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Clinton meets Jayalalithaa in Chennai

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 July 2011 20:11 No Comment]

The United States is “looking at some innovative and creative ideas to break the impasse over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue,” PTI quoted visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa in Chennai Wednesday. The report did not elaborate. Meanwhile, in a public address Ms. Clinton said that India’s example of multicultural democracy should serve as a model for Sri Lanka. Commenting on Clinton’s remarks, Eezham Tamil political circles said Indian-modelled political solution will not work in the island when the military is Sinhalese. Centuries of political experience in the island shows that equal status of Tamils and Sinhalese is possible only when they have equal States, the political circles further commented.

@@tpl:right:1@@In Chennai Ms. Clinton met with Ms. Jayalalithaa for an hour in the Secretariat. They discussed various social, political and economic issues of common interest, an official press release said.

Describing Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital, as an example of how much society can achieve when all citizens fully join their country’s political and economic life, she added: "Every Sri Lankan deserves the same hope and opportunity." Ms. Clinton’s comments predictably drew loud applause from the crowd, The Economic Times added.

Ms. Clinton’s visit to Tamil Nadu was the only regional engagement of her much anticipated three-day official visit to India.

The southern state, one of the powerhouses of India’s booming economy, is a key destination for US investment. The US consulate in Chennai issues more skilled temporary worker visas than any other US outpost in the world, the Wall Street Journal says.

Contrary to assertions attributed to Indian External Affairs Ministry officials last week, the Tamil question in Sri Lanka also featured in their discussions.

Ms. Jayalalithaa was quoted by PTI as pointing out that though Sri Lanka’s war en ended two years ago, Tamils in Jaffna area are still in camps and unable to go back to the original areas where they used to live.

Ms. Clinton also congratulated Ms. Jayalalithaa on her electoral victory in the April 13 Assembly polls, and invited the Tamil Nadu leader to visit the United States, PTI said.

Ahead of Ms. Clinton’s visit to Chennai, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Sadanand Dhume, one of its columnists and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, slamming India’s soft-pedalling policies towards Sri Lanka.

Noting how “New Delhi has failed to slow Sri Lanka’s rapid slide toward authoritarianism, protect the rights of minority Tamils, or stem rising Chinese influence,” Mr. Dhume asked: “how can India expect more clout on the world stage when it wields so little influence in its own neighborhood?”

“At the heart of India’s Sri Lanka problem lies the thuggish regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa,” Mr. Dhume said. Detailing the concentration of power in the Rajapaksa family’s hand, he added “This nepotism on steroids has gone hand in hand with one of Asia’s worst human rights records. Nor has the Rajapaksa regime confined itself to mistreating minority Tamils.”

“Through all this, India’s record has hardly been inspiring. In 2009, India’s toothless admonitions failed to prevent the massacre of civilians. Two years later, it has failed to convince the Rajapaksa regime to extend an olive branch to its own citizens.”

Mr. Dhune criticized India’s policy of trying to outbid China’s influence in Sri Lanka with aid projects of its own, saying “ultimately this is a short-sighted strategy.”

“Instead, India must retool its Sri Lanka strategy to play to its own strengths: pluralism and democracy. This means keeping open the option of throwing its weight against Colombo at the UN. It means support for liberal elements in Sri Lankan society [and] working with Western democracies, Japan and the human rights community to demand a degree of accountability in Colombo as a step toward a lasting peace.”

“If India succeeds in nudging Sri Lanka toward embracing pluralism and democratic values as the foundation of prosperity, New Delhi will have enhanced both its influence and its international prestige,” he said.

[Full Coverage]

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