Needed: A new Indo-Lanka Agreement


Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene sign the historic Indo-Sri Lanka accord in Colombo on July 29, 1987. File photo

By K. Godage

Former Ambassador

Recent days have seen much ‘activity’, if that be the word, with Indian States asserting themselves to such an extent that India is becoming an Association of Federal States affecting the unity of the country; we have seen the break-up of old States and the emergence of new linguistic States but what is certainly a new development is States dictating India’s foreign policy. It is not only Tamil Nadu government which is spoiling the relationship with Sri Lanka but also West Bengal, which is seeking to dictate Indian Policy towards Bangladesh.

Recent actions by the Tamil Nadu government and Delhi certainly do not make for better relations between the two countries. There is no doubt that Delhi is playing cheap politics because of the forthcoming elections at the expense of Sri Lanka. This is not in the interest of India or Sri Lanka’s. Yes, the attitude of Delhi is wrong and counterproductive. It should send a few more delegations to see for itself what has been done since the war was over and give strength to the Sri Lankan government to go the rest of the distance and empower the Tamil people in the north in a meaningful manner and also to ensure that our minorities also have a say at the centre. India, in any case, gained nothing by seeking to censure Sri Lanka at the UNHCR; it should play a more positive role and enhance her worth in this country.

We in Sri Lanka are also shocked and disappointed at the recent statement of Sonia Gandhi on Sri Lanka; what she knows about this country’s problem may not be worth knowing, but let her be informed that it was her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi who wrecked havoc in our country by transforming a low intensity ethnic conflict into a terrorist war by arming and training Tamil militants. If she wishes to know more about it she should at least read the copy of India Today of February 1984 or ask veteran journalist, Shekar Gupta, or many others who were around in Delhi at the time. Let her be also informed that her late husband, whom the writer had the privilege of meeting many times when he was out of office after VP Singh took over as Prime Minister, would never have made such a statement. It was indeed a pity that Rajiv let himself be tricked by LTTE operatives who called on him in Delhi and made him believe that no harm would come to him if he campaigned in Tamil Nadu— and we know what the LTTE did. Incidentally, did either Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha openly condemn the LTTE for their dastardly act which changed the history of India and most definitely of the sub-continent? Mani Shankar Iyar, who was closely associated with Rajiv at the time, would bear me out.

We now have Jayalalitha wanting the murderers of Rajiv released. Why is she doing this? Only to win votes at the forthcoming elections while splitting Sri Lanka? Or doesn’t she have any values? She also wants a referendum held by the UN to decide whether Eelam should be established in Sri Lanka. Doesn’t she know of what is happening in South Sudan? She should, without asking the UN, first hold a referendum in Tamil Nadu to find out whether the people of her state want to establish their own Republic of Tamil Nadu. She is trying to use Sri Lanka as a political football. She should be called to order in India’s own interest. Incidentally, she already has three cases for embezzlement of state funds against her and a land case which has now dragged on for 15 years and everyone knows the reason. Recently, a court rejected her petition to avoid personal appearance in court in a disproportionate assets case.

One case refers to the Rs. 66 crore (660 million!!) ‘acquired’ as Chief Minister, between 1991 and 1996.

Jayalalitha has sought exemption from personal appearance for the recording of her statement and has, instead, wanted to appear via video conferencing. The court has rejected her request. Tamil Nadu politicians, over the years, have received large sums of money from the LTTE to espouse its cause. So, her decision to free the convicted murderers of her own country’s Prime Minister has come as no surprise. People of Tamil Nadu including many uneducated people belonging to socially disadvantaged castes don’t understand issues and vote for Jayalalitha merely because they have no other alternative. Among the principal issues are communalism with the RSS the Shiv Sena and other so-called ‘Hindu nationalists’ leading the pack and rampant corruption, but she has diverted their attention by seeking to free the convicted murderers of no less a person than Rajiv Gandhi and taking up the Sri Lankan issue. Fortunately the Indian Prime Minister and the Supreme Court have stepped in to prevent the release of the murderers but what remains to be done is for India to enter into a Treaty of Peace Friendship and Cooperation with this country and institutionalise without leaving room for any misunderstandings to arise. Sri Lanka must also be given permission to establish Consulates in all the States of South India for it has had close ties with them for centuries.

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