Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Indian Bona Fide’s Questionable in Sri Lankan Issues

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao recently said India stood ready with more funding for Sri Lanka's rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in the war affected northern region.

India has continued funding the northern reconstruction and economic development process ever since the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was concluded on 18 May 2009. India has poured in billions of dollars for Northern Province reconstruction and rehabilitation projects undertaken by the Sri Lankan Government and recently announced more funding for the reconstruction of the Palali Airport in the Jaffna Peninsula and development of the Kankesanturai Harbor.

Victory Over LTTE
There is no gainsaying the fact that India's liberal assistance for the economic restoration effort in the Northern Province, which was completely devastated by the three-decade long war, deserves commendation. But the dominant question that begs an answer today is whether her liberal funding for the development and reconstruction projects in the north will in any way help restore an enduring peace in this war-torn nation. It is an open secret that India extended to the Sri Lankan Government her unreserved support to help bring the war against the LTTE to a decisive end.

The Sri Lankan Government would certainly have not been able to so conclusively deal a death blow to the LTTR militarily had India's unreserved support not been forthcoming on all fronts. The Sri Lankan Government celebrates the first anniversary of the military victory over the LTTE on 18 May. But the same government has not taken any credible action to resolve the enduring ethnic grievance which in the first place triggered that brutal war.

President's Personal Commitment
At the outset President Mahinda Rajapaksa publicly held out a personal commitment to unveil a solution to this outstanding issue after the holding of the presidential election. Then, after the presidential election was concluded, he modified that commitment to say he would iron out an agreement on an equitable solution through negotiations with the Tamil MPs who would be elected to parliamentary in the parliamentary general elections. When that point was reached he then said the negotiations with the Tamil MP's would begin after his return from the SAARC Summit in Bhutan.

The SAARC Summit is also past us. Instead of inviting the Tamil National Alliance for talks to explore a solution to the grievances of the Tamil community, the government seems to be instead occupied with attempts to weaken the Tamil National Alliance politically.

Implementing 13th Amendment
Earlier official commitments to implement a 13th Amendment plus solution to remedy all Tamil grievances are now in limbo and the government is guardedly tight lipped on the 13 plus topic.

At the time that the government emerged the victor in the war against the LTTE in 2009, India was actively pressing for a solution based on the 13th Amendment. India also insisted that the solution offered now should surpass the provisions of the 13th Amendment.

However, what has happened now? We see a subtle yet unmistakable change of attitude on the part of the Indian Government toward the nature of a solution to the grievances of the Tamil community. While India is at pains to compete with China and Pakistan in helping Sri Lanka on several fronts, Delhi does not now seem to be concerned about a settlement to the ethnic issue that will satisfy the aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils living in the north and east. Instead, India seems content to be a mere unconcerned listener to all that is said by the Sri Lankan government.

Establishing Permanent Peace
Peace and harmony cannot be ushered in purely through financial assistance extended by the Indian government to Sri Lanka. India's contribution is more direly required to bring about a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. India should understand this reality. Her current backing of Sri Lanka will never help establish a permanent peace in the country.

India should also understand that all the economic development in a country which lacks peace will not only be an illusion of a solution, but will ultimately prove to be a wasted effort.

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