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The validity of New Delhi’s latest message to Colombo through Rao

[Press Release, Wednesday, 24 March 2010 10:14 No Comment]

By Satheesan Kumaaran

The Indian central government’s message to Colombo is coming out from behind closed-door meetings as well as direct telephone calls, by the leaders of both countries. Indian policy advisers are engaged in deeply heated arguments, which are also taking place behind closed-doors, due to the Chinese influence in India’s backyard in the south. The Indians now realise that much water has flown under the bridge between China and Sri Lanka. They do not know what had transpired between Rajapaksa and China. All the connected headaches to New Delhi after Eelam War IV, declared by the Sri Lankan State in 2006 is not because of Rajapaksa’s diplomatic acumen, but because he was prepared to accept any and all offers of favour to defeat the Tamil resistance. In this process China got the upper hand. It is now too late for India. In viewing New Delhi’s recent activities in Sri Lanka, it is clear that there is evidence of paranoia. Recent activities in Sri Lanka, especially in view of India offering aid to develop Eelam, and the recent visit by the Indian Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao, who arrived in Colombo, on March 6, for a three-day visit, are for nothing but to counter China.

New Delhi hand-picked Nirupama Rao, because she had served as the High Commissioner for India, in Colombo, from 2004 – 2006. Rao, she would be recalled during her tenure, was wooing the Sinhala nationalists, but to no avail. The current period is critical to Sri Lanka. On becoming president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, started the war against, not only the LTTE, but also, against the Eelam Tamils. Further, this is the first visit of Ms. Rao, to Sri Lanka, since she took charge as India’s Foreign Secretary on the first of August, 2009. It is the first visit of any Indian official of her status, since the re-election of Mr. Rajapaksa, on January 26th.

During Nirupama Rao’s stay, she met with the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the principal Tamil party, the Eastern Chief Minister, Pillaiyan, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and several other high-ranking ministers, along with some other politicians. She also visited Kandy, in Central Sri Lanka, to inaugurate the English Language Training Center, in Peradeniya, which has been established with the support of New Delhi. She was given odd jobs to be kept occupied, because her visit was regarded as a nuisance at this juncture, while Sri Lanka forged ahead with their alliance with China. Whenever she broached the subject of political settlement of the Tamils, it was pre-empted by another offer of a contract, not important to the Chinese. China, with its horrendous human rights record, and its treatment of the Tibetans and Uigurs, in the west, is not interested in the welfare of the Tamils, or the Sinhalese. They are more worried about their own geopolitical interests, in the Indian Ocean, to advance its trade. Indians are ruthless traders. It is a case of an Indian meeting a Chinese, like the Greek meeting another Greek. While giving support to Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan authorities have also gotten wind of India which had also, in its own characteristic manner, given support to his now imprisoned rival, Fonseka. This is not surprising at all.

While speaking to an audience in Peradeniya, Rao referred to India and Sri Lanka as “sister countries,” which shared a “model, unique, and time-tested” relationship. Speaking of the high human development indicators, in Sri Lanka, she felt that there was much for India to learn from Sri Lanka and stated that, in this sense, the relationship between India and Sri Lanka was one of “give and take”. It is clearly evident that the remarks made by Rao, stating that India is no longer a regional superpower, but it was bowing it’s head to Sri Lanka, which is a tiny island in the southern tip of India, in the strategic Indian Ocean, just for the sake of pleasing Sri Lanka, so that New Delhi would feel that Sri Lanka would seek New Delhi’s support in dealing with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. This has come down from a position when India could have taken over Sri Lanka over the telephone. It is said that Indira Ghandhi, in the early 1980s, had offered the then TULF leader, Amirthalingam, a separate Tamil State, which Amirthalingam declined because, it is believed, he wanted to enjoy his perks as part of the Sri Lankan State, and not be forgiven by the LTTE.

Rao conveyed New Delhi’s congratulations to Rajapaksa

Rao met Rajapaksa over lunch, at Janadhipathi Mandiraya (the president’s house), on March 7, just hours after she inaugurated the English Language Training Center, in Peradeniya. She conveyed New Delhi’s congratulations to Mahinda Rajapaksa, who acknowledged her lukewarmly, for his resounding victory, in the January 26 presidential polls.

With the knowledge of the de-mining contract given to the Chinese, she assured Rajapaksa that New Delhi was willing to continue assisting Sri Lanka in the resettlement of the IDP’s. She further told him: “India was keen to assist in the complete restoration of the railway line in the North. Among other matters of mutual interest discussed were that of the problems faced by the fishermen from both countries, the proposed coal powered power project in Trincomalee, and the necessity for understanding between India and Sri Lanka on the protection of the environment and the eco-systems.”

Later, upon meeting the press, she cited the current political developments, in Sri Lanka. She said that the presence of more than 1,000 candidates, for the upcoming general election, and the Northern and Eastern Provinces, alone, showed the enthusiasm of the people for the democratic process, and all that change had taken place with the restoration of peace. “There is a great sense of hope and optimism in the air (only in the air) wherever I have been to…the participation of more than 3,000 pilgrims from India at the recent feast at the shrine of St, Anthony, in Kachchatheevu, was a further indication of the good interaction between the Sri Lankan and Indian people,” she said.

