue for a decade at least. All
        politicians making a noise will be taken under the PTA by the Dist.camps
        for questioning.

        If my imagination is good – will it come into play? Lets see.

    • 1
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      Swamy wears many hats. We don’t know which one he was wearing when he visited SL.

  • 0
    1

    By and large, what the good Prof had written depicts the present ground situation which I have commented on elsewhere. Even the minimal representation from Tamilnadu is not the issue. That the BJP has struck its own majority has certainly made itself unassailable and believes it can go on with its business as it deems fit. Its political calculation is weighted more towards appeasing the North rather than the South

    My take on this is this.For long, India has been the major hindrance in the desire towards Tamil Eelam. Its own Kashmir and other insurgency constraints had somewhat forced it to align its policy of denying the breakup of SL and hence deny the Tamils their Eelam. The adventure of Rajiv Gandhi into SL was to save SL and keep it together. Helping the Tamils was a blissful excuse for streaking into SL. Even today, with the Tamils’ issues on the table, Modi’s govt will squeeze as much milk as it can from the SL regime by looking the other way and leave the Tamils high and dry. The press conference makes it amply clear that. How more mistaken the Modis and the wallas can be?

    As this is happening, the hope and dream of Eelam gets nearer to home. With any Indian govt breathing on the Tamils, there can never ever be the hope of achieving that dream. Call it good riddance. If Subramaniam Swamy or any others still doubt the resilience of the Tamils, they should know that what is happening in the UNHRC has been achieved even with the opposition from the New Delhi govt, both direct and apparent. This may even give the opportunity to remove the mask of the collaborators, New Delhi and Colombo, for the large-scale humanitarian disaster they both had hand-in-hand.

  • 0
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    Just as much as the corrupt Swamy is new to the BJP Modi is new to international diplomacy. Let us hope that he would take the advice experienced Indian diplomats. Indians need not be taught diplomacy! Bensen

  • 14
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    Kumar

    Subramanian Swamy is not taken seriously. All the names you provided lack a grass roots constituency within India. That includes Seshadri Chari and even Ram Madhav, although the latter is clearly a senior member of the RSS.

    Those present at the inaugural Rajapakse-Modi meeting in May 2014 in New Delhi noted that Rajapakse was stunned by Modi’s firmness on the 13th Amendment plus proposal. It was a Mahinda setback as witnessed by the subsequent staged anti-India demonstrations in front of the Indian High Commission in Colombo, not to mention Nimal Siripala de Silva’s assumed tone of defiance.

    Please verify your sources rather than rely on non-Government BJP invitees of the Sri Lankan administration who do the lecture circuit in Colombo but otherwise lack a base within the Indian polity.

    Modi and Jayalithaa have had a political friendship that goes back 10 years. Modi needs the AIADMK support in the Rajya Sabha. This explains the BJP’s offer of the Deputy Speaker position in the Lok Sabha to the AIADMK. The BJP has also opened its account for the very first time in Tamil Nadu by winning one seat and entering into an alliance with the “Dravidian” PMK that also won a second seat in the Lok Sabha from Tamil Nadu. This had never happened in the history of the BJP before.

    State elections in Tamil Nadu are due in two years. The BJP will likely want to expand its presence in that state, albeit in a limited way given the “Dravidian” tone of Tamil Nadu politics.

    The political factors that I have just enumerated ensure that Modi is unlikely to break with current policy continuity vis a vis Colombo and throw caution to the winds in support of Mahinda.

    Your analysis this time is very simplistic. It is based on newspaper interviews by nobodies in the Indian political firmament. Seshadri and Subramaniam may have impressive titles but that’s merely it. They have no political clout. Subramanian Swamy has not even met Modi since the latter assumed Prime Ministership.

    Realpolitik will always trump ideology without a grass roots constituency. And never under-estimate the Indian external affairs bureaucracy.

    Lets briefly discuss the RSS. Modi was not initially supported by the RSS given his independence. This was seen in the tussle as to who should lead the BJP – Rajnath Singh, a Modi nominee, who eventually prevailed or Nitin Gadkari, the RSS nominee who did not secure the position. I do not think that the RSS will define Modi’s policy although the latter will indeed go through the motions of symbolic deference. Politics is far more complex than you seem to indicate.

    Your analysis this time is weak.

    • 0
      10

      Sri Lankan Tamil is far too cocksure. No, there is a degree of uncertainty and unpredictability in what the eventual fall out may be. There is indeed an argument about the best line to adopt within the BJP according to Indian HC sources. There could be some changes in policy. A nuanced and balanced analyis is better than SLT’s cocksure assertions.

