Prophesies on Sri Lanka’s Global Vulnerability: a Critique (part 2)

Continued from Part 1

So, where, or what, precisely was this Indian ‘unity’? To find the elusive answer to this question we need to return to Nehru who, despite his inspiring romanticism, provided us the clue in the following passage (1946: 343) the essence of which is that Indian Unity is essentially a ‘middle class’ yearning. He said: “The rising middle classes … wanted some cultural roots to cling on to, something that gave them assurance of their own worth, something that would reduce the sense of frustration and humiliation that foreign conquest and rule had produced”.

That these interpretations by the pioneers of independent India are not outdated is vividly illustrated by the politics of the more recent decades.

There is, for example, the India-held segment of the former Kingdom of Kashmir (54,500 sq. Miles of territory with Muslims constituting the majority), which was granted a “special status” under Article 390 of the Indian constitution, and made a constituent unit of the Indian federation in 1956 as the State of Jammu & Kashmir on which, as Partha Ghosh has shown, the Central Government per capita expenditure (largely, I assume, for ‘security and defence’) has exceeded in the recent decades the average for all states of the federation by 8-fold, continues to be the scene of Asia’s longest and one of the bloodiest conflicts. Again, there is the internally turbulent ‘North-East’ in which, despite many devolutionary concessions, there are the innumerable ‘liberation movements’ (some of which, incidentally, have had direct contacts with our ‘Liberation Tigers’) of which the most ominous in the long run is the ‘Greater Nagaland’ campaign. In Punjab the strategy of staggered devolution which the Delhi government pursued both before and after the creation of the State of Punjab in 1966 failed to quell the rising tide of Sikh secessionism which culminated in the early 1980s in the outburst of one of the bloodiest sub-national conflicts in South Asia. After almost ten years of conflict, the ‘Khalistan Insurrection’ was finally suppressed through unrestrained armed intervention by the Indian security forces. There are, in addition, the largely tribal and/or Dalit–based ‘People’s War Groups’ (PWGs) in the ‘Red Corridor’ stretching over the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka where, according to the latest information available, the PWGs have strongly affected about 180 districts (of the total of 653 in the country), in some of which civilian government is said to be totally crippled.

So, Dr. DJ, Delhi’s grip on the territory it inherited from the ‘Raj’ and the territory it acquired through post-independence invasion and military aggression, is certainly tighter today than it was in the Nehru and Ambedkar days mainly because India has developed, among other things, a security and defence apparatus which neither the ‘liberation campaigns’ within the country nor India’s hostile neighbours could seriously challenge. This is why one has to conclude that ‘Indian Unity’ is a laudable military achievement to which ‘territory-based devolution’, alongside tangible macroeconomic links which extend over those parts of the country which certain scholars have referred to as the ‘India: Core’ (interestingly, this core corresponds roughly to areas from which the IPL contestants are drawn) have contributed selectively in certain situations of potential conflict.

In some of Dr. DJ’s rhetoric he has sadly descended to the level of a school-boy debater. Let me illustrate this with a few examples. In order to refute my charge that what appears to constitute the ‘international community’ for him are the governments whose Sri Lanka policy is driven by those sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora that persist in their commitment to destroy Sri Lanka, he asks: Now, if that were the case, I could hardly have played my part in the Geneva outcome of May 2009″ (what unassailable logic!). Likewise, in refuting my assertion that what has held together the Indian union more effectively than all else is the overwhelming military might of the central government of India, Dayan asks: This contention fails to explain why the far more powerful military of a superpower, the Soviet Union, was unable to hold that multinational state together (what can you do with a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons to suppress internal dissention?). If someone has said that it was the ‘Metternich’ role that Dr. DJ played in Geneva in May 2009 that obtained for us the qualified support from some of the countries that have become hostile towards us since that time, it reflects nothing other than rank stupidity.