In Jaffna, sources said that New Delhi could make statements that both sides of the people participated in great numbers as a strategic method. This is just for photo opportunity, because over 3000 Tamils from India took part in the festival, in Kachchatheevu, but only a few hundred people participated in the festival from Sri Lanka. Even the religious dignitaries from Eelam, who were escorted by the Sri Lankan navy, told the press that only a few hundred people participated in the event, due to the fact that the people were suffering from the recently ended war, which was instigated by the Sri Lankan State.

Further, the Indian media brought to light the Chinese influence, which was evident, even in Kachchatheevu. The Indian Tamil devotees noticed numerous Chinese tents around the island. This is a significant alert to India, along with several others in Eelam, in the aftermath of the end of Eelam War IV. So, India had no other choice, but to send Rao to please Rajapaksa.

India’s concerns over China and Eelam

India is hemmed in on three sides by hostile neighbours. It is very much concerned about China, while paying lip service to the political instability of the Eelam Tamils. India is facing a great military threat at its north-eastern and north-western borders, with China, along the Himalayan mountain regions. Now, China is eyeing the southern tip of India. Although China has no real influence in the south, it will soon set up an empire of Maldives, at the southern tip of India, that will lay waiting, in the Indian Ocean, with all the Andaman Nicobar islands in close proximity of India.

China, which hitherto dominated the South China Sea, is eying the Bay of Bengal, the Palk Straits, and even the Arabian Sea, in the Indian Ocean. China does not want a direct military confrontation with India, in the Indian Ocean, but it definitely wants to have a stable sea route, just for the sake of transporting oil from western Asia, into Eastern Asia. So, China wants Sri Lanka because it is a strategic location, with greater control.

So, China is dependent on maintaining a good relationship with Sri Lanka, because they have been a far greater friend of China over the years, than India. China is exploiting this. It is pathetic that India, for no obvious reason, is coming in support of Sri Lanka, despite the fact that Sri Lanka supported Pakistan, when Pakistan entered into war with India, Sri Lanka also supported China, when China entered into war with India. Sri Lanka never fulfilled several of the agreements in the past, such as Sashthri – Banda, Sashthri – Srimavo, and Rajiv – Jayawardene. India was not even able to protect their own citizens from the ravages of the Sri Lankan State of Terrorism, especially the Indian fishermen. India also failed to protect the Eelam Tamils, despite its promises that they will come in search of protection when they face hardships, particularly the pogroms, in 1977, 1979 1981 and 1983, which led to massive exodus into the north and the east, which is the homeland of Tamils.

China aided Sri Lanka with $290 million for post-war reconstruction efforts, and deployed man, and material resources to northern Sri Lanka, to widen the Jaffna peninsula roads. Also, India promised nearly $70 million to aid Sri Lanka in the construction of the railroads, in the Eelam.

New Delhi also expressed, through Rao, that India would set up consular office, in Jaffna, just to connect the people of India’s south. Also, Rao was told that there should be a political settlement to Tamil’s national question. This is just to warn China to stay away from Sri Lankan internal affairs. So, India and China are fighting hard to set foot in Sri Lanka. Both China and India are scrambling to set their feet in the north east. India’s former prime minister, the late Indira Gandhi, helped Tamil militants fight against the Sri Lankan State, which was led by the, then Sri Lankan President, Jayewardene, to sign a defence agreement with the U.S., which, then, was hostile to India. But, things have changed now. India and the U.S. are now mutual friends, and they, both, see China as a common enemy. They do not want China to become an influential force in Indian Ocean.

In this context, India is once again, playing sinister games. During her stay in Sri Lanka, Rao met with TNA leaders like Sampathan, Mavai Senathirajah, and Suresh Premachandran. She invited them to visit New Delhi, after the April 8th parliamentary election was over. Also, she met with the former LTTE fighter, who broke away from the LTTE, and later became the eastern chief minister, Pillaiyan, who is still a “child soldier” that never grew up. She invited Pillaiyan to visit India. Further, sources said, she asked the Tamil political parties to work together in the general elections. India cannot afford to continue to play both sides, whether it be with Tamil’s political body, or the Sinhalese political body.

India is fast changing its strategy, and the Indian central government has employed numerous think-tank organizations, along with its full-time intelligence wings, officials, and policy advisers, to stay alert over the events, in Sri Lanka, especially in regard to the increasing Chinese influence. Hence, India’s message to Colombo, through Rao, is that India would not stand by and be a mute spectator when it comes to allowing foreign influence, especially out of respect for its own backyard, the Eelam are a crucial nexus between India, and Sri Lanka. India loves the Sri Lankan Tamils to death and they are once again a pawn in its game against China. Any foreign power, which comes to set foot with sinister motives, will not just come to develop Eelam, they will come to monitor India and to keep it at bay, not just in the south, but in all the nooks and corners. Sri Lanka, which had the Tamil militants to contend with, has two Frankenstein monsters at its doorstep. Perhaps the ancient Tamil inscription, found in a northern part of Sri Lanka, has credence–that the day would come when a slant eyed race would rule over Sri Lanka.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheesan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)

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