The rationale behind the outbursts of northern neighbours

The impression that was given with the External Affairs Minister Professor GL Peiris’s visit to New Delhi from May 15 to 17 was that he was going to enlighten the Indian leaders on the Sri Lankan Government’s position on the UN Secretary General’s panel report. However, the joint statement issued at the end of his tour gave a different picture about India’s stance on the same.The joint statement said among other things that India urged the expeditious implementation of measures by Sri Lanka, to ensure early withdrawal of emergency regulations and investigations into allegations of human rights violations.

Sri Lankan Government might not have anticipated India to urge it to “investigate into allegations of human rights violations” at this time when pressure has been mounted by the West to do the same after the publication of the UNSG’s panel report. This had been viewed by some as a change in India’s stance towards Sri Lanka. Terming the joint statement as one “strongly worded” the AFP said “India broke with past practise on Tuesday and called on Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during the island’s civil war, upping pressure on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Interestingly, Indian’s call to probe human rights violations comes following a roar by the new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalaithaa Jayaram on the same issue soon after she was elected to power on May 13. She had called on the Indian government to take measures against the Sri Lanka president for alleged war crimes and genocide of Tamils.

Media in Sri Lanka apparently had not noticed India’s position on the alleged human rights violations, but ironically taken the call for the removal of the emergency seriously. Also Sri Lankan media and the politicians seem to have taken Jayalalithaa’s salvo as a harbinger of a future threat. They link her remarks on the alleged war crimes to her occasional vituperations against Sri Lanka with regard to the Kachchativu issue and the alleged attacks on the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

However, it is not clear as to how serious  she is in her stance on Sri Lanka, as she had taken various stands on her southern neighbour in the past. Also she has not been a staunch supporter of the LTTE as her adversary, the former Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi has been. During her earlier two terms as the Chief Minister of the State she had taken steps against the LTTE and its supporters. She was on the LTTE hit list for a long time, whereas Karunanidhi has never been.

She seemed to have been praying for the decimation of the LTTE when the Sri Lankan security forces were advancing fast crushing LTTE fortifications in 2008/9. Also she had the audacity to say that “some civilian casualties are inevitable during wars” at a time when the whole State was fermenting against the war against the LTTE and 11 people had self immolated, claiming that civilians were getting killed.

On July 6, 2010 Jayalalithaa said she did not condemn the annihilation of the LTTE in war. “What I condemn is the wanton killing of LTTE activists surrendering” she said. Explaining her position on the LTTE she said that right through the 1980s, former Chief Minister MGR and she supported the LTTE-led struggle for the rights and freedom of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. “But when the killings of Tamil moderates, members of rival Tamil militant groups and finally the former Prime Minister of India took place, it was obvious that the outfit of freedom fighters had turned into terrorists. From that point onwards, I had the courage to oppose the LTTE,” she had stated.

Her occasional outbursts on Kachchtivu too can be treated as mere pacifications of Tamil Nadu psyche. She had been the Chief Minister of the State twice before while there had been similar allegations against the Sri Lankan Navy since early 1990s. She never took practical actions towards the retrieval of the uninhabited island that was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 by late Indian Premier Indira Gandhi.

Politicians in any country including Sri Lanka and India use the national and ethnic sentiments of the people to gain power or remain in power. A case in point is the usual attacks by the US presidents against some Middle Eastern country before each election in their country. That must be what Jayalalithaa too did during the State Assembly polls and soon after the election.

However, Indian Central Government’s sudden advice on human rights seems to have some other ulterior motives. Indian leaders seem to be attempting to fish in troubled waters. One would notice India had tagged many economic interests with the human rights in the same statement.

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