      • 7
        0

        Golding

        Aren’t you being cocksure. My sources are in New Delhi. I provided the evidence. Why don’t you contradict that line by line instead of making a sweeping statement? Provide the contrary evidence.

        I stand by what I said. The silent Modi is not pro-Rajapakse while Swamy and Seshadri Chari, both Tamil Brahmins, are nobodies who can not deliver the votes – which is what ultimately counts.

        Tamil Nadu will never be irrelevant contrary to what Swamy may say. Chari meanwhile was caught lying on tape by PTI.

  • 0
    0

    We have to remeber the main thing. Subramanian Swamy, Hindian politicians from the North, Modi’s are all today’s politicians. Most of them are a bunch of opportunists and dishonest people who opted politics for a profession. Never take them seriously as they always change their stand. Show us an honest politician today in the world. Even if they want to do something, there are others to stop them. Look at Obama, the world’s # 1 powerful Politician and his struggle implementing things he likes.
    Hindians don’t love Tamilians or even Sinhalese people or politicians.
    It’s all game playing, dilly dallying tactics of all political guys.
    No one can help restore peace in Lanka unless some honest sincere politicians from all sides sit down and talk serious business, leaving the race, religion, language to a side. It’s just a dream at the situation prevailing in this country today. MR and Co will not listen to any one from inside or outside. Lanka need some non racist, non partsan, pragmatic and sensible approach for any settlement of issues.

  • 8
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    Dr Kumar David is game player of Trotskyist politics of bourgeoisie reactionaries mission undertaken by and large dual role play on behalf against anti-Sri lankan stand!
    1 He(David) seek common candidature incoming Presidential election. In Fact David’s version of political dream is to ‘regime change’.. power center in Colombo by coming Presidential election in State power an operators that, he Want to be replace bunch of rotten Eggs of moribund bourgeoisie elements,who had been lost power since 1994.
    2 David’s want 13 A and Indo-Sri lanka accord to be revitalized by Modi Govt. to access to Tamil Terrorist, regain power in north legally cover of TNA-North Council under the CM.
    3 David context of Indian -BJP version has to make allegation that BJP Hindu RSS are behind agenda and it task of politics ideology has undermine secular frame work of Democracy in Indian Republic.
    This his bargain point not respect and accept sovereignty of India. David is political manipulator, as well as writer however, lacked class basis or political power base.
    Indeed his the loose coalition of southern the moribunders and beneficiaries of the Tamil terrorist fell apart.
    The David ‘school of thought’ could not agree on the best way to assess the Tamil-LTTE Terrorist legacy ,whether Tamils-anarchism should be reinstated in North and how to address the grievances of victims of the North of Tamils.
    Unlike other David seems to be moderates but advocated Tamil radicalism to a normal political economic life of democracy and apart redressing of all the problems..
    But he chose to retain the Trotskyists political and ideological line. Hence he perceived West potential reinstatement as great advantage ,for it would imply that Tamil -TNA and LTTE had made mistakes and thus would erode the legitimacy of Tamil leadership.
    This is historical issues of Tamil radicalism and Nationalism unresolved by Tamil political class has to justified the democratic legitimacy in and out of Sri lanka.
    David as veterans of Trotskyist has NO legitimate to demand for Regime change in Sri lanka ,against will of People in Island.

  • 7
    0

    Subramaniam Swami is a “Political Spent Force”. He folded the his party in to BJP and he does not even have a party to lead. He is a new addition to BJP after folding his party into BJP. Congress did not want him. Swami refused to contest a seat which was allocated by BJP during the last elections as he knew well he does not have a voter base. Only in Sri Lanka they keep him on the head and dance. In India he is no one. He has no authority in foreign affairs matters. He is a leader of a group appointed by BJP to get votes at the next local elections, thats the only mandate he has from BJP. This group was formed to give kickbacks to those who have in some way supported BJP when BJP was entering the election period and wanted a broad base support. Swami makes himself important in Sri Lanka as he is one of the few the President of Sri Lanka can find to sing Rajapakse Song.

  • 1
    0

    In a coalition like India today, no individual member or even powerful member can be considered as representative figure of the entire coalition. The recent Indian election reflects a big change in heart of the people and the victors, still afresh from victory would want some differences in the approach and what that could be is anybody’s guess.

    All in all, one cannot make generalizations by looking at Individuals. Politics is not as simple as Civil or Electrical Engineering.

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