India this, India that, what is the confusion brigade’s game plan?

By Bandula Jayasekara
There is no doubt that India is Sri Lanka’s most important neighbour and friend, more because we have so many similarities be it our language, Buddhism or culture. As all neighbours both countries have had their share of problems and difficulties and at most times overcame them. But lately, many questions have risen because of the games some of our politicians are trying to play with India.

Knowingly or unknowingly they are trying to meddle with a great country and a great democracy. Unlike we Sri Lankans who will never learn from past mistakes, India has learnt from its past mistakes. They have a stand and they always maintain their stand in the interest of the country.

Firstly, on the issue of the Oslo Donor Conference, Professor G. L. Pieris repeated at several cabinet press briefings that Indian High Commissioner in Oslo Gopal Gandhi would take part in the conference and India would be well represented. Pieris spoke as if he had such a good rapport with India and as if Prime Minister Vajpayee was his great buddy from S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia. India did not take part and Gandhi was never there. On his return, when journalists questioned Pieris why India did not take part, an angry Pieris shot back at the journalists "why are you harping on it?" Pieris slipped away from the Indian Ocean to some Eelam ocean close to Velvitithurai.

India has banned the LTTE, there is no question about it. Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman are wanted in India for the murder of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. India is clear that the LTTE leadership has to pay the price for the killing and they have not changed that stand. Though Balasingham asked India to forgive and forget. Balasingham’s spin did not work with India at all. How could a proud nation do that? India did not allow Balasingham to fly via India and to get treatment in India. People who shout and scream that Balasingham arrived at the Katunayake International Airport respecting Sri Lanka’s law must thank India for standing firm. We all know the Iranamadu fiasco and how he arrived by a seaplane from Maldives.

A former Indian minister told this correspondent that the LTTE could pose a danger to India’s national security, but never to India’s sovereignty. India is aware of it but the Sri Lankan ministers are not. They give everything the LTTE asks for, including radio stations and all the recognition in the world. Stories were floating that some wanted UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to meet the LTTE leader if and when he arrives in Sri Lanka. This would give legitimacy to a killer. The ministers do not want to discuss the most important issue concerning peace: to disarm the LTTE, at least their big weapons. There is no doubt that former Indian General Satish Nambiar is a respected military man. But, what is the thinking behind the Sri Lankan government or some sections of the government to ask him to provide a report on the High Security Zones when the Sri Lankan army generals are capable of it? Are the Sri Lankan politicians trying to drag India in through General Nambiar who is a private citizen? I doubt that the Indian general would differ much with Major General Sarath Fonseka and what would be the position when the LTTE rejects that proposal too? Do they think that the LTTE’s position would change? Will India be dragged in unnecessary since our politicians and negotiators do not have the courage to defend the report of our own generals and the stand taken by the Sri Lanka Army?

Recently the Indian government decided against taking part in any meeting in which the outlawed LTTE participated. This was clearly evident at the meeting called by the UNHCR last week. The Union government’s policy decision not to participate was revealed in a counter affidavit in the Madras High Court. The counter was in response to a writ petition filed by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, who had sought a court direction to forbear the Centre from participating in the November 25 fund raising meeting in the Norwegian capital Oslo, jointly called by the Sri Lankan government and the banned LTTE, and subsequent meetings. Following the undertaking by the Centre, a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice B Subhashan Reddy and Justice C Nagappan, disposed of the petition when it came up for hearing.

In Public Interest Litigation, Swamy sought "to forbear the Centre, its agents, servants and others from taking part or deputing any official or diplomat to any meeting, national or international, in which the LTTE participates, including the November 25 meeting or on any other subsequent date." Pointing out that the LTTE was outlawed by the Centre on May 14, 1992 and had been notified as a terrorist organisation under Prevention of Terrorism Act Swamy said two of the accused in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, including LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran, were declared absconders. He claimed that the participation of any Central government representative, in any capacity, at a meeting would amount to defacto "expressly or impliedly recognising the LTTE." So, that is India’s stand and they would not sit on it at all.

Buddha is a great son of India and our country is known as a Buddhist country. Now when our own politicians are turning a blind eye to the LTTE destroying Buddhist sites in the north and east, India has pledged assistance to renovate places of archaeological value in those areas. The Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Nirupen Sen gave this undertaking on an important day for Buddhists, Duruthu Full Moon Poya day. This is important but some sections of the ‘confusion brigade’ may say that there is a plan here too.

It would be important if the confusion brigade realises sooner or later that we cannot have a solution without the support and co-operation of India and in a way respect the prime minister who is scheduled to visit India for the fourth time since becoming premier, next month. The former Peoples Alliance government and specially Lakshman Kadiragamar also respected India and knew the value of the neighbour. Minister Moragoda too is trying to follow in his footsteps but he could be much more effective in his dealings with India. Former American Ambassador Jim Spain said America loves Moragoda because he speaks the language of the Americans. So Moragoda could be effective in India too if he understands India better, rather than rushing to India to convince them to sit with the LTTE at some conference.

Recently there was another attempt to say that the rift between the SLMC was created by the Indian Research and Analyst Wing (RAW). Other reports said India warned Japanese Peace Envoy Akashi not to get involved in Sri Lankan political efforts, which was flatly denied by the Indian High Commission in Colombo. I wonder who is doing this and who is behind this? If some sections want to play cat and mouse with India it would not be in the interest of Sri Lanka.

Whether we like it or not the world including the US want India rather than Sri Lanka, plainly because India is more useful, powerful and a nuclear power. So, it is in the interest of Sri Lanka for politicians not to try to play games with India and put the blame on India and also not to say this that and the other because of India, just because some politicians do not have the courage to accept their faults and act with conviction.