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India needs foundational policy change if past is catalogue of failures

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 7 September 2011 08:40 No Comment]

“The need of the hour is for India to undertake a thorough reappraisal of its Sri Lanka policy and make the necessary changes so that it is in consonance with the traditions of Nehru-Indira Gandhi years. The international community will be watching how India will react to the situation in the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly when the matter [Sri Lanka’s war crimes] comes up for discussion, writes V. Suryanarayan and Ashik Bonofer in Tuesday’s paper of SAAG. The paper catalogues Nehru-Indira Gandhi era interventions in protecting Tamils from pogroms, criticises India’s failure in protecting Tamil civilians in 2009 and argues for a policy change. Tamil politicians commented that the change should be foundational if piecemeal interventions proved a catalogue of failures and the writers treating a nation, as “Tamil minority groups in Sri Lanka” won’t help such a change.

“A change in India’s policy would have been welcomed by the international community, especially the Tamil minority groups in Sri Lanka and 70 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu,” the guest column article appeared in the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) website said.

“The Indian hands are tainted with the blood of the innocents because we were unwittingly accomplices in the heinous crime,” the article lamented, adding that one of the writers, Prof. Suryanarayan, during the Vanni War “used to plead that the Government of India should get in touch with the United Nations and members of the European Union and suggest that those innocent people who were trapped between the Sinhalese Lions and the Tamil Tigers should be immediately evacuated from the war zones and shifted to safe areas. Unfortunately his voice was a voice in the wilderness.”

The article listed how between 1958 and 1983 the Indian diplomats used to intervene in protecting Tamils. The paper also narrated how Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan travelled extensively in the world to campaign for international intervention in the case of Bangladesh liberation.

Saying “History will not forgive us if we try to shield the tyrannical Sri Lankan Government once again,” the article envisaged that “The Government of India should also simultaneously encourage eminent jurists like Justice Bhagawati and Justice Rajinder Sachar to visit foreign countries to awaken the conscience of the world. The expertise of South Asia specialists associated with Jawaharlal Nehru University and Madras University, non-governmental organizations like the Asian Centre for Human Rights and the Center for Asia Studies in Chennai should be harnessed to provide the much needed intellectual inputs.”

The fundamental issue is not India shielding the “tyrannical Sri Lankan Government,” when needed and ousting it when not needed, but India upholding the genocidal State of Sri Lanka for several decades now and refusing to concede the liberation of Eezham Tamils as a permanent solution, commented Eezham Tamil politicians, adding that the Indian policy makers are interested only in ‘interventions’ but not in lasting solutions.

Even the SAAG paper indirectly argues for another intervention without any policy outlook for the national question or solutions appropriate to the national question. Treating the nation of Eezham Tamils as ‘Tamil minority groups’ is perhaps convenient for endless interventions in future as the case was since 1958, the politicians said.

Further comments from some Eezham Tamil politicians are summarised below:

One of the writers, Prof Suryanarayan has gone on record in promoting divisions among Tamils in the island, even in matters such as the upcountry Tamil children learning the Hinduism textbooks prepared by ‘Jaffna’ Tamils.

In some of his earlier writings he used to highlight the case of a few Jaffna Tamil individuals collaborating with Colombo against the interests of the upcountry Tamils of Indian origin, forgetting the fact that the very birth of the Federal Party under the leadership of Chelvanayakam in 1949 was on the issue of the disenfranchisement of the upcountry Tamils.

Pointing to the presence of upcountry Tamils in the island can never be the logic as Suryanarayan used to argue in denying the liberation and independence of Eezham Tamils. On the contrary, only an independent Tamil Eelam could give the emotional confidence necessary for the existence of all Tamils in the island as in the case of Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.

As seen from the recent discussions on Sri Lanka in the Indian parliament, it seems that many members of the Indian parliament especially from the north Indian States are even today ignorant about Eezham Tamils being an ancient nation in the island.

Like Suryanarayan, many old generation policy makers in the Indian establishment are keen that whatever the cost may be, liberation and independence of Eezham Tamils as a permanent solution should never be conceded. When such is the case even after their policies contributing to genocide (not mere pogroms listed in the article), how to expect “thorough reappraisal” of India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka unless new realities of a different nature emerge for the edification of them?

As many of the people associated with the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) were closely connected to the top rung of Indian intelligence, defence, national security and New Delhi-based bureaucracy, the views that are promoted through the outfit have a bearing not only to the probing exercises of the Indian establishment but also to the kind of thinking what the Indian establishment wants to disseminate.

Until recently Prof Suryanarayan was a member of the National Security Advisory Board of India under the National Security Advisors, MK Narayanan and Shiv Shankar Menon. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow of the Chennai-based Centre for Asia Studies (CAS), led by Dr. S. Narayan IAS (Retd) who last served as economic advisor to the prime minister of India.

The co-writer of the article, Ashik Bonofer is a Research Fellow of the Centre for Asia Studies. He was formerly working for the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), researching Sri Lanka and Maldives. A leading Indian corporate, Relience that has Colombo-centric economic interests, funds ORF. Recently the Chennai Chapter of ORF co-sponsored a meet on Sri Lanka in New Delhi along with Congress parliamentarian Dr. EM Natchiappan.

Another member of the CAS, heading its Strategy and Security wing is Commodore RS Vasan who headed a warship during IPKF operations.

State and corporates mixing up in strategic analysis is an emerging phenomenon.

The SAAG article urges the Government of India that the Centre for Asia Studies, among others, “should be harnessed to provide the much needed intellectual inputs,” in dealing with the UN panel report when it comes for discussion in Geneva.

When are we going to hear the voice of grassroot Tamil Nadu supporting the independence of Eezham Tamils in the international arena, is the question.

[Editor’s Note]

On 22 August TamilNet carried a feature “Taking Eezham Tamils for another ride: New Delhi’s preparations,” in which the following paragraph appeared:

“Writing in the bulletin of South Asia Analysis Group, an outfit in Chennai sponsored by intelligence agencies of New Delhi, Suryanarayan said the following:”

For the TamilNet reference on the South Asia Analysis Group, the response came from the Centre for Asia Studies.

The following was the email TamilNet received from the Centre for Asia Studies:

“Please reference to your article on Taking Eezham Tamils for another ride: New Delhi’s preparations. The Center for Asia Studies is a non-profit organisation funded by a private trust namely Uthrash Trust. We do not have any funding support from any other governmental or private organisations. You are most welcome to visit our think tank and even look at our accounts which will make it clear to you that your accusations and reporting are malicious in nature and not in good taste. The researchers in the center are free to express their opinion and by no stretch of imagination can this be construed as the views of the center. We would be grateful if you could carry this response on your website and stop levelling unfounded allegations of this nature, which is damaging to our cause.”

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