Let’s be more specific. In May 2009, there was no US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka. The situation in India from the viewpoint of the Congress-led government was also entirely different. For instance, the Congress leaders remained defiant when faced with the Karunanithi ultimatum of DMK’s defection from the central government unless India intervenes in the Sri Lankan conflict, and issued the counter-threat of Congress members of the Tamil Nadu state government withdrawing their support to the DMK, thus effectively silencing the self-appointed ‘god father’ of the Tamils of this world. The Congress government of that time, moreover, was preoccupied with the Islamic threat in states such as J & K, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, in contrast to the confidence it had on the electoral support from Tamil Nadu, regardless of the relatively low profile it maintained vis-a-vis the fate of the Tigers in Sri Lanka. Although the Congress alliance recorded a comfortable margin of victory at the general election of 2009, there has been a drastic change in its fortunes since that time. The support from West Bengal has eroded. Rahul, the heir apparent, had a stunning defeat at the state elections in Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu, led by Jayalalithaa Jeyaram, has become a formidable recalcitrant of the Congress government. Delhi’s leanings towards the west have increased to such an extent it is now being seen by its critics as a puppet of the United States. And, in addition, the new orientations in external relations pursued by the Rajapaksa regime have continued to cause considerable concern in India and the US. Dr. DJ should also know that there are his detractors here in Sri Lanka who are of the view that the commitments he made in Geneva in respect of province-based devolution were unauthorised, and have had a detrimental impact on Sri Lanka’s long-term interests.

The changes since 2009 in the attitude of the international community as reflected in the Geneva voting pattern have also been misinterpreted by Dr. DJ. He sees in it a massive build up of anti-Sri Lankan opinion in what he refers to as the “global interstate system”. In my view nothing is further from the truth. The Delhi government has to persist with its policy prescription of the ‘Thirteenth Amendment’ which it forced down the throat of the JRJ government in 1987, with the same type of intimidation and threat it has often used in its dealings with its weaker neighbours. There is no change in that.

In re-examining the March 2013 Geneva voting pattern, what causes surprise is that 12 of the 13 countries (Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Thailand, UAE and Uganda; Venezuela is the exception) opposed, and 8 abstained (Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Malaysia) from voting for a resolution sponsored by the United States (which was, more than all else, a prestige challenge of the most powerful nation against one of the weakest that has been enfeebled throughout by ‘fifth columnists’ in its ranks). The block vote for the resolution from the 12 European members and that of the US itself was expected. Are the others (Argentina, Benin, Chile, Costa Rica, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Ivory Coast, Libya, Peru, South Korea and Sierra Leone) our friends from whom we have recently lost support because of the alleged Sinhala-Buddhist dominance of our polity? Does Argentina (which is canvassing US support in its Falkland dispute with Britain), Libya (the puppet non-regime established by the NATO powers), and several countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and 3 countries of sub-Saharan Africa (all of which are desperately dependent of US and EU trade and aid) voting for the resolution represent a build-up of global public opinion. Hasn’t Dr. DJ heard of the diverse pressures which Washington brings to bear upon the smaller Third World countries when it mobilizes support for enforcing its will upon the United Nations? (Remember Sri Lanka supporting Britain in the UN vote on the Falkland war while receiving the gift of the Victoria reservoir from that country?). Why this stark nonsense by a man who claims to be an “expert on strategic and military matters”. Well, your guess is as good as mine.

Dr. DJ seems to be a great admirer of western personalities like Richard Holbrooke, Stephen Ratner and Peter Lyon whom he has quoted in order to substantiate his own ludicrous views. When a guy says “I don’t give a damn what happened half a millennia (sic.) ago, we are living now”, I, unlike Dayan, am not inclined to treat him as a fountain of wisdom; to me he is just a bumpkin resorting to strong-arm tactics in the same class as Richard Armitage who threatened to “bomb Pakistan back to the stone age”. It was not long ago that I listened to Dr. DJ stating in public that “the United States political mainstream is a sewer”. Is it the Obama magic that has converted the sewer into a pure stream of reason? India is surely no “swing state” concerning Sri Lanka’s fate in the international arena. On the contrary, reputed Indian scholars and journalists have been expressing deep concern about the recently witnessed erosion of their country’s prestige and influence among the so-called ‘Non-Aligned’ nations. That the United States is attempting to use India as a bulwark against the increasing influence of China in the Indian Ocean environs and China’s impressive achievements in international relations at a global scale, are well known facts. In my view it is only the lackeys of the west, those who appear to be impelled by personal benefits that persist in their attempts to intimidate Sri Lanka into a state of subservience and permanent bondage.

June 14, 2013

by G. H. Peiris